December 30th, 2006


The Third?

When James Brown died, and then Gerald Ford died, I kept waiting for the third person.

Apparently, this kind of thing always happens in threes -- or at least that's what everyone says whenever a celebrity or statesman dies. As always, my money was on Keith Richards, Ariel Sharon or Abe Vigoda.

I certainly didn't expect it to be Saddam Hussein! I thought they'd at least have another trial on the whole Kurd-gassing thing, and maybe another on some Iraq-Iran war atrocities before hanging him.

I'm not a fan of the death penalty. I find it barbaric, outdated and beneath us as a civilization. Hussein was a power-mad tyrant with blood-soaked hands, but I take no pleasure in seeing him, or anyone, swing.

Scary Horror Movies

It's very rare that a horror movie actually scares me. Maybe it's because I'm jaded. I've seen a lot of them, and because of genre familiarity and being a writer, I know how to spot all the tricks.

When I talk about getting scared by a horror movie, I don't mean it made me jump during the requisite booga-booga scenes. I mean it got under my skin, burrowed into my unconscious and left behind an honest-to-goodness nightmare. Considering how many horror movies I've seen, it's a short list:

The Shining: I've woken up on occasion convinced those two creepy little girls were standing in the dark in my bedroom.

The Exorcist: It's not the supernatural mumbo-jumbo that freaks me out, it's that awful scene in the hospital when they're running all the tests on Regan. Especially the one with the arterial spray. Brrrrr.

Dawn of the Dead: Yeah, I'm aware they're just actors in cheesy blue makeup, but sometimes I just know they're standing outside my window! (This, by the way, is the perfect example of how atmosphere and tension make a horror movie work. In a different movie, the blue makeup would be unforgivable and not the least bit scary.)

The Blair Witch Project: That house at the end with the little handprints all over the wall? Yeah, I was there all night in my dreams. One of the few occasions where I could actually feel the nightmares brewing while I was watching the movie.

The Ring: I hate that bitchy little girl. Hate hate hate her, especially because crawling out of that TV gave me a roundtrip ticket to Nightmare City.

Ju-On: A deeply flawed film, but some of the images are so incredibly creepy that I couldn't sleep. Screw Toshio the shrieking cat boy, this was Mama's freak show through and through. That scene where the heroine wakes up to see her leaning over the bed? Yeah, that didn't help.

And now I can add The Descent to the list. It wasn't the monsters that scared me. (In fact, The Descent is one of those rare horror movies that would work just as well -- maybe even better -- without the horror element. I would have been just as happy if it had been about these women trapped in a cave while their relationships slowly deteriorate.) No, for me it was those scenes where they're crawling through really tight spaces. I'm not normally claustrophobic, but watching them squeeze through those tiny tunnels had me squirming. If I were with them, I would have said hell no, turned around and climbed back out of that cave. Then I would have stuffed myself with cupcakes until I was so fat they wouldn't even dream of asking me to do such a thing again.

So that's my list. Are there any horror movies that actually frighten you or have given you nightmares?