Triggered: One Man Faces His Fear of Horror Movies

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Contributor: Ron Graham

Once upon a time, I went with my kids to Monster Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ. At this festival, there was a cast reunion for “They Live,” and I got photos of Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was a highlight of my life. (It better be – I ignored Keith David and Meg Foster altogether. Their panel discussion was terrific, though all three had clearly been drinking quite a bit by the time they started.)

At the same festival, the kids took me to see a screening of “Insidious.” Of course, they would – it was a popular horror movie and I was at a horror convention. I knew they would do something like this and I faced the prospect with trepidation.

Because guess what? I have never been good with horror movies. So when the screaming in the film started, I started screaming, too, and tried to get away. The kids held my arms down and kept me there. They laughed their way through the rest of the movie, but I stayed.

Why was I scared of horror films? Why would anyone be? I guess that really is the question, isn’t it?

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When I was a kid, I would go to the old Park Theatre every Saturday afternoon. My mom bought tickets for my brother and me, to get us out of the house for a bit. And every week, it was either Godzilla or a horror monster movie, something like “The Green Slime” or “The Navy v. the Night Monsters” or “Equinox.”

I was fine with Godzilla, and even with most of the others, until along came this movie where some creepy guy was killing women and taking parts of them to put together his perfect woman. That flick, whatever it was called, was gross and it scared the heck out of me, to the point where I started staying home on Saturdays. I had nightmares and the whole bit.

That was what triggered me: body parts being tossed around, and the concomitant screams. Eyes being poked out, stuff like that. I tried to distract myself in the theater, by throwing Jujyfruits at girls and stuff like that, but it didn’t work. There would be a scream, and there would be an arm tangled up in some tentacled plant-monster. Ew.

As an adult, I was safe. My then-wife would not go to a horror film for love or money. I was fed a steady diet of Jane Austen.

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Once my kids hit ten years old, they wanted horror, creepy horror, and they were *entertained* by my screaming – I was no longer safe. It occurred to them that it might entertain them more to try to train me to become impervious to horror. Because of their failures, which culminated when we saw “Insidious” would be good for laughs.

I embarrassed them almost as much as I did riding the Buccaneer with them at Six Flags Great Adventure a few years sooner. (I pretty much screamed all the way through that as well.)

I was glad to entertain my beloved children, but… if they really enjoy horror films and thrillers, shouldn’t I try to endure those genre films so the kids will want to spend an extra night out with me?

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I got the point. Since that day at Monster Mania, I have seen *16* horror or thriller films and have not screamed – much – nor have I tried to get away. I may be about as brave as I have ever been since the day I saw “The Navy v. the Night Monsters” when I was a kid.

Don’t get me wrong: I have not somehow become brave. As you will see from the list that accompanies this article, I have not gone hardcore. My good friend Ted, who hosts Super No Bueno, he really is somewhat more of a hard horror guy, as are my kids, who treated me gently at Monster Mania even if they did pin me to a chair.

But I have hope that maybe a little harder horror is in my future. I am hoping that if/when “Sadako v. Kayako” airs in the United States, Ted might join me for that. He will know the history of both of those famous Japanese horror franchises, and could probably teach me quite a bit that would be fun to learn.

Or, if my kids just won’t tie me down, maybe I will get to go with them.

Here’s the list of the last 16 horror/psych thrillers I have seen in the last four years. Some are legit scary at moments, and nearly all are entertaining throughout.

Here are a few that I enjoyed the most, along with the reason why.

– “Get Out” – the actual plausibility of a village of middle-aged and elderly white people murdering blacks who enter the community in the creepiest way possible – taking over their bodies. I would not be surprised if someone, somewhere, is actually trying it.

– “Split” – as is often the case, this film hinges on the skill of the lead. And James McAvoy is skilled. Plus, his character is not only a murderous creep, he has a super-power. We don’t even really get it until the end… then it all seems to come together. In a way that is both scary and hopeful.

– “The Babadook” – I am actually surprised the majority of horror films don’t center themselves on characters that frighten children. That works for “Krampus,” for “Sadako v. Kayako,” and some others. But none better than here. The Babadook made me wish I had never been a kid.

– “It Follows” – it’s enough that women feel unsafe at the best of times and in the best of communities. But here is an… entity… that plays on all the worst fears of women, with the intent of making its victims equally fearful. <shudder>

The Complete List

2018

The Cloverfield Paradox

2017

Get Out (best of the bunch)

2016

10 Cloverfield Lane (good)

Split (very good)

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

Morgan

2015

Crimson Peak (good)

The Visit (very good)

Krampus (good)

The Lazarus Effect (worst of the bunch)

Goosebumps

2014

The Babadook (very good)

It Follows (very good)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (very good)

What We Do In the Shadows (very good)

Unfriended (good)

(Editor’s Note: Ron Graham neglected to mention seeing “Night of the Living Dead” with me a few years ago at midnight on Halloween. Despite his nerves, he watched the entire film like a champ. Ron Graham can be found daily on Twitter.)

More Horror Talk

MONSTERFESTMANIA! (2016)

The Haunted History of Canal Fulton: A Walking Tour

IT (2017)

Happy Death Day (2017)

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016)

Don’t Breathe (2016)

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