As other Scream Queens have mentioned, horror can be incredibly subjective. What sets one person hiding behind the couch is a big ol’ shrug for someone else. Trap a character in a coffin and start shoveling dirt over them, and some readers’/viewers’ own feelings of claustrophobia will kick in. Maybe it’s creepy children, or unexplained noises. It could be total darkness, or things that slither.
For your squicky pleasure, I’m going to list my own top three, and some of the movie moments that had me peeking out from between my fingers, and pick apart some of the reasons why. Don’t worry, understanding it won’t stop me from shuddering my way through my next encounter with any of them.
Eye horror Can’t do it. As soon as the pointy thing starts making its way toward the squirming victims eyes, I’m squirming right along with them. It’s like I feel my eyeballs trying to nope their way right out of my head and off to somewhere safe. It’s happening right now, even, as I write about it. I’m going back a ways, but the movie Fire In the Sky is the one I come back to. The movie should be on my list because it’s about aliens (see below), but isn’t — as alien movies go, it didn’t flip my oh god run, run now, runrunrun switch. But there’s a scene mid-abduction memory, and the machinery… and the abductee’s eye… and…
It’s a safe bet that this is rooted in real-life fear. I wear glasses not only because I’m blind as the proverbial bat, but also as protection. I have one “good” eye, so I’ve grown used to the bi-annual spiel from my opthamologist recommending I get the shatterproof polycarbonate lenses when I get new frames. I don’t know if I’d even be capable of putting contact lenses in. Eyeliner, sure, as long as I’m wielding the pencil. Anyone else waves something sharp and pointy in my face and I flinch.
AliensThis one goes way back, too. E.T. was a damned scary movie, one that was all the more terrifying to me because it got tangled up in my head with Cujo. Even before that, though, was Close Encounters of the Third Kind. My parents brought me with them to a friends’ house, another couple their age who had kids just a little older than me. We sproglings were off playing in another room while the grown-ups chatted, and someone put the TV on. Close Encounters was playing, that scene where all the doors and windows are rattling, and the appliances come to life all on their own, and that light comes streaming in through the windows and around the door.
Four- or five-year-old me was terrified. I spent the rest of the night in the kitchen with the grown-ups, where there was light and noise and laughter. From that moment on, alien movies and I were not friends. Nope nope nope.
It’s a word now. Shut up. Shaky-cam doesn’t bother me — think any found footage films like The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield. That only serves to annoy me after a while. No, shaky-face is the thing where everything else in the shot is moving normally, but the scary dude’s head is whipping all over the place so fast his features are blurred. Where’s the face? You don’t know! It’s everywhere! Are you watching Sleepy Hollow? (You should be watching Sleepy Hollow.) They’ve used shaky-face once or twice when I wasn’t expecting it and… yeah. Moloch is a creepy enough character as it stands. Add some shaky-face and I’m hugging a cat for safety.
I can’t find the root of this one in my psyche. I’m guessing it’s the generic terror of not being able to see the person’s features, the same sort of fear that comes from images where eyes or mouths are covered over in a smooth layer of skin. Of course, if my fear is based in anything deeper than I saw Jacob’s Ladder and it scared me, I probably don’t want to know.
How about you? What are your top scares? Do you have any recommendations for me to watch based on mine?