Thursday, January 16, 2014

What's the scariest movie you'll ever see? Chances are, you've already seen it.

Hannah Al Rashid in V/H/S/2 "Safe Haven"
It's been a long time since a movie has pulled more than a couple of minor chills or a cheap jump scare out of me. I watched a new horror movie last night, hoping that it might do what so many others have failed to do to my adult psyche lately. I wanted it to scare me.

I took all the proper steps to immerse myself in the movie. I watched it in the dead of night, all by my lonesome, the lights in the house all switched off. Pretty scary already, right? Well, it would have been if I were ten, but I haven't been scared of the dark for quite some time. These days, I tend to be more afraid of microscopic threats—cancer cells, viruses—than I am by things that are now my size.

The movie I watched? V/H/S/ 2, a found-footage anthology. I'd seen the original V/H/S/ a few months ago. The quote on the cover had caught my interest, proudly proclaiming it as “The scariest, rawest horror movie of the year.” That movie itself didn't exactly inspire terror in me (and many of the characters were too misogynistic for me to actually care what happened to them), but I enjoyed it enough to want to check out the sequel.

Horror movie V/H/S/2
And while I appreciated the experimental nature of V/H/S/2's segments (and thought they did a much better job of crafting likeable characters than the first film), the only one that gave me a jump scare or two was Adam Wingard's episode about the man with the prosthetic eye. The other segments, albeit well-made and entertaining, were more gruesome and/or silly than they were scary. Of course, depending on your tolerance for gore, you might have more of a reaction to some of these other segments than I did. For me, gore often makes me less afraid of what I'm seeing. Don't get me wrong, I love R-rated horror, and something about seeing blood on screen does give me a thrill... (I probably shouldn't admit that, should I?). But it also makes me think things like, “Hm. Was that CG blood or was that practical? It looked CG, but I remember in the behind the scenes from the first V/H/S/ that they said all the blood was practical.” and so on, and so forth.

Which brings me to the main point of the post. The movies I saw when I was young—back before I knew how movies were made, and before I had built up a tolerance for not only gore, but real-life horrors—those really did a number on me.

The Shining messed with my head when I was a kid. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I couldn't watch it all the way through, and only built up the courage to try again when I was in high school. It probably didn't help that the whole father-trying-to-butcher-the-family thing didn't seem out of the realm of possibility to me, but that's part of being a kid. Almost everything seems possible. Almost anything could be out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to get you.

In recent years, I thought the Orphanage (a Spanish-language movie produced by Guillermo Del Toro) was very effective and had one moment that legitimately unnerved me.

But the scariest movie I'll ever see? I've already seen it. It's in the rear-view mirror.

And as many lights as I turn off, and as late as I wait up to watch the newest horror flick, I have a feeling that's not going to change.

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