My wife loves horror movies. LOVES THEM! I do not. I’m not talking about the gory Saw, Hostel, Human Centipede fare. Oh no, she likes the creepy, let-me-haunt-you, possess-you stuff. The crap that freaks me out. Her favorite is Halloween or anything Wes Craven has done. It’s her father’s fault, as a single dad it was his way to bond with her. She grew up with Freddy, Jason and Pinhead. Not my best friends at all.
In an earlier post, I talked about how the movie Alien is the reason I’m a writer today. The truth is, that movie scared the cowboy shit outta me when I was six years old. Fast forward two years and I remember watching that creepy doll rocking and the house telling people to Get Out in the Amityille Horror. My sister had one of those dolls. I’ve been frightened of basements ever since. I can remember checking my scalp for the 666 from The Omen (I will not get on lake ice to this day because of the ice hockey scene in Damien: Omen II), praying I didn’t get possessed like Regan in The Exorcist, becoming too frightened to sleep after A Nightmare on Elm Street.
But it’s October. And this year it’s Ballstober!
I’m changing the rules this year. I’m growing a pair this year and am watching every single bone-chilling, spine-tingling, nightmare-inducing second of whatever my wife wants to see. Over the last 18 days, I’ve had Michael Myers stab me to death, have run for my life from Jason Vorhees, have tried to figure out what was happening with Pinhead’s complexion—you get it. Sleepless nights or not, the goal was the find the thrill in horror movies, to embrace the fear, the requisite terror and wallow in those emotions.
I wrote a novel about the war in Heaven and Lucifer’s fall from grace, all from his point of view (you can find it here). For a guy who’s no fan of horror movies, that’s a pretty ballsy move, right? In all the movies, all the stories, I‘d ever read about the devil, he was always characterized as having the worst of intentions, of being the worst entity we could imagine. I had all kinds of fears going into it: that it wouldn’t be good enough, that I’d fail to capture the essence of the story, that I’d never get it done. What I decided to focus on, though, was Lucifer’s ability to know what others were afraid of and to capitalize on that. That idea, identifying someone’s fears and playing to them, made him far more evil and more compelling. At least to me.
Facing our fears is, at times, both necessary and healthy. We have to address those things that frighten us, get in touch with those visceral emotions just to become well-adjusted, productive human beings. As writers, our fears enable us to craft those stories that touch people or antagonists that instill both fear and respect. For me, Lucifer did both. He forced me to address my own fears (that something supernatural would worm it’s way into my life) and was devilishly fun to write in the process.
I issue this challenge to writers and readers alike: grow a pair. Find the thing that terrifies you, that haunts the corners of your nightmares, and embrace it, even for a moment. I’m not saying play in traffic if you’re agoraphobic. I say open a window, step on the porch. If you’re scared of spiders, watch Arachnophobia or Kingdom of Spiders. It’s Ballstober! Do something daring! You’ll be better off. Promise…