Maybe it started for me when I saw a dude peel his own face off in the original Poltergeist. Maybe it was the needle in the eyeball or being buried alive in The Serpent and the Rainbow. Maybe it was a VCR cassette tape of Faces of Death when I was a kid, or maybe it was just Event Horizon in general, but I don’t do horror. Ever.
I have the type of brain where shit gets locked away, and then stays there forever. Horrible images. Sounds I would love to forget. It’s why I can’t do horror of any kind. And by that I mean, everything from basic Scream style slashers all the way through to your everyday zombie show. (I did see the first Scream and it wasn’t that bad, I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek nature of it and turning the genre on its ear, but it certainly wasn’t something I liked or enjoyed.)
I’ve heard great things about shows like The Walking Dead, but I can’t fathom for the life of me how people can invite images of people with mangled faces and limbs, bloody appendages, godawful moans and shuffling into their consciousness. I mean jesus, I don’t even like writing about it. Sends a chill up my spine to think of it. Doing an image search of “The Walking Dead Zombies” made my stomach turn a little just now.
I also don’t watch torture porn or things like Saw or The Human Centipede or, frankly things like Paranormal Activity. I watched part of The Ring a while back because someone told me it was amazing and not scary and it was just horrifying. Which is probably a good thing. Just not for me.
It’s incredibly difficult to avoid. The demographics for comedy (which I love) and video gaming (which I also love) and horror must be virtually identical because watch Comedy Central on any night and I promise you’ll get tons of video game promos and then more horror than you’d ever imagine. I have to be so quick on the draw with my remote to pause or fast-forward through that shit. It’s nuts.
It does tend to leave me out of the loop a little pop culture wise. Especially because horror and fear-based entertainment has become so mainstream. Billboards in major cities featuring like, terrifying things. Just driving around and there are images I’d never want in my children’s heads. Or my head, frankly.
Or you’re like “let’s go to see Inside Out, kids! And on the wall of the theater you see things like this:
Coming soon, kids! How a six year old visually absorbs images like this and doesn’t wonder exactly what type of world they’re entering, I don’t know. They scare me.
I wonder how I could be watching an afternoon football game and this trailer runs after, say, a Lysol commercial.
Is this scary? I don’t know. It’s certainly disturbing. It’s certainly a little much during an afternoon and absolutely not a series of images I want my kids accidentally seeing.
More than that, I wonder about those of you that really love this genre. I’ve always imagined people liked these things because they were an adrenaline thrill ride of some kind. But what about the actual things you see? Do these images enter your brain and then just kind of go away? Are you like, ‘This is fake so it doesn’t matter?’ Do you admire the various ways artists choose to frighten or provoke you? Where do these scenes end up living inside of you? Or can your subconscious just fight them off better than mine can?
I’ve always been told I would love Cloverfield and 28 Days Later. I might give them a shot. The lines can sometimes be a little blury. For example, really I enjoyed Bram Stoker’s Dracula and I loved Pan’s Labyrinth. Is that considered horror?
Sometimes it feels like horror is the gateway drug for crazier shit. Like once you see enough Hostel, you’re cool with things like this. I know about sites like this, I just don’t click on them, EVER.
Likewise, when a particularly barbaric ISIS beheading or something gets delivered in HD to your living room via YouTube, I never ever watch that. I think it scars you. I think it leaves marks that people can’t necessarily see or feel. I think it polarizes and changes you in a fundamental way. Deep deep down, in the engine room of your soul. It does to me, anyway.
Obviously, I’m not equating real-life death with the depiction of death in horror films and shows, but I am saying that the rush people get from fear culture might be similar, or at least have roots that are buried in the same emotional place. So, am I alone out there? Is something as basic as this:
…just a yawner for other people? Like it’s no big deal? Because to me it’s horrifying. It’s emotionally jarring. And it’s really interesting to me that I might be alone in that.
In the end, I guess I don’t like being afraid, and I tend to really allow myself to be swept away by a show or movie, so that it’s not as easy for me to think ‘this is really good bloody makeup” or “I wonder how then made those human entrails so pliable.”
I also don’t get the hit many of you get from wondering about the depths of human suffering and depravity. Maybe I’m so convinced of them already that I don’t feel the need to explore it. Or maybe things are tough enough without the screams of a tortured person filling my ears, even if it’s just acting. Maybe eyeballs being torn out or people being hunted by demons or living breathing humans being dragged to hell just isn’t my jam. Hell, I’m still barely getting over the last few scenes of Outlander last season.
In the absence of a hard and fast line, maybe I just cautiously back away from the line altogether, in an effort to protect a psyche that may or may not be more fragile than the general populace.
What’s that there? Oh, ho hum. No big deal. Just a former living breathing sentient human being feasting upon the torn out organs of another former living breathing sentient human being. Nothing to see here. That reminds me: it’s been a while since I had a really good pulled pork sandwich. (Is that how it is for you guys? Because this photo is so awful I can’t even look at it. My stomach is in knots writing this article.)
Where do you draw that line in your own life? How do you live with these images and are there some that you’d admit you can’t shake? How does that inform what you watch going forward? Is there a portion of fear based entertainment that you shy away from, but will actively seek out something from another part of it? What’s the scariest shit you’ve ever seen in your life, real or in a film? I’m not right to avoid this stuff and you’re not wrong to absorb it. Horror is a billion dollar industry and I’m fascinated to hear from those of you that helped put it on the map, and those of you like me, who steer clear altogether.