As a child I was terrified of all of the trappings of Halloween. The costumes, the movies, the elaborate displays of terror set up by neighbors, haunted houses — they all pushed me into the fetal position for days. I would stay indoors during trick or treat, pleading my parents to ignore the knocks at our front door heralding the arrival of the newest demonic imp snarling a demand for candy.
I can only guess about the origins of my fears, but I suspect that as a child living with an alcoholic parent I had plenty of the unknown and uncontrollable to deal with and no interest in adding to it, thank you so very much. So I averted my eyes to the posters in the video store promising kills and terror. I avoided leaving the house on Halloween. I took great pains to close my ears to any stories that came close to the border of horror. Then one day, likely my early teen years, I decided to take control of the things that frightened me. I decided to inoculate myself to fear that served no purpose.
I must credit my wonderful and loving Aunt Karen for being my guide into the insane and entertaining world of horror. She has saved my life, literally and metaphorically, more times than I can count and I would like to thank her for shaping my warped mind. Though I cannot remember the first movie Aunt Karen introduced me to, I can remember so many that we watched together. Motel Hell, IT, The Evil Dead movies. Paperhouse. Jacob’s Ladder. Many of the Friday the 13th movies. It just goes on from there, you understand.
Through viewing them in a safe environment with her, delving into the tropes and expectations, discussing and analyzing the themes, and then being able to see that it could be a nice diversion from real-life distress, I came to embrace horror movies. They came to symbolize something other than the lack of control in my own life. They became something safe and loving and something I could enjoy in the best of company. They were, and continue to be, an escape from the real world for me. They remind me of my ability to overcome obstacles in life and how I can change myself if I just set my mind to it.
I’m hoping to instill the same ideas in my daughter of embracing the uncontrollable nature of horror while strengthening her sense of self. I want her to revel in the idea of zombies and slashers while knowing that it’s completely unacceptable to abide the same level of fear in her real life. I want her to know that she can come to scoff at those things that once made her terrified.