Neoteric Traumafession:: Melody M. on The Bay (2012)

I have a very, very recent Traumafession to make; in fact, I literally just watched the movie that scared me the night before last!

I’ve recently been on a found-footage horror movie kick–actually, I watched The Taking of Deborah Logan solely on your recommendation, Unk!–and I came across a movie that came out in 2012 called The Bay. From what I gathered about the description, it sounded promising: The Gov’ment had covered up a horrifying incident involving a small Maryland town in the Chesapeake Bay area back in 2009, and the footage taken during that incident was now being released to the public. Since it seemed like a detour from the usual demonic possession/monster theme these kinds of movies always seem to have, and with a very prominent director attached to it (Barry Levinson) I figured, why not? I’ll give it a go!

WELP. I can handle demonic possession/monster movies, because while they are scary, I can chortle about them later, content in the knowledge that they’re not real and the beasties in those movies won’t be showing up in the real world any time soon. What I CAN’T handle are movies about contagions/ecological horrors that are plausible enough to actually happen in the real world. And this movie had just that: nasty water-borne parasites, mutated by agricultural run-off, gruesomely eating people from the inside out. GUH! Talk about getting under your skin! After watching this, I’m pretty sure I’ll never go swimming again, and only drink bottled water from now on.

UNK SEZ: I hear you loud and clear, Melody! That kind of stuff gets to me too. I could not eat tuna for months after that ZANTI MISFIT face showed up in a tuna can! Listen folks, it’s October and we all need as many scares as possible! If you’ve had a modern, new wave, recent-style trauma like Melody, feel free to send us a trauma-FRESH-ion telling us all about it!

Post Childhood Traumafession :: Chuckles on The Ring (2002)

I lied. Worse still, I lied to Kindertrauma! A while back Kindertrauma ran a series called “It’s a Horror to Know You!” wherein readers answered a series of kindertrauma-related questions and the results were posted for all to see. One of the questions asked “What is the last film that scared you?” My answer to that question was “The Blair Witch Project” (1999).

The BWP did scare me and if the question had been “What was the last film that caused you to run wildly in panic?” my answer would have been 100% accurate. That wasn’t the question though, was it?

I hereby humbly submit my amended answer and beg your forgiveness:

What is the last film that scared you?The Ring” (2002).

Yup. The Ring. The American remake of the J-horror classic. As I was filling out my “Horror to Know You” responses, I knew deep in my heart that I should have admitted that The Ring scared me but I did not. Like Beatrix Kiddo, in searching for a reason why she had failed to tell Bill that Pai-Mei had taught her the Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, the only reason that I can think of for failing to admit my fear is, “I don’t know…because I’m a bad person.”

The reason that I lied probably has something to do with the fact that one of my friends, a notorious scaredy-cat named Stacey, saw The Ring a few days after I did and thought that it was absurd and “not scary at all.” I couldn’t believe it – I was sure that she would be a crumpled mess after seeing The Ring and the fact that she was not scared by it caused me to re-imagine my own reaction to it and on some level I had convinced myself that I also found it “not scary at all”.

But it did scare me. No, strike that – it downright disturbed me. I had actually seen the original “Ringu” before The Ring, so I knew what was coming, and as I left the local Cineplex with my wife I felt entertained but that was the extent my immediate reaction.

However, over the next few days I developed this sensation of creeping doom. For those somehow not familiar with The Ring, the basic premise is that there exists a cursed videotape and anyone who views it experiences six days of strange events followed by a gruesome death on the seventh. The videotape ends with the image of an old stone well that hides a dark secret. I’m a super-rational guy but I could not help but see “dark omens” everywhere. We had a red maple in the back yard of our house that was a near-replica of the “flaming tree” in the film and it glowed with menace in the evening light. Mirrors broke. Files vanished off of my computer. Some of my photos had odd imperfections. I heard strange noises at night.

