An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

25 September 2009

Horror movies

The very first horror movie that I saw in my entire life was “The Thing.” I was probably seven or eight years old at that time. I found the Betamax tape for it from a stack near the TV one evening, amid tapes of Disney and Looney Tunes and Voltes V and NBA games, and watched it when everyone else was out for the evening. The maid left the room after the first scary scene, so I ended up watching the rest of the movie alone.

The movie never scared me. For one, I particularly remember not seeing at all the actual Thing that horrified and killed many of the characters in the movie. Also, the movie was set in some snow-bound encampment where it always seemed to be night, so the scenes were a little difficult to see. I suppose I was either too young to understand that it was something that was supposed to scare me, or too jaded at such a young age to believe that any of it was real.

I grew up in a small farming barrio in Camarines Sur, a community that has been around for hundreds of years. Naturally, old wives’ tales and rumors of all kinds of aswang were everyday things. Our maids would often tell my brother, sister and me ghost stories before putting us to bed. My sister would be scared, but I would fall asleep so easily and stay asleep so soundly as if I had just read a feel-good bedtime story.

It was obvious that even early on in my life, horror movies and horror stories would not hold the usual spell over me.

What do I get out of horror movies if not the scare that other people watch them for? Surprisingly, comfort. Although come to think of it, this is not really so surprising. Because aren’t horror movies, on some level, meant to comfort us with the knowledge that they are just movies and those things will never really happen to us? I have never believed in ghosts or spirits or aswangs or mananaggals or vampires, not even when they were ordinary fare when I was growing up. Maybe it was this early inundation with folklore that gave me a more objective eye when confronted by the horrific tale. Maybe it’s because I have never seen or heard or felt anything that can be remotely identified as paranormal, even when I’m seated right beside someone experiencing that exact thing at the very same moment, gripping my arm with icy hands while I brush off her hoarse squawks and continue chewing my chocolate wafer and reading my Nancy Drew. Maybe it’s because during my childhood every dark shadow that seemed to hover in the corner of the room always turned out to be either a chair heaped with jackets or a dress on a hanger waiting to be worn for a party the next evening.

Maybe it’s because I have always believed that every single dark and looming thing I don’t comprehend at first can always be broken down into its basic commonplace, non-horrific components -- such as a chair, or a heap of jackets, or a dress on a hanger, or a guilty conscience, or a nagging memory, or a sudden remembrance, or a déjà vu moment, or a big secret, or a love in progress, or a dream about to be born. And there it is, something that we should never, ever be scared of.

[Image credits: 1, 2]


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