Dear Scary Movie Skeptics

Dear Scary Movie Skeptics,

"Horror movies these days just aren't as scary as they used to be," said almost everyone I've ever known at some point in the last decade after watching a horror film. "Horror movies used to be sooo scary. I remember when I watched ___________ as kid. I couldn't sleep for a week."

For my age group you can usually fill in the blank with The Exorcist, a Chucky movie, or It, but your results may vary. It's usually whatever horror movie had recently come out when the speaker was eight years old, but as in the case of The Exorcist, it could also be the speaker's parents' favorite horror film which the kiddies then snuck out of the den and watched during a sleepover at the house of whichever classmate had the most permissive parents.

So maybe you're right. Maybe Gremlins was a cinematic masterpiece whose equal we will never see again, but I'd like to posit an alternate theory. Of course you were scared shitless by the horror movies you saw when you were eight. You were eight. You were terrified when your uncle 'got your nose.' You slept in your parent's bed every time there was a thunderstorm. You bawled your eyes out after sustaining a superficial flesh wound to the knee. In short, you were a pussy.

How is any modern horror movie supposed to scare you the same way that those movies did back when you still thought your closet was harboring a monster the second the lights went out? It would be kind of weird if a thirty-year-old lost sleep over a horror movie. Adults are supposed to lie awake at night fretting over bills, guilt, workplace conflicts, and existential angst, not chainsaw-wielding zombie demons.

Alien vs. Medical Bill- "Whoever wins... we lose." I haven't seen the movie, but I'm pretty sure Medical 
Bill wins and Alien's house ends up going into foreclosure. Tough luck, Alien. Don't get cancer next time.

Unlike the majority of my peers, I didn't see The Exorcist as a child. I saw it for the first time when I was in my late teens. It was mildly disturbing at best. The iconic, 70s color saturation and lame special effects never really let me forget that I was watching a movie. I'm sure it blew your minds when you were seven, but then again, you also used to spend countless fascinated hours making mud pies back then. The most horrific cinematic memory I have is from a made-for-TV movie I saw at age four about King Herod in which his guts burst open and worms spill out. It was traumatizing and I had a worm phobia for years afterwards. I'm still not crazy about them. I wasn't scared out of my wits because the early nineties was a golden age for made-for-TV movies, I was terrified because four-year-olds are lame-ass pansies.

If you still want to be scared by horror movies then you need to bring a child's innocence into the theater with you. Let your defenses down, suspend your disbelief, and let the movie become your reality for two hours. I always get lost in movies, which is why I generally hate scary ones. By the end of The Ring I looked like one of the characters.

Sometimes you have to just go with the movie instead of playing the judgmental critic while you're watching it. Comedies and horror movies especially come to mind. Oh, and sparking up a big fatty beforehand doesn't hurt either.

Sebastian Braff

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