What Scares You?

by Kellyann Zuzulo

It is the season of being frightened. Halloween is one week away and our thoughts turn to darkening days and things that scratch in the night. The leaves swirl in the wind before falling to the ground, reminding us that everything dies. Yet, not only do we gloriously crunch those leaves underfoot, we seek out the scariest cinema to keep us company at night. We seem to love to be scared.

I'm no different. I remember reading The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty upstairs in the bathroom because it had the brightest light in the house.

The classic scene from The Exorcist (1973) when Father Lenkester Merrin
arrives in Georgetown to confront a demon.
One of my favorite things to do in the Fall was tune in for the Dr. Shock weekend on a Philadelphia local station with its kitschy haunted scenes, echoing organ, and Creature Features.

But as my tastes grew more "sophisticated" so too did my search for scary stories and their movie incarnations. A couple of "conventional" favorites were two movies based on books by Stephen King...Carrie (1976), which has been remade in 2013, and Cujo (1983). Another King favorite, even more gruesomely terrifying than Cujo, was Pet Semetary. What I enjoyed about Cujo was its telling of your domestic doggie gone bad. I have to say the book was better than the movie, mostly because the hangdog-expression on the pooch they used in the movie didn't seem particularly terrifying to me.
Cujo looks uncomfortable.
Carrie remake, 2013
But, of course, the all-time best King horror villain was Jack Torrance in The Shining. He had become the unwitting, though not unwilling, vehicle for a whole host of horror at The Overlook Hotel. He was the writer gone wrong....and can't we all identify with that quality of unrelenting frustration that makes us all go a little mad sometimes. And when there's an ancient Indian burial site in the neighborhood...look out!

The True Blood phenomenon is another