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(why) do you like scary movies?

I used to hate horror movies. I have an overactive imagination as it is and the thought of paying $15 to sit in a dark room with strangers soaking up terrifying images so I could then go home and sit in a dark room, replaying all the most frightening parts on loop in my brain while I tried to sleep never seemed like the best use of my money. I didn’t make it through the Exorcist, never even started the Freddy movies and couldn’t look directly at the poster for Chucky.

The scariest movie I watched growing up was Scream, the original installment where Drew Barrymore’s early 90s blonde bob doesn’t make it past the opening credits. I was in the seventh grade and had managed to avoid the first couple of weekends it was out, but my friends were going to see it at the second run two-dollar theater across the street from my house, where they didn’t clean the floors between shows and also didn’t check IDs for rated R movies.

Running out the door, I casually lied to my mom about what we were going to see, tossing out a random PG-13 movie title, still hoping I might be able to change my friends’ minds or they wouldn’t sell us the tickets or the projector would break and we could spend the night doing something fun, like playing Super Mario Kart while listening to N*Sync for the harmonies and definitely not thinking about Justin Timberlake.

But they did sell us the tickets, and I spent the next two hours holding my breath and gripping the armrests, just waiting for a masked killer to burst into the theater and slash me to death before I had a chance to convince JT to leave Brittney for me or at least become best friends with both of them, maybe even entering a completely consensual throuple and getting my own head-to-toe denim tux. The point is I was way too young to die and also way too young to be watching this movie.

The next weekend as we sat around the dinner table, my older brother announced he was planning on seeing Scream with his friends. In my rush to both boast about making it through the whole thing and be the annoying sibling who ruined my brother’s experience, I blurted out who the killer was, completely forgetting the lie I had told my mom. And while I did ruin my brother’s trip to the movies, I also ruined my end-of-year school dance. While the rest of my friends danced Under the Sea, I spent the night grounded at home, reflecting on the importance of truth and honesty and how dumb scary movies are.

I skipped the next Scream and the one after that and made it halfway through adulthood without clogging my brain with terrifying images. But after spending three days last week days shooting a short horror film — giving my best Drew Barrymore scream while playing a murder victim — I thought I should give another scary movie a try. And so, because MoviePass has made movies free and having a boyfriend allegedly makes watching these movies fun, I found myself again gripping the armrests and holding my breath for two hours yesterday watching Hereditary.

While I’m not sure I would describe the experience as “fun,” it was entertaining to be jammed in a dark, crowded room, gasping with strangers and then just as quickly laughing at ourselves and our collective gullibility, so easily frightened by what we all know is make-believe. And because I’ve learned my lesson about spoilers, I won’t say who the killer is but I will say you should definitely ground your seventh grader if they sneak out to see this movie.


This is post #25/30 in a 500 Words-A-Day Challenge. Read them all here.


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