A week later I went fishing at a place near Bloomington, Indiana (where I was living) called Greene’s Bluff. At a bend in the river, there are the ruins of an old grain mill from the 1880s. By that time I was pretty much back to normal and feeling a little foolish for being so creeped-out by a movie. I passed the Civil-War era graveyard next to the parking area without concern. I hiked down to the river bend and looked for a place to fish. I decided to try a spot a little ways upstream and cut across the woods to get to it. Thirty feet in, I saw some old limestone bricks and then I saw some more. There were some extra ruins that must have been associated with the mill there. At first I thought this was all very interesting…

And then I saw it: The Well. A round circle of ancient stone set into the ground. I experienced an out-of-body moment, frozen in place as my disembodied mind did the arithmetic to total the amount of time that had passed since I watched The Ring: Eight days. Wait – Eight days? Reality returned. I walked over to the well and saw that it was long ago filled in. The spell was broken.

It seems like The Ring gets a lot of flack these days. It was followed by a very mediocre sequel and kicked off a marathon of inferior American J-horror remakes. I’ll admit that the film has some flaws (some hammy acting, post-processing overkill) but in my opinion, it is still an effective and very scary film that worked its curse on me for a week in the Fall of 2002.

Post-Childhood Traumafession:: Unk on The Haunted (1991)

Our pal Mickster’s “Post-childhood” traumafession regarding THE STRANGERS got me thinking about all the movies that rattled my own bearings as an adult. There are more than a few to choose from but my mind keeps flipping back to the 1991 T.V. movie THE HAUNTED (thanks largely to THE CONJURING dredging it up no doubt!) I realize I have already confessed to this particular trauma in our comments section but I thought it might be interesting for me to examine, in closer detail, just how and why a modest TV production got under my skin in a way that many seemingly more likely films failed.

Hopefully a big takeaway from this site is the understanding that different people are scared by different things; one person’s meat is another’s poison, there’s no accounting for taste and perhaps a zillion factors come into play (life experience, timing, mood) that are impossible to gauge. Some try to attach value judgments on scares (gore and jump shocks are lowly as slow burns and subtlety are lofty) but these after the fact assessments mean nothing when the lights go out. Which isn’t to say I don’t have a favorite type of scare…

My preferred scare is when you realize too late that you’ve popped a hole in the movie (and or book) and it’s currently leaking all over you. Holy crap, something has changed in the space you’re in and the genie is way too fat to fit back in the bottle! I’m talking about movies (and or books) acting up like Ouija boards and those dreaded intangible guests who won’t take a hint and vamoose. How could I go to sleep after watching THE HAUNTED when the swirly black mass that inhabited the movie could, at any second, materialize before me? I’m an adult and I’m rational. That means I’ve got plenty of legitimate sounding excuses for being freaked out by THE HAUNTED.

1. It was late at night.

Nonexistent scientists estimate that it takes countless dozens of conscious brains to keep the walls of reality standing firm. The more sleeping brains you have in your neighborhood the more likely it is that a wily, interdimensional entity might take advantage of the weakened barriers and slide through. Moreover, watching scary movies, reading about Bigfoot on the Internet and/or dabbling in ghost hunting shows, no matter their level of ridiculousness, acts like a magnet to these creatures. You are basically making yourself a lighthouse in the fog. Through years of research I have learned that the closest you can get to supernatural entertainment after 2 am while still remaining safe is SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH.

2. It’s based on a true story.

Adorable as it may seem now, prior to the release of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake, the term “based on a true story” still held some small bit of weight with me. The family depicted in THE HAUNTED was a real family. They went on talk shows and tainted their existences delivering their tale of ghostly woe. If they were crazy, I found small comfort in that. If you are a ghost (or a demon)I don’t care if your return address is heaven, hell or my sick head, the point is you need to leave. I guess I could hope the family was lying but that would mean the grandma was lying too! Lying grandmothers are scarier than ghosts. I can’t win.

3. KIRKLAND sold it.

I’m no aficionado of thespian pursuits and I pity the horror fan that is, that’s asking for a whole lot of pain. On the other hand, if you look at truly successful works in the genre they are almost always strongly connected with at least one sterling, performance. Although they are rarely properly acknowledged, they are often the galvanizing glue that holds the entire shebang together (I started a list of examples but boy, did it go on.) I have to hand it to SALLY KIRKLAND in THE HAUNTING if for no other reason than that she made me believe her. (This cannot be said about her performance in FATAL GAMES). I’m not saying I’m going to run out and start a fan club or anything, I’m just saying that against some serious odds she convinces you of her genuine turmoil. No matter the authenticity of the actual story, within the confines of the teleplay , KIRKLAND is telling the truth.

