There are two types of people in this world: the collector and the non-collector.
Being a collector doesn't just mean that you buy a lot of one thing. Having a lot of books doesn't mean that you collect books. Just like having a lot of shoes doesn't mean that you collect shoes. Being a collector is a characteristic of ones very nature. It informs who we are on a basic level, humming below the surface of our skin, quietly ticking in our brains, urging us, driving us, causing us to crave. Collectors make lists of what they have and what they need. They know the minutia of the items they collect, whether it be the difference between a mastered and an unmastered version of an album, a rereleased version of a toy, a second printing of a comic book, a director's cut of a movie, or the year and season of their designer shoes. A collector is informed. And a good collector is organized.
Gray skies, cold hands, damp earth - this is October in Portland. The air outside swirls with the scents of decaying leaves, brewing coffee and burning wood. The shrill cawing of crows and the hissing of tires on wet pavement are the soundscapes. People start planning for Halloween, decorating their yards and houses with skeletons and cobwebs, deciding on ridiculous costumes and candy, and the horror movie elbows its way into most homes, setting the mood for scary. It's no surprise that this is my favorite month of the year. The overcast skies, misting rain and early nightfall makes with the dark and the dreary, while corn mazes and haunted houses and silly costumes makes with the fun and the whimsical.
It's true that my appetite for the macabre is year-round and the frequency of my indulgence is weekly. But when October hits it's like the whole world is finally in my head, At last! the universe understands me! Stores are overflowing with bags of candy and cheesy horror movies and home decor adorned with skeletons. There are life-size animatronic serial killers standing in the aisles, pumpkins and apple cider are now commonplace, and you can buy sheets of stickers with black cats and ghosts and bats. I'm deluged with it all, powerless against the call of the season, and soon I gorge myself nightly with the ambiance of "It was a dark and stormy night..."
Horror movies. No other genre can garner such fervent reactions from people. Emotions ranging from disgust, shock and revulsion, to amusement, joy and laughter. I've personally experienced the gambit of feelings over the 26 years that I've been watching horror movies, but no nightmare or terror or abhorrence can keep me from them. I've often wondered why people, and more to the point why I, love horror movies the way we do. I don't think anyone can challenge the protests of people who can't stomach them. But what is it that keeps horror audiences coming back for more? One theory is that people who watch horror movies are sensation seekers. They crave adventure, danger, a taste for something unusual, perverse and exhilarating. But given that most of us are normal people with average jobs and loving families, our real lives don't come anywhere close to being that thrilling. So we experience those emotions in the safety of our homes, vicariously, through the intensity of the horror movie. Another theory is that it shows us how we take lives for granted, and reminds us just how easy things can fall apart and how much we would fight for our own survival. They're life affirming, if you will.
It's hard to be objective when you've been watching horror movies for as long as I have. To me, horror movies are more about atmosphere, tone and experience, than they are pulse pounding methods of excitement. It's always a welcome surprise when I get scared from a horror movie but rarely does that happen anymore. Alas, I am desensitized. I can watch damn near anything now and, while sometimes still shocking or gross, I can stomach it all. From the head bashing and rape scenes in 2002's French thriller Irreversible, to the triple human abomination of 2009's Dutch horror The Human Centipede, to the full body skinning in 2008's French horror Martyrs.
It's no secret that I have an affinity for the horror film. As some women turn to romantic comedies for that soothing feel-good feeling, I inevitably turn to murder and mayhem for those same warm fuzzies. It's not that I'm a crazy weirdo or even a bad person (I wouldn't hurt a fly!), I just have the macabre in my blood, a Nosferatu-shaped shadow in my soul, Bernard Herrmann's compositions playing in my head like my own personal soundtrack to life.
I find that most horror movies aren't horrific at all, and in fact most of them make me giggle. Rarely do I actually get frightened by a film though there are those times that I am horrified, and yes, there's a difference. I know a lot of people who can't watch horror movies because they frighten easily or would be plagued by nightmares, but what scares me more than a bunch of actors and fake blood is the news and American Idol. Horror movies entertain me endlessly so it's there that I indulge my senses, and indulge I do. I read Rue Morgue magazine - the quintessential guide for a horror lover, I research directors and writers and read reviews, I watch old and new, foreign and domestic, low budget no budget big budget - I see them all. But no matter if I get scared by a movie or find it endlessly amusing, no matter if it's good or bad (or so bad it's good), I honestly believe that the horror movie is a work of art like no other. And now, for fear of rambling on about the art of bad horror movies, I'd best get on to the meat of this post - a short list of some hits and misses I've seen this year, so that someone, anyone, may benefit from the mass pulsating horror movie knowledge that I have growing inside my brain.
A few years ago I read Stephen's King short story called "The Mist", published in one of King's short story books called Skeleton Crew. The story is about 120 pages long and on the morning that I began reading it I was headed to work on the subway. When I arrived to work I was already so enthralled with the story that the thought of putting the book down for the next eight hours was devastating. I almost went home "sick". Instead, on a whim, I googled the first two sentences of the story and found a website that had an archive of short stories from various authors and there The Mist was, answering the call of a desperate voice. I immediately saved the file and spent the rest of the day reading The Mist on my computer while pretending to actually be working. I finished the story by the end of the work day and then immediately emailed the file to a friend of mine and insisted that he read it.
Last year when I learned that they were making The Mist into a movie I was both overjoyed and terrified. So often Stephen King movies turn out horribly. Sure, we have classics like Carrie, but we also have abominations like Desperation. A book I'll have you know, that I loved. A movie that I, if at all possible, would have punched in the face. Given the fact that Frank Darabont was signed on to write and direct The Mist (Darabont directed and wrote the screenplays for both The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption) gave me some hope.