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Stacie Ponder – Why My Genes Love Horror Movies

Blogger Stacie Ponder’s horror columns appear every Wednesday.

Why do you watch horror movies? For that blank stare you get from most people when you tell them that you watch horror movies? As for me, go figure — I watch ’em because I get a thrill out of being scared, a reaction which, according to my scientific calculator and researchers at the University of Bonn, is because of my gene makeup. I’ve got plenty of friends whose “scaredy-cat genes” are wired differently than mine, however, and I’m always baffled by the fact that they can’t handle even the wimpiest horror movie. I can count the number of times I’ve had the “Dude, I swear, Rumpelstiltskin is NOT scary. Come on, just watch it!” conversation on two hands. In related news, I can count the number of times I’ve had the thought “Why the hell do I keep watching Rumpelstiltskin? It sucks!” on three hands.

It all goes to show, I suppose, that the world really don’t move to the beat of just one drum. One person’s Rumpelstiltskin is another person’s Exorcist — you never know what folks are going to find scary. And I’ll admit, sometimes even I get freaked out by media that doesn’t exactly qualify as “horror.”

Avoiding the Doll Aisle at Target
Take dolls, for instance. I find dolls terrifying
pretty much across the board; I’m certainly not alone, as the
widely-held fear of dolls has been exploited in horror films numerous
times, from the Chucky films to… uh, Dolls.
Again, what is it that makes them so scary — so much so that I
completely avoid the doll aisle walking through Target? Countless glass
and painted-on eyes staring at me from stacked boxes, waiting to leap
from the shelves and kill me… I know they’re all supposed to be
potential playmates, but ugh, I can’t take it. In an interactive
installation titled Play With Me
(Melbourne, 2002), artist Van Sowerwine explores the dual nature of
dolls — their innocence and their creepiness — with unsettling
results. The stop-motion doll engages in playtime — drawing a picture,
making “tea” — which spirals into horror as, for example, she chugs a
cup of Drano. The simple image of the girl sitting in a rocking chair,
rocking and staring at me, is far more terrifying than anything I’ve
seen in the Saw series.

Stop-Motion Animation
a child of the ’70s, my excitement for Christmas and Easter extended
far beyond the usual “gimme gimme” connotations of the celebrations,
because every year, the networks would trot out the Rankin/Bass holiday
specials. Rankin/Bass was the company behind such stop-motion animated
classics as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Here Comes Peter Cottontail — and let me tell you kids, in the days before VCRs and DVDs, these once-a-year broadcasts were an event. While I lived for these specials and watching Frosty the Snowman
was as essential to my Christmas as a tree, there was undoubtedly
something sinister about them. Maybe it was the jerky movement of the
figures or the tears falling from their soulless eyes, I’m not really
sure — but there is definitely a horrific aspect to these beloved
classics from my youth. I mean, Vincent Price provides a voice in Peter Cottontail — how much more horrifying can it get?

I can’t talk about these movies, however, without mentioning the master of the art form, Ray Harryhausen… and a little film called Clash of the Titans . That movie, which recounts the adventures of Perseus as he attempts to rescue Andromeda from the clutches of the evil sea-beast Kraken, was in heavy rotation on cable when I was a kid and much to my parents’ chagrin, I watched it ad nauseum. Mythology plus stop-motion equals unparalleled awesomeness… and virtually unparalleled terror, at least for this young viewer. Harryhausen populated the film with some of his most memorable creations — in particular, the hideous gorgon Medusa. She rattles her tail and hisses as she slithers through her darkened chamber, looking to turn Perseus and his cohorts to stone with her grody glare and, quite frankly, she scared me half to death. She’s just plain mean, but then I suppose I would be, too, if I had scales and a tail and snake-hair and I couldn’t look at anyone without killing them — I’d imagine that all puts quite a dent in one’s self-esteem.

Medusa wasn’t the only monster giving me the willies in Clash of the Titans, however — there was also Cerberus (the evil two-headed dog), giant scorpions, giant vultures, and Charon, the skeletal ferryman of the River Styx. Now wonder I loved that movie so much — it’s practically a monster mash.

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Every time I watch Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure,
I have a new favorite scene (Amazing Larry! Tina the Alamo Tour
Guide!)… it’s truly a gift that keeps on giving. It’s also eerie
enough, at times, to qualify as a horror movie. How about the scene
where Pee-Wee walks alone, at night, surrounded by strange noises while
his eyes glow? Or his fever dreams of his long-lost bike, featuring a
devil dinosaur and a hospital staffed by evil clowns? And then, of
course, there’s Large Marge, the creepy trucker whose face suddenly
turns into a claymation horror show. The subsequent scene, where
Pee-Wee tells a group of diner patrons “Large Marge sent me,” only to
be greeted with gasps and the tale of Marge’s death (on a night just
like that one!), is torn straight from countless “local legend” scenes
from horror movies like An American Werewolf in London . Sure, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is a comedy, but it’s also got its share of the scary.

a horror fan who lives for that adrenaline rush that comes along with
the genre (thanks again, genes!), I guess I should be thrilled that I
can find something horrifying in unexpected places. I mean, Ronald
McDonald and his cohorts are supposed to sell me hamburgers, not have
me clutching my pearls in mortal terror, right? Maybe that’s the
problem — after all, if I’m expecting to be scared, then I’m in
control; being scared is the natural reaction that goes with the
territory of a horror movie. But having something as innocuous as a
Rudolph Christmas special scare me, well, that just ain’t right.

Or is it? Mua ha ha! See?  Even a blog post can be scary. Horror is everywhere! 

sp.jpgA fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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