This is my favorite time of the year. Cooler weather, themed candy, spooky decorations, horror movies.
I love that spine-chilling feeling.
What I don’t like are over the top, gross-out gorefests. That isn’t scary. That’s just hurl-inducing. A crazy person who hunts, maims and kills anyone who dares to have consensual sex at a lakeside resort is NOT a frightening boogeyman. He is someone that should be tranqued and taken off to the nearest plush-walled hotel for a long stay. Possibly with a plethora of calming medications. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be gore in a scary movie. What I am saying is that there has to be something else. Otherwise, it’s just colored Karo syrup for no reason.
Now, I get that some folks are of the opinion that there is nothing more frightening than a movie about a mad-dog killer who can’t be reasoned with or put off. The blood drenched walls and bits of carnage make their hearts go pitter-pat. And when the Jason Michael clone killer leaps out from yet another hiding place, they will happily shriek and flail.
I get that. I do. They’re wrong, though.
Because they’re confusing the startle with a true terrification*. I think that the most effective frights are those that utilize atmosphere. Not-quite right images, everyday things in an improper setting, just out of good aural range sounds, and there-then-gone apparitions. What I am talking about, of course, is dread. Dread of what is going to happen next, dread of the unknown. Building that feeling in film takes time and skill. There are directors who can accomplish this. What leaps immediately to my mind are the Japanese horror masters.
They take normal situations and then add elements that just fuck you up.
One of the scariest moments I ever experienced in a movie was when the ghost appeared in the bed under the fucking covers of the fleeing character.
But there are American directors and writers who can do the same thing. The Freddy** movies started out that way. Sure, they were full of random arterial spray and bed blenders. But they also utilized a new kind of monster. One that could hunt you in your freaking dreams. All the protagonists of the movie were jittery, caffeinated and sleep deprived. Even cat naps could get them muderlated. Plus, Freddy liked to mess with his victims. Maybe their souls were tastier when dipped in a broth of frenzied fear?
Eventually, the movies devolved into a gore-fest and got stupid. But those first couple were damn scary.
Now, I wrote about all of this as a way of explaining my Theory of Halloween decorations. Y’see, there are several schools of thought on Halloween decoration. There is the cutesy, let’s make sure the kids aren’t frightened, Charlie Brown in a crappy ghost costume bunch.
Then, there is the just-phoning-it-in crowd:
And then there are the folks that I aspire to be, someday. They build entire freaking haunted houses in their yards. They have themes. They rock my horror-writer’s black heart in so many ways. This year, I will be attempting to decorate my house/yard to reflect that shriveled organ.
My theme this year is: Haunted Nursery. There will be floating Barbie heads. There will be barely audible children’s giggles interspersed with haunting music. Piles of dirty,discarded toys. Things gazing from the shrubbery.
It will be creepy. It will be disturbing. It will probably get me in trouble with the HOA.
I can’t wait. 😀