Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dead Before the Opening Credits

"I don't really believe in motives, Sid.
I mean, did Norman Bates have a motive?
Did we ever find out why Hannibal Lector liked to eat people? DON'T THINK SO.
See, it's a lot scarier when there's no motive."


I admit it. I love slasher flicks. Scream, Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer... These are the movies I saw in my early teen years that made me afraid to be alone in my house. 

I can get scared by almost anything - from Arachnids to Zombies - but I think the scariest movies may be the ones with no supernatural elements, the "ripped from the headlines" movies about serial killers. The movie Zodiac is really a drama about  a man obsessed with the case, not a horror movie - but it has some moments that are truly fucking terrifying - and that's probably because the Zodiac Killer was a real person.

Scary movies about things like poltergeists and werewolves require you to suspend your disbelief - you have to not listen to the voice that says, "There's no such thing as ____." You cannot say there is no such thing as a psychopath. They exist. They're out there.

My mother once told me that the only movie that ever really scared her was The Silence of the Lambs. She said that it was the one movie that made her feel like no one was really safe - it left her feeling that anyone could be a target - anyone could be a potential victim - even her.

A lot of killers are after revenge - they don't always pursue the most logical targets, but at least they have a reason to be pissed off. You can tell yourself that you are safe, you can say, "I've never hit a man with my car and then dumped his body in the ocean... so I'm probably safe." But these angry killers will stalk and murder everyone around the target. You could be killed because you're the roommate, co-worker, or classmate of the "real" target. Or, you could be killed just because you happen to move into the killer's childhood home, or you're on your way to the summer camp where the killer's son drowned. 

Sometimes the victims get all kind of warnings, that they ignore, and you don't feel as bad for them. That hick at he gas station told them that the cabin was dangerous, but they went anyway. You can tell yourself, "I wouldn't be that dumb!" But if I'm honest with myself, though, I know that I would be exactly that dumb.

And what about when there's no warning? Even if you do everything right, and follow all of Randy's "Rules", you can still find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the scariest movies I've ever seen is The Devil's Rejects. The scene that haunts me most is when a woman is lying in the middle of the road. Someone comes to help her, and her accomplices brutally murder him and steal his car. He was killed because he was trying to help. He was trying to do the right thing. And his good deed doesn't go unpunished. Not by a long shot.

Sometimes, I actually find myself thinking, "I have wandered into the beginning of a horror movie." I realize that, even though I know better than to pick up a hitchhiker, investigate a strange noise in the basement, or read anything in Latin out loud from a creepy book, I will probably do all of those things sooner or later. If I really think about it, there is nothing preventing me from being murdered, except the sheer randomness of the universe. There's really no way to be 100% safe, and I suppose that I'm like most people, in that, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, or actively trying to prevent being chainsaw-massacred. Because really, what good does it do? If horror movies have taught me anything, it's that everyone dies sooner or later, and even the most paranoid character can eventually be taken by surprise.

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