I can pinpoint the exact time and place that my irrational fear of fear determined my view on horror movies for the rest of my adolescence into adulthood. I am certain that I always disliked horror movies but this was solidified when I actually watched a full length horror movie at the age of 11, Frederick Charles Kreuger paved the way for horror movie antagonists to come and I would forever be conflicted as October time came around. A month of Halloween (Samhain), my birthday and my favourite time of the year but also a month of horror movies, scary dress up and cult classic revivals.
Standard 5, the last year of primary school, an impressionable time and a period of social discovery. I was invited to Lisa’s 13th birthday party along with a few other girls in our year and I was so excited because it was one of my first sleepover parties. I was younger than the children in my year and so I found myself over compensating for this age difference by constantly accommodating the older girls demands. For this reason, I ended up volunteering myself to do a lone beverage haul from the kitchen at 11pm midway through one of the Nightmare on Elm street movies. We had all settled for the night in Lisa’s living room on the floor with our duvets and or sleeping bags, all huddled up in what is favourably known as a ‘Christmas bed’. All the lights had been switched off to set the scene and a poor quality VHS provided the subject of my forthcoming nightmares.
One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…
Three, four, better lock your door…
You didn’t have to tell me twice. Swiftly I made my exit, kitchen right. No sooner had the door security warning been offered, I was fumbling my way through the darkness over huddled bodies and intermittent squeals to get us some orange squash and forget the scenes on the bold box TV in the lounge.
Thinking back on it now, I can barely remember these scenes in the movie. I vaguely remember something about a bed of nails and possibly even a hot air balloon, though my deep-rooted fear was not of Freddy himself but rather the fear instilled by a combination of an eerie score, threatening cinematography and a catchy theme tune. Fight or flight told me to run and to the kitchen I thought I had escaped, forgetting the pitch darkness of the dead of night and the possibility of other frights waiting to go bump. It was at this time that Lisa’s brother grabbed his opportunity to scare the living daylights out of me by creeping up on me in the kitchen. A tray of Oros filled plastic cups hit the floor within seconds and the shrill screams of my terror filled the house. Lisa’s mom came running, lights were switched on and there I stood with my shame soaked pyjamas clinging to my legs as my urine ran down over my feet into the pool of orange juice that was making its journey through the tile grout and under the fridge.
I wasn’t invited to another sleepover in primary school.
It was a while before I was encouraged to watch another horror film, unbeknownst to me might I add. I spent my high school years doing all possible to avoid scary movies while maintaining a somewhat ‘cool’ reputation but when a date with my boyfriend David presented itself at around the age of 15, I was less concerned about the movie choice than I was about the fact he had a driver’s licence, and a car. He picked me up in his red something or other and we drove to Randburg Waterfront (Now Brightwater Commons) where he bought us tickets to watch ‘Bless the Child’.
I now understand that this was a teenage boys right of passage, taking his girlfriend to a scary movie in order to play the hero and extend the movie arm wherever possible. Poor David didn’t get the opportunities he hoped for as I spent majority of the movie with my head beneath my shirt. It was somewhere around the knitting needles in the eyeball scene that I decided this movie was not for me and so I sat on the floor in front of my seat with my fingers in my ears. This practice has since been adopted on other occasions, resurfacing for a movie date with another boyfriend to watch ‘Paranormal Activity’ where my face was firmly planted in my shirt with my fingers in my ears and just when you think it is safe to come out from this manmade cocoon, I look up to see a girl standing over a bed, swaying. An image that is firmly planted in my mind when I think of scary movies and how much I intensely dislike them.
Phobiaphobia is a real thing.
I always find it quite funny how people who know me are shocked to learn that I don’t enjoy horror movies, but not for lack of trying. It has become the mission of many of my friends to get me to enjoy a horror movie experience and I have now seen a few other scary movies (Though I never revisited Elm street, I drew the line). It is safe to say that none of the scary/horror movies I have watched have ever been enjoyable for me and I started to wonder if I had a phobia for the all threats addressed in these movies, from clowns to dolls and everything in between. I have since learned that the only phobia I have is fear itself and my body and mind do not enjoy feeling scared. This is my phobia, I am afraid of being afraid.
I have tried all types of horror movie, the likes of IT, Halloween, Psycho, SAW and Texas Chainsaw Massacre to name a few. I have dabbled in spiritual horror such as The Excorcist, The Excorism of Emily Rose, The Haunting and the likes. I have even tried the whole ‘based on a true story’ genre like Blair Witch Project. I can confidently say that I have watched a whole 5-10 mins of each of these movies and made the decision to switch it off, forsaking the reputation of cold-hearted macabre bitch. Some fears just cannot be faced.
So what spurred on this trip down memory lane? I found myself watching ‘Dorian Gray’ at 1am this morning and proceeded to watch ‘Celebs go Dating’ until 3am to get over the demonic portrait of Dorian that I was left with in the final scenes. This is not even a horror movie and still my subconscious has decided to make mealtime of the mental images deep-routed in my mind.
Horror movie buffs everywhere, you are welcome. You are welcome to have a good laugh at my inability to understand your infatuations. I have tried and I am sorry, I have failed. In future, I will stick to slapstick comedy and Disney classics. It is almost October after all, Jack Skellington is ready for a visit.