4. It played upon my pariah complex

STEPHEN KING tagged some of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR’s angst power on relatable “economic unease” and I’m so right there with him on that. But I have to point out an infrequently sung about undercurrent that tends to hitch a ride on “true story” haunted house tales – the fear of being ostracized by one’s community and (so frequently in these stories) rejected or failed by one’s church. Families that do the right thing, care for each other and mind their P’s and Q’s suddenly find themselves outsiders unable to reach the base goal of belonging. They are for unknown reasons unwelcome to buy into the suburban dream and eventually must abandon everything they’ve worked for and move on, usually to a place where similar (but of less interest to the public) events occur. Apparently ghosts do more than turn your hair white, they have a way of making you feel homeless in your own home and shunned by your own community. Boo!

5. That weird shadow thing gets to me!

Who would guess that an amorphous, black splotch of roving something or other could upstage THE HAUNTED’s signature raped by a face-morphing hag demon under a disco strobe light scene? (Yes, I really just wrote that sentence.) But upstage the hag rape the undefined darkness does indeed do! (And that one too!) Fabrication or not, a nebulous cloud perpetually on the brink of transforming into something your mind doesn’t realize it’s horrified by yet is scary stuff. Besides forcing you to stare like a slack jawed idiot trying to attach some known shape or meaning to it, the inky entity additionally reeks of something too familiar- that blank slate of apprehension we’ve all stumbled upon in the dark, the instant before we’re able to recognize what it is before us. (Huh?)

I don’t know what it is but I know I don’t like it. It drives me crazy because it’s a traveling stain! It looks like a cross between a Rorschach test and the faceless being that rummages through my recycling bin every Tuesday night! According to the story, this merciless tear in sanity’s pants will even follow you when you go camping! Light-hearted marshmallow roasting will not dissuade it! It can walk through walls! It can appear anyplace at any time! I didn’t even mention the noise it makes! It sounds like a pig in a garbage disposal!

6. My guard was down.

I am a co-conspirator! I was happy to find something of interest on TV and I was completely open to it. I wasn’t thinking, “This better be good!” I didn’t scrutinize its every move and I didn’t look down on it. I wasn’t trying to use the movie to validate myself as an astute critic or a super fan. Forming an opinion was not my #1 priority and I was engrossed in the movie rather than myself. It’s like in THE BREAKFAST CLUB when ALLY SHEEDY is all, “Why are you being so nice to me?” and MOLLY RINGWALD is all, “Because you’re letting me.” The biggest reason this movie freaked me out is that I let it.

Post Childhood Traumafession:: Mickster on The Strangers (2008)

I was still married when I first saw The Strangers (2008). The movie really scared me, and I was not anxious to watch it again. The thought of random killers invading the sanctity of my home with the intent to murder me was truly unsettling. My niece had her own traumatizing experience watching the movie, so sometimes we taunt each other about watching the movie again. We generally have the same response of, “Not just no, but Hell no!” each time. Fast forward to the fall of 2011, I was in the midst of turmoil as I was going through a divorce. Due to the uncertainty of my situation, I was already on edge and as a result, I stopped watching horror films. One particular Friday night, I said, “The Hell with this,” and decided I was going to watch a movie from my favorite genre. As my status on Facebook, I said I was going to watch a horror movie and did anyone have any suggestions as to which one I should watch. My niece, of course, taunted me with The Strangers.

So, I decided that perhaps I would watch it again. I set about doing my evening chores; so I could sit down to view the movie. I was almost done when my doorbell rang. It did not just ring once; it was a double ring. I was startled because I was not expecting any visitors. I quietly peaked out my front window to see if there was a car in the driveway. There was nothing in the driveway, and it was completely dark outside. I, of course, did not open the front door, and I immediately set my alarm system to instant. The doorbell did not ring again, but the damage was done. I was completely unsettled and spooked. I did not watch The Strangers that night; in fact, I did not watch any horror movies that night. I have since told my niece that if she wants to me to watch the movie again she will have to come to my house to watch it with me and spend the night otherwise my response will be a definite, “No way in Hell!”

UNK SEZ: Thanks Mickster! What a great idea to write about a movie that traumatized you as an adult! I have a few of those myself! If anybody else out there was freaked out by a film that they saw when they were fully grown we’d love to hear about it! Who says you have to be a kid to be traumatized?