Musings in the Dark: Triskaidekaphobia...



…or fear of Friday the 13th

On days like today, there is typically some good TV on; usually in the form of horror flicks.  I love horror movies.  When I was in my formative years, I was at once terrified and fascinated by them.  The first one I can remember that scared the shit out of me (and instilled a healthy fear of scarecrows) was Dark Night of the Scarecrow.  It was a made-for-TV movie about a wrongly accused man who hid in a scarecrow to hide from vigilantes.  He was murdered and his spirit returned to haunt the men who killed them.  The last scene in the movie is of the scarecrow and…let’s just say I didn’t sleep that night.  I watched the movie again last year and that scene still makes me nervous. 

Halloween came out in 1978 and Friday the 13th came out in 1980.  Of course I saw them, and of course they frightened me.  I spent many a night sitting up in my bed, too scared to sleep because either Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers was going to come out of the closet and get me.  Both of them were effective in their own way.  Jason was a disgusting retarded hillbilly with a fucked-up face, so he was more gross than anything else.  Michael, however, was a tall, silent stalker in Dickies and an altered white William Shatner mask.  You knew what Jason was, but you weren’t sure about Michael.  He looked human, but there was clearly something other going on behind that damned fa├žade.  It was he that utterly terrified me, right along with Bubba the Scarecrow.

*takes a moment*

Even now, I can't bear to put an image of Michael up on my blog.  That's how it should be done, my friends.

The reason why this worked so well is because whatever our minds can conjure is always far worse than what a director can put on the screen. So on Michael (and Bubba by extension), I could project all of my fears onto that stark…white…mask…and as an imaginative young writer, believe me when I tell you I had some horrifying monsters I was seeing instead of a Shatner veneer.

But in spite of my fears, or maybe because of them, I couldn’t help but devour these movies.  The 80s were a glorious time for horror, both camp and not.  Examples of some good stuff:  Prom Night, The Shining, Graduation Day, Happy Birthday to Me, The Howling, My Bloody Valentine, Creepshow, Christine, Cujo, Sleepaway Camp, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Phenomena, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Phantasm, Child’s Play and The Amityville Horror.  This list is not exhaustive, and to be perfectly honest, only the first half of the 80s produced pristine classics.  Or maybe that’s just because I was younger and far more impressionable then than I was after 1985.  Nowadays, it is extremely difficult to pull off an effective horror movie because our sensibilities are so jaded.  I can’t think of the last time a movie made me uneasy. 

I’ll always love horror movies.  I like being curled up on the couch in the dark, with my hand over my eyes, peeking through the slits at the TV.  I’ve seen Halloween about 200 times, but the sight of Michael Myers stalking babysitters will always twerk the primal part of my brain where that petrified little girl still resides.

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