I’m a coward. My relationship with the horror genre is a deep fascination meaning I never look away until it’s too late. I love horror and keep coming back to it even though our relationship tends to ruin my ability to sleep through the night. What scares people says a lot about who they are. So in honour of Halloween lets talk about the things that truly spooked me. Enjoy this list of media that either sent me on a tail spin into existential crisis or just left me sleep deprived for a few nights.
I was around eight years old when I first encountered the Borg. My father had Star Trek playing on the TV, and I a stereotypical 90s kid was drawn to the screen. Understand that going into this I knew nothing about Star Trek. My scifi diet to this point had consisted of wearing out a Star Wars VHS and watching Lost in Space (oh Lost in Space, my mother banned you because of nightmares but that’s a different story). What I’m saying is that I didn’t know that Data was a robot, and when the Borg started drilling into his head… well you get the picture.
I was a kid, I had barely begun to grasp the idea of identity and now I was being confronted with the idea that everything that made you you could be taken from you. That you could be in a fashion re-written. That you could lose yourself. All of a sudden I was an eight year old kid with a strange grasp on the idea of conformity and a vague grasp of Alzheimers at war in my mind. It messed me up on such a deep level. Over ten years later I would encounter the Cybermen in Doctor Who and the Borg trauma would end up being dug up. I expect the Borg is why I have such a hard time with zombies. And don’t you even begin to talk to me about The Strain.
The Haunting of Hill House is a fantastic show that explores how past trauma has a continuing effect on your life. Left unchecked and unexplored you’ll never truly be able to escape it. Also, there are ghosts. So many ghosts.
I have this tradition with my friend Dave where we watch horror movies together. Dave and I watched The Haunting of Hill House over the course of two days. The atmosphere was great. The show was spooky, but it was safely in our comfort zone. This was one that we could both comfortably handle.
And then that car scene happened.
Dave and I started the scene on opposite sides of the couch. But after that jump scare, somehow we were both in the middle of the couch ,clutching each other and screaming. We were loud enough that our other friend who was on the other side of the room wearing noise canceling headphones could hear us. I think that was the last time she hung out with us on horror movie day.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a game that I knew I needed to play. It was steeped in Norse mythology. It looked pretty. And it was also an examination of mental illness and psychosis. Playing Hellblade was the first time I ever had to pause a video game for fifteen minutes to collect myself. This game managed to get under my skin in a way that I don’t even know how to describe. I was stressed out and on edge. And I kept falling off that beam into a pit full of monsters.
I have two achievements left and then I will have 100%ed the game. The only issue is that if I want to do that I will have to play through the entire game again. To be honest, I don’t think I’m really prepared for that.
I read Stephen King’s The Shining over the course of an entire day. I was 16, I was in high school and as expected I had procrastinated on my assignment. So there I was spending a Sunday tanking through The Shining. I didn’t find the novel scary, but it did have this creeping atmosphere that when I finished the book and found myself sitting alone in a dark room, well every single creak and bump in my old house became uncomfortably relevant.
But the scariest thing to come of my reading of The Shining was the assignment I tried to pass of as an “essay” comparing the Overlook Hotel to Hugh Laurie’s Doctor House from House. It was a stretch but (in my opinion) I somehow managed to pull it off.
I saw The Babadook at a special screening hosted by TIFF during Pride a few years ago. After, I didn’t sleep properly for two days. Just the image of the Babadook scurrying along the ceiling… that was enough for me. The Babadook is a masterclass in atmosphere. After I saw it, I made Dave watch it. To this day he claims it is the scariest thing we’ve ever watched together.
Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is one of those books where as I was reading it, I was totally fine. What I didn’t realize was just how insidious Hill really was. The entire novel was just a build up to that final line. And what a final line it was. I haven’t gotten around to watching the film yet, but I have been told that the ending is handled a little differently. But overall it’s a creepy old school horror movie that’s worth a watch.
Outlast and Outlast 2. I don’t feel like I really need to explain these. All I can say is nononononononononononononononono
After reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road I had to go and stand outside. I needed to feel the sun on my face and hear the birds in the trees. The Road is to this day the best post apocalyptic novel I have ever read. I have been unable to bring myself to watch the film adaptation. Even though it has Viggo Mortensen in the leading role. I’m just not ready for it. I think that’s all the proof you really need.
I avoided watching Alien for as long as I possibly could. Alien felt like it was specifically calibrated to ruin me. You have these characters in the middle of the hostile environment of deep space confined on a small spaceship. You have something slowly picking them off one by one. Oh and did I mention the body horror? Alien is another one of those “you get changed into something else” narratives that manages to creep me out beyond all reason. Though this one is on a physical level. Alien is the fear of pregnancy taken to the extreme. One moment you’re fine and then the next you’re an incubator to a steel jawed worm. And it’s going to chew it’s way out of you. Good luck.