If I was going to pass along some wisdom to my teenage self as a now older and wiser adult, I would tell myself, “Young Rachel, do yourself a favor and forego viewership” [I would use big words to make my young self seem like I ended up getting really smart] “of all horror films.”
Actually I would tell myself “Stop being so lame” but THEN I would say the thing about horror movies.
This genre of cinematography [language of old, wise Rachel] manages to take simple, innocent experiences and present the worst-case-scenario so that not only do we think twice about them – we’re afraid of them.
We now have fears that we didn’t even know we had: could there be a man hiding in my car? Should I actually go camping ever again? Will someone stab me while I’m in the shower? Is there a person standing behind me in the mirror?
A Weekend Getaway to the Mountains
Renting a cabin in the beauty and privacy of the woods used to be an enjoyable weekend reprieve. Hang out with your friends! Enjoy wholesome card games next to the roaring fireplace! Share a hearty home cooked meal together! Drink hot chocolate while watching the sunset!
But after films like The Strangers, Evil Dead, and Cabin Fever – premises centered around cabin renters who think they’re going to have an enjoyable weekend respite relaxing in the quiet, secluded mountains only to discover that there’s a sociopath, who recently escaped from the mental hospital, outside working hard to kill everyone in the cabin (and, womp womp what do you know, no cell service!) – this activity has been officially tainted.
We can still enjoy these things, but we’ll never fully be able to unwind with thoughts like, “What was that noise outside?” “Who turned that light on?” “Was that actually just the wind?” and “Does Katelyn really take this long in the shower or did she get pulled out of the bathroom window by her hair and garishly murdered in a woodchipper?”
Sure, we all still rent cabins in the woods for weekend fun, but inevitably – during that transitional drive from populated highway to narrow, isolated dirt road – someone in the car will utter the line, “This is how horror movies start,” and everyone else will laugh politely and slightly uneasily, wondering privately if they’ve made a terrible mistake.
In high school, I made a laughable amount of money – like all in all, probably more per hour than I make now in my salaried, college-degree-required career – babysitting for various local neighbors every weekend.
And it. Was. So. Easy.
Upon arrival, all I had to do was order pizza and make sure the kids were fed before getting them pajama’d up and sending them off to bed (or if I was really lucky, they would already be in bed and asleep, and those were the times I sometimes wonder if I made a mistake ever ending my babysitting career in the first place).
I’d then spend the next 3-4 hours catching up on cable and sampling every snack the kitchen had to offer.
Consume free snacks, watch TV, get paid, repeat.
Nothing scary to see here.
But then, of course…came those movies like When a Stranger Calls or Babysitter Wanted. Movies where a stalker was watching the babysitter from outside. Calling the landline and breathing heavily on the other end. Quietly breaking in. Ruining her binge of What Not to Wear.
Suddenly this innocuous, well-paying gig turned into a living nightmare where not only do you, as a babysitter, have to make sure the kids get to bed on time…you also have to fight for the child’s life from an axe-murderer-or-insane-asylum-escapee.
Maybe quitting babysitting and going to college wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
When I went backpacking through Europe, a lot of people asked me if we were going to stay in hostels while we were traveling.
Um yes, obviously, because they’re cheap and convenient and a great way to meet fellow travelers.
I would then be reminded about the dangers of staying in a hostel: You know they let anyone stay in those, right. What if someone steals your passport. What if someone brings a gun. What if someone abducts you. What if someone murders you in your sleep. What if someone pulls you into the basement and tortures you. What if someone turns you and two other people into a human centipede.
But I never did have my passport stolen or murdered or tortured or turned into a human centipede.
The worst thing that ever happened to me in a hostel was a disappointing free breakfast.
Chucky, enough said.
Also really put a damper on Rugrats for me, if I’m being honest.
BUT HERE’S MY QUESTION…
Instead of horror movies making us afraid of something pleasant that we weren’t already afraid of – relaxing in the woods, traveling through Europe, caring for children – why can’t they make us afraid of something terrible that we weren’t already afraid of?
Instead of creating fears for things that are so unlikely, they should instill fear in us towards things that we should actually be afraid but we’re not.
Like climate change, for example. The first time a plastic water bottle (or, maybe, a car) was invented, we all should have turned to each other and acknowledged: “This is how horror movies start.”
America’s obesity epidemic. A slasher film centered around the Big Mac, or KFC’s Double Down, or the Popeye’s chicken sandwich – “This is how horror movies start.”
Russian Bots. “This is how horror movies start.”
The VMFA Flaggers. “This is how horror movies start.”
The Second Amendment. “This is how horror movies start.”
CrossFit. “This is how horror movies start.”
Selfies. “This is how horror movies start.”
Airbrushed t-shirts from Kings Dominion. “This is how horror movies start.”
The freedom for anyone to share their opinion on social media. “This is how horror movies start.”