I hate the creepiness, the figures hanging in effigy, the other "decor" - unpleasant, dirty, repugnant stuff, like cobwebs, slime, blood, bones, and very large bugs and rodents.
My kids love it. I have to admit I do enjoy the kids' enjoyment of dressing up, and we dress up with them. We still haven't topped the year we went as a medieval family with a Power Ranger.
Anyway, my kids are at a Halloween party right now, while I'm alone on call at the O.R. desk in a desolate section of the hospital, dimly lit, a little spooky when the lights aren't all on. And I'm sitting here surfing through Youtube for clips of the scary movies that made a permanent mark in my limbic system when I was a child back in the '70's. Silly, huh? Man, there was some SCARY stuff back then - not the digitally enhanced, over-the-top gore that has permeated more recent horror movies, but the more insidious kind, the ones with sinister PEOPLE, spine-chilling settings, and psychologically disturbing STORIES. Audrey Rose. Rosemary's Baby. And the two that I watched on TV at age 8 or younger and that terrify me still: The Changeling and "Amelia" from Trilogy of Terror.
"Amelia" is about a horrible, possessed Zuni warrior doll that resembles one of those shrunken heads with really sharp teeth. It comes to life and terrorizes the woman who purchased him, stabbing her repeatedly with his little warrior knife. I can still remember being afraid of small shadows in my parents' house when I was a kid because of the scene in which the woman glimpses its shadow flitting across the carpet in her apartment. The Changeling is really masterful. I really don't like horror movies at all, but this one is more a mystery/ghost story type of thing, with great acting by George C. Scott, who also stars in one of my favorite film versions of A Christmas Carol. Now that I'm an adult and a parent with a husband who has dedicated his law career to advocating for victims of child abuse and neglect, the film has a poignancy for me that went completely over my 7- or 8-year-old head when I first saw scenes from it at a family gathering. Back then I was just creeped out by the banging sounds.
Thinking about scary movies and Halloween got me thinking about fear and the nature of evil. The two are so inextricably intertwined. Does evil exist, or are we all just slaves to brain chemistry? If people become evil but are not born evil, what makes them turn? What is scarier in these films - insanity (Misery, The Shining, Fatal Attraction), human evil (The Silence of the Lambs, Dead Ringers, A Clockwork Orange, Halloween), or supernatural evil (Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, The Ring, The Omen, Nightmare on Elm Street, Nosferatu, 30 Days of Night)? Personally I think nothing's worse than the capacity to be cruel with relish and without mercy (Saw, Audition, Wolf Creek, The Last House on the Left, Hostel).
I've noticed some recurring preoccupations in scary movies that I think say a lot about what we human beings fear the most:
-loss of control or understanding of the world around us (The Forgotten, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Premonition, The Grudge)
-possession by an incomprehensible force, a subset of the loss-of-control theme (The Car, The Skeleton Key, Fallen, Child's Play)
-metamorphosis (The Fly) and/or dehumanization (The Stepford Wives, Children of the Corn, Dawn of the Dead)
-abnormality (pretty much all horror films)
-being trapped, tortured, or preyed upon - basically, anything involving pain, violence, isolation, or threat of death (again, pretty much all scary movies)
-ineradicable villains (Friday the 13th)
In graduate school I learned that at some point children develop a strong sense of what is "to be expected" and what isn't, and that they react in one of two ways: by finding the unexpected or abnormal element funny (for example, a red ball on the nose when they look in the mirror) or finding it extremely unsettling or scary. What I can't figure out is why some people really ENJOY the scare of a scary movie. I rarely do. I really regret having seen Gothika and The Butterfly Effect, for instance. There's no way to remove a striking image or idea from one's visual memory, and the negative energy emanating from a lot of the genre, I think, could ultimately be spiritually toxic, like a mind-contaminant. That being said, there are a few film thrillers / scary movies, and one terrifying play, that have enough admirable elements (intriguing story / well-written script / fascinating actors) to make them worth seeing. It's my List of the Month. If anyone has some scary movies that have stayed with them for one reason or another, let me know! I'm curious.
My "Favorite" Scary Movies and Play
The Seventh Sign - a B movie if ever there was one, but one near and dear to my heart from my teenage years, mostly because I had a crush on the lawyer-husband guy in it and even came up with a litmus test straight out of the movie to see who would end up being my future husband...long story...even weirder is that when I applied my test to my husband, long before we were married, he passed it...! Ah, the power of self-fulfilling prophecies...!
Psycho - gotta have some Hitchcock on here, and this just might be the defintive one for Halloween.
Dragonfly - a strange but entertaining ghost story; I'll never look at a parrot the same way ("Honey, I'm home!" Oooooh, creeeeeeeeepy).
The Sixth Sense - because some people do experience seeing dead people, and I could name a few!
Primal Fear - not a horror movie per se, more of a murder mystery; Ed Norton is stellar.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose - I was surprised at how much I admired this movie, I think because I enjoyed the court-room trial aspect of it, the clash between science and faith, the courage of the priest as he confronted what he believed to be ultimate evil.
The Woman in Black - saw the stage version in London and found it so scary (but also excellent) I couldn't sleep that night! SPOO-OOKY!
Many thanks to Anali for this great, highly addicting Pumpkin Simulator for anyone who wants to do a dry run (or 2, or 3...) before carving a real one. Makes Halloween a little more enjoyable for us Halloweenophobes!