I Faced My Fears And Fell In Love With A Man Named Ash!
I have been a “scaredy cat” most of my life, here are the bullet points. When I was very young, (5-7) I sneaked into the living room while my parents were watching The Twilight Zone with my grandparents and just happened to see the episode of Nightmare At 20,000 Feet. I don’t think I slept for a week, and I don’t think I sneaked out of my room ever again. Then at 11, I saw a commercial for The Exorcist and I seriously sang the song “Jesus, There’s Just Something About That Name” to myself every night for a year! A commercial did that to me! And at my high school prom after-party, I opted to go sleep in a room alone rather than watch Friday the 13th with all my friends. Call me a coward, wimp or chicken, I just can’t handle the suspense. But earlier this year I watched Jaws for the first time and I loved it! The suspense was great and it’s a total beauty. Then this month I was able to handle Alien, another classic that I had never tried because I was too scared. I wondered if there were other great films I was missing out on. The winds of change were blowing!
I have a friend named Tim that likes horror films and I asked for his help. I wanted to watch some classic, good movies that would make me jump.
There are a ton of horror films out there, where should I start?
I told Tim that I couldn’t handle anything with demons or about possession. It’s too real and I know that I can’t put those images my noggin. (You have to know your limits folks.) I already knew that I wanted to see The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It’s black and white, silent and made in 1920, surely I can handle it! Tim gave me the following movie list and he even gave me the order: Halloween, Army of Darkness, Night of the Living Dead, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Evil Dead 2. I won’t lie, I was a little concerned about these, especially A Nightmare on Elm Street. But the films he gave me were not only considered good films (4 stars) but he thought that I would be able to make it through most of them. Seriously, I would not have done this without Tim!
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was a treat. They showed it here in Bloomington on a big screen and brought in an organist to play the accompanying music. I don’t want to ruin the story at all but the gist is there is a killer on the loose and one man suspects Dr. Caligari and his strange sleepwalking companion. Considered to be the first true horror film, Caligari is a work of art. The German Expressionism style is a vision to take in. Directed by Robert Wiene, Caligari set the bar high for many horror films. So, I had made it through the first “scary movie” and was still sleeping through the night. Time to conquer Michael Myers and Halloween! PS… The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is streaming on Netflix! PPS… If you ever have the chance to see classic films on the big screen put them on your calendar and go! It’s worth it.
I decided to watch Halloween by myself, the next night. Needless to say, I was hiding behind a pillow and jumping and letting out a couple of screams. Halloween also made me yell at the TV, “Why are you hiding in there?” and “Why do you keep dropping the knife?” It also made me understand that if you have sex in a horror film you are probably going to die soon. Or… just don’t be blonde or naked or a lady, because you won’t last much longer. Halloween introduced the world to Jamie Lee Curtis. Her character, Laurie Strode, fights to save children on Halloween night from the psychopath Michael Myers. This is a truly scary film but it’s all suspense and anticipation. And yes it made me jump, but I didn’t have any nightmares that night and I even slept with my window open. Also, that music, simple and perfect.
On Friday I watched Army of Darkness and Night of the Living Dead, a double feature. Army of Darkness has some of the best one liners I have ever heard. Here is a sample; “Give me some sugar, Baby!”, “Buckle up bonehead because you are going for a ride!” and “Honey, you got real ugly!” It’s funny, and that surprised me. I laughed through most of the film. I didn’t know that horror movies could be funny. It still makes you jump and there are terrifying claymation creatures flying through the air, but it’s fun and it’s an adventure story. It’s an action/adventure, horror/comedy all mixed into one movie and it’s solid gold! And Bruce Campbell’s facial expressions are a true gift to mankind, his face has to be made of rubber. Not only was Army of Darkness my favorite movie from the bunch, it’s one that I want to watch again and again. Night of the Living Dead was good and it introduced me to zombies or the undead. It also introduced me to the fact that people cannot run faster than something that has been dead for a while. While this movie is older, 1968, and tame compared to today’s standards, it still contains truly disturbing images. In Living Dead you have children that are zombies, which I learned from Tim is kinda taboo in horror films. You also have people being attacked by zombies that they have known. Out of all the movies for this challenge this is the one that mentally stuck with me. It didn’t make me scared it made me unsettled.
On Saturday night I asked my friends Julie, Duane and Sophie if they would watch A Nightmare on Elm Street with me. I did this because out of all the movies this was the one that made me really anxious. But I learned a great lesson, horror films are so much better if they are watched with friends. Listening to Julie scream and laughing at some of the special effects made A Nightmare on Elm Streeta real thrill!
Writer and director Wes Craven dives into nightmares and challenges what is real and what is in your head.
Elm Street is gory, lots of blood and creepy images. But all that blood doesn’t leave you terrified, it makes you jump and it kinda reminded me of a haunted house. There is something around every turn. Elm Street is a great ride and you get to see a young Johnny Depp! Win-Win!
I wrapped up my “Face Your Fears Fest” with Evil Dead 2. Back to Ash and that book of the dead. I learned how he ended up in the 1300’s in Army of Darkness. You might wonder why Tim recommended watching these out of order. I think that he did that for my sake. It Evil Dead 2 Ash is fighting an evil demon that has been unleashed in a small cabin in the woods. Writer and director Sam Raimi, has more blood and gore in this film and also many demonic masks and claymation monsters. And while I was able to laugh at most of them, they were still horrifying and I had to cover my eyes a couple of times. Yep, that’s right, I’m 39 and I still have to cover my eyes. And while I liked this film I think I’m at my limit with horror films for now.
So what did I learn from this experience? Horror films are a blast! Take advice from folks who have watched them and start with some of the older ones. Watch them with friends and watch them at night! Horror films are funny and they have great stories. And sometimes you might catch a rising star in a good horror film. Lastly be honest with yourself and friends about what you can handle. If the horror genre isn’t for you, that’s totes okay and there is no need to feel left out! Beetlejuice or Young Frankenstein will happily entertain you this weekend! I’m now hopeful that one of these days I might make it through The Others or be brave enough to watch The Babadook or It Follows. So rent one of the above movies and give horror movies a chance, you just might think that it’s “Groovy”!
ALSO… We have some great writers at ZekeFilm that love horror films. Check out Justin Mory’s series from last year on the 31 Nights of Halloween! And Paul Hibbard gave an excellent list two years ago of the Top 100 Horror Movies of the Century. Happy Halloween friends.