If you’re a frequent reader of our 360Women, you may be familiar with childhood fear of most everything (see Under Attack and Why Worry?). It’s an underlying fear that followed me into adulthood and was underlined by poor choices regarding theater fare.
In other words, I am not a fan of scary movies. You know the ones I’m talking about: Big, frightening scenes and small, thin plotlines.
My first encounter with a “real” horror film was in the third grade. My father dropped my three best girlfriends and me at the theater with enough money for our tickets, popcorn and a large drink. (In the third grade you always have best girlfriends, not just girlfriends).
The classic that unveiled a whole new class of anxiety was the original version of The Fly. I still remember every detail and, when I do, I feel the fear all over again. If you’ve never seen any version of this film, the story is of a scientist who experiences a horrific accident when experimenting with his newly-invented teleportation device. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a fly in the machine and genetic mayhem ensues.
I can still see the tiny face of Vincent Price caught in a spider’s web and hear his squeaky voice screaming for help. (The little hairs on the back of my neck are standing up right now!)
When my father came to pick us up 1 hour and 34 minutes later (I just looked this up because I remember it feeling like the film was three hours long), he found four shaken young ladies huddled on the sidewalk, all wanting to get to the safety of their own homes and parents.
As soon as I got home, I told my parents every little detail of every scary minute I had just experienced – which certainly didn’t help with the fear thing. It only made my nightmares more realistic and for many nights to follow.
I’ve been a lifelong fan of Steve McQueen and have seen just about every film he ever made. Except The Blob. It was released the same year I suffered through The Fly and I just couldn’t muster the courage. Not even for dreamy Steve.
Don’t get me wrong. Movies that make you sink lower into your seat and cautiously cover your eyes are a worthy pastime. Many award-winning producers and directors have found great joy and success in creating movies that make you grab the arm of your theater chair.
Think about Steven Spielberg. ET, Jaws and Jurassic Park are all his babies. My husband still remembers seeing Jaws while traveling on business in a theatre located in a small Georgia town. I’ll never forget the phone call I received from him afterward. Safe in his motel room, he still sounded scared to death and I was sure he had been in an accident. Our conversation detailed every scene of flesh-eating sharks taking down swimmers and boats in Amity Island. Never mind that there’s no such place as Amity Island; millions of people stopped swimming in ocean waters everywhere.
But the all-time master of the bizarre coincidence, the jaw-dropping plot twist and the work of art that has you begging for the lights to come back on is still Alfred Hitchcock. Vertigo. The Birds. And, of course, Psycho. The shower scene in Psycho doesn’t actually show a single act of violence, but it still left me with a lifelong fear of taking a shower in any hotel room – especially if there’s a shower curtain. I can visualize that shot of blood mixing with the water and circling the drain. Pretty powerful stuff as I remember it.
What’s your scariest movie? Which gave you nightmares as a child or gave you a real thrill as an adult? The Exorist? Blair Witch Project? Something else? I can’t wait to hear your answers in the Comments section (but am also a little afraid to read them).