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I’ll admit just about any movie can make me flinch when the atmosphere is right and the villain/demon/monster suddenly jumps out and scares the pants off of one hapless victim or another. To me, that’s more of a knee-jerk reaction, than actual fear. I think I flinched somewhere during The Blair Witch Project…before I fell asleep in the theater. My husband said I’m just jaded because of what I write. Maybe. It might explain why gore never really affects me, either. Used right, it’s a great tool to manipulate the audience’s emotions. Used too much, gore can bore, and turn me off. Kind of like the difference between someone well-dressed, and someone with a strategically placed towel. Show too much and it leaves nothing to the imagination.
We’ve watched so many horror movies it would be impossible to list them all. I could toss out a few of my favorites, though. The Hellraiser series, especially the first two. There’s something about American Gothic that speaks to me. The Exorcist, the first is the best. Nightmare on Elm Street, I loved the humor in them. The Alien movies… Not much has come along recently that flipped my horror-watching trigger. Guillermo Del Toro’s Mama was a huge disappointment. The Paranormal Activity flicks were just boring.
The one movie that scared me? Admittedly, this was forever ago and the last time I watched it, it didn’t spook me in the least. But, when I think back to that time, I can still feel a ghost of that fear. In junior high I believe, I spent the night at a friend’s house, and we sat up late and watched The Howling. Yep, you read it right, The Howling scared me.
For me, part of the fear connection was it tapped into my nightmares about being chased. Primal fight or flight—I guess I’m a runner, at least subconsciously. So, when Karen was chased, I felt her fear. I could put myself in her place, feel breath on my neck, pressure on nerves telling me something’s there. I think what really did me in was the door with the damn smiley face sticker shaking, while a wolf tore at the other side. I can still see that scene. And the special affects? Back in the early 80s, they were awesome! (Well, except for Karen’s husband and the camp slut getting it on in mid transformation…) After watching The Howling the first time, I slept with my closet door shut tight, and the door to the hallway cracked open for an easy escape. Any creak, any rustle, and I was wide awake, looking for moving shadows, a wolfy face…
Eventually, the night fright faded. Years later, I watched horror movies with relish.
Maybe that first damned good scare opened a door to the dark inside? I’m not sure, but after getting past that fear, I embraced all things spooky. And, yes, I wrote two stories from a werewolf’s point of view, one published under a penname, and one with my agent right now.
Looking back, maybe The Howling was the first step on my path to becoming the author I am today.
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