I’m a wuss.
I have, yes, on occasion, checked under my bed for … well, whatever evil entity lurks beneath beds. I maintain a healthy supply of nightlights and Raid. I firmly believe that amusement parks featuring roller coasters and other death-defying rides are anything but amusing. I hate Halloween, wouldn’t go into a haunted house if you paid me, and I hope Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling are not resting in peace.
Some people actually seek experiences that scare the pants off them.
Some people are out of their minds.
An entire genre of cinema exists for these loonies: horror movies. As a film enthusiast unwilling to be excluded from the cultural conversation, I’ve watched my share (mostly through the fan of my fingers across my face). I still get the creeps thinking of those twin girls standing in the hallway of the hotel in “The Shining.” Or remembering Linda Blair’s head doing a three-sixty in “The Exorcist.” Whatever possessed (no pun intended) me to watch “The Silence of the Lambs” twice? And don’t get me started on the Chucky movies (though the tagline for “Bride of Chucky,” Chucky gets lucky, is deliciously clever)
Two movies stand out as my all-time freak out flicks: “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” (Bette Davis and Joan Crawford) and “What Lies Beneath” (Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford). Decades apart with dramatically different stories, they do have one thing in common: the paralysis of the body of the character being victimized. They’re helpless, immobile, yet conscious of what is happening to them. A truly horrifying combination.
Reading a scary story is a less intense experience. You can turn the page, close the book, come back to it when you’re feeling brave. But a scary movie, with its intense visuals and spooky soundtrack/sound effects, is almost impossible to turn away from. You simply must look, even if it’s through partly obscured eyes. You cannot stop looking.
The mood and angst created by these movies are hard to shake off. So unless I want to lie awake all night, sheet up to my chin, eyes staring at the ceiling (where did that crack come from?), I have to find an antidote. A comedy film works best, the sillier the better. And what better way to banish the monsters in my head than “Young Frankenstein,” Mel Brooks’s hilarious version of Mary Shelley’s novel, “Frankenstein.” Gene Wilder (Dr.Frankenstein) cajoling Peter Boyle (the Monster) by saying “This is a mother’s angel” is pure genius. After all, all the monster wanted was his creator to love him.
Gets me every time.