Friday, July 21, 2006

Five movies that have traumatized me to varying degrees

For this week's Friday Five, I turn to movies. I don't even know why I saw most of these, as I've always, always, always hated anything the least bit frightening or creepy. In all but one case, I'm pretty sure I had no say in the selection. Oddly, I can blame a boy for only one of them; family, friends, and babysitters are at fault for the rest.

Oh, and Red? You're probably going to want to skip this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. The Serpent and the Rainbow - My memories of this movie are fairly hazy, but one small part is etched in my brain forever. Someone drops a seemingly invisible speck of something in the female lead's powder compact right before she uses it to freshen her makeup. For the next several days, a nasty red welt grows larger and puffier on her face until finally the whole sore bursts open and hundreds of tiny spiders crawl out. I have no idea why this occurred or what it had to do with the plot, but I don't intend to see the movie again to find out.

    As a side note, I was so terrified of voodoo lords or cult masters or whoever the evil element in this movie was that I couldn’t sleep well for weeks afterward. In another shining example of the strange and inexplicable ways my brain works, I somehow rationalized that these evil things couldn't get me in my sleep as long as I wore socks to bed. I have no idea why that made sense in my head at the time, but I remember it was ages before I went to bed barefoot again.

  2. The Amityville Horror - Once, when I was in first or second grade, my parents left us with a babysitter on a night that some apparently legendary horror movie was being aired on network TV. I had no idea what the movie was, but I remember my mother explicitly telling our babysitter not to let us see it. Naturally, she turned it on. To this day, I'm not entirely sure what the movie was, but after describing it to several people over the years, I finally found someone who said, "Oh yeah. That's Amityville Horror." So I'm just trusting that whichever friend finally solved this for me was right; I'm not going to rent it myself to find out.

    I remember only two scenes from this movie, but those two scenes were the sole source of the completely irrational fear of both walk-in closets and double-hung windows that I developed shortly thereafter. In the movie, a child's arms are crushed when she rests them on a window sill and the window slams shut. Luckily, we didn't have this sort of windows at my house, but it was years before I would touch the windows at my grandma's house to slide them open or closed on my own. In another scene, a young woman goes to retrieve something from a walk-in closet, and the door quickly shuts behind her. She spends the next several hours (days? I’m not sure...) pounding and clawing at the door hoping that someone will let her out, until finally her fingers are broken and bloody and she's an emaciated and emotional wreck. Again, we had no walk-in closets in our house, but when my parents built an addition on to the room I shared with my sister, I actually willingly took the old half rather than fighting with her for the new side on the sole basis that the new side would have a walk-in closet. Even years later, when I moved into an apartment that featured a walk-in closet in my bedroom, I still felt a little leery about stepping inside. It's funny how things like that can stick with you if you're terrified at just the right point in your childhood development. Therapy isn't a multi-million dollar industry for nothing, right?

  3. E.T. - I was a fairly sensitive child (read: great big ol' scaredy cat), and my mother knew this about me. (It was the reason she so seriously instructed my babysitter NOT to watch a horror movie in my presence.) When E.T. came out, she decided it'd be best to screen it herself first to make sure there were no scary parts that would traumatize me in any way. So my parents went to see it, and when they returned, my mother warned me very specifically about the cornfield scene--the scene where E.T. is being chased through a field and suddenly the camera stops and a flashlight fixes on E.T.'s screaming, terrified face. She was worried this one scene would startle me out of enjoying the rest of the perfectly sweet and kid-friendly movie, so she described it to me in great detail in the hopes that I would be prepared. When we went to see the movie together, my mother waited for the cornfield scene and then leaned over and whispered, "Now, it's coming up soon. Don't be scared." I will never understand why she so carefully prepared me for that one potentially frightening moment and yet completely failed to mention the scary space suit men charging through Elliot's plastic-draped house. Oh, and gray and clammy, mottle-skinned E.T. in those particular scenes of the movie? Yeah, she could have made note of that as well. Live and learn, mom. Live and learn.

  4. It - Do I really need to explain what was so terrifying about this one? If you somehow didn't already think clowns were creepy before seeing this movie, did you actual emerge from it entirely at peace with clowns in any way at all? Yeah, me neither.

  5. The Ring* - Earlier this week, Red talked about how she's often interested in the plot of popular horror movies, but knows that actually seeing the movie herself will ruin her life for a little while. I completely relate. Such was the case with The Ring. The cryptic ad spots and general buzz among those who'd seen it had me really curious about the film, but I knew that if I saw it, it would terrify me no end. I refused to see it in the theaters, but when my then-boyfriend ordered the movie from NetFlix, I agreed to watch it on the grounds that I would be staying at his house that night, and my burly, loving boyfriend would protect me and let me sidle up beside him all night, thereby canceling out my inevitable post-movie uneasiness.

    I actually did OK for most of the film, looking away or hiding my eyes only momentarily here and there. That is, until that one part. If you've seen the movie, you probably know what part I'm talking about, and if you haven't seen it, I apologize if I'm ruining anything for you here. The part that did me in with this film was when they've let us believe that the plot's been finally tied up in a neat little bow; everyone's safe and the evil's been eradicated, and then suddenly, without warning, the undead, ratty-haired, gray-faced girl STEPS OUT OF THE TV and into Naomi Watts's apartment. Yeah, that's the point where I crawled right into my then-boyfriend's nearby armpit, which--trust me--isn't a place anyone would generally want to be by choice.

Notably absent from this list are the two Exorcist films that some boy forced me to watch and my horrifying Silence of the Lambs experience (my supposed friends at the time tricked me into seeing that one, and I still haven't fully forgiven them for it). This list has only five slots for a reason, and this week, that reason is that I need to sleep tonight.

* Sorry, Red. If you actually did read this far, I know this is The Movie That Shall Not Be Named, and I should instead have labeled it “The one whose two-word title rhymes with The Swing.” Sincerely, I do apologize.


ePixie29 said...

I'm so with you on the movie It, which would likely have been my number one in a similar list. To this day, I cannot think of Pennywise without getting the creeps, I cannot see a clown without freaking out and even writing about it is making me have a bad case of the willies!

Darren said...

Word on E.T.. A thoroughly unpleasant movie no matter how old you are.

The girl ghost throwing up in The Sixth Sense freaked my shit out beyond belief.

nabbalicious said...

"E.T." traumatized me, too, but because he leaves in the end and Elliott is all alone. It still devastates me.

God, don't even get me started on "The Ring." I slept with the lights on for weeks after seeing that!

Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff .. My mother tells me that when I was 8 years old or so, I was severely traumatized by that animated oddity of "The Lord of the Rings" .. not because it's such a bad movie, which is the reason I can't stand it now, but because it just scared me to death

stefanie said...

epixie--Agreed. I deliberately didn't let myself think about Pennywise in any detail when I wrote that part, as it still creeps me out.

Darren--That girl still freaks me out a bit, as she's Mischa Barton, and she's a little scary.

Nabbalicious--Aw... I don't remember being particularly traumatized by that particular angle, but it's very sweet that you were.

Reel F--I don't think I've ever seen that one, but I've heard no good things about it.

Red said...

Thanks for all the warnings, Stefanie! Of course I read it your entry in its entirety anyway. I totally hear you on the cornfield scene in ET. I was traumatized by It as well, and I never saw Amityville or Serpent. All I can say about The Ring is that I should have known better. When the first person to die in the movie had my name, and her friend walked up the stairs eerily whispering her (my) name, I should've just got up and walked out.

Also, I recently went on and I guess they were promoting the Ring 2 at the time, because the demon girl's face was RIGHT THERE and huge. UGH. Damn you, Cinemax. The good thing about horror movie sequels is that they always seem to take whatever was really scary and mysterious in the first and just ruin it by making it too over-the-top... but I like this because it also makes the whole thing less horrifying. But I was even scared by the spoof on The Ring in Scary Movie, so whatever.

A cool place to check out is to read the plot of scary movies (they're usually written sort of crappily by someone who apparently makes notes of every interaction/event during the course of the movie, no matter how insignificant). As you mentioned, many times I'm curious about the plot but don't want to actually see the movie, and reading about what happens (usually!) doesn't scare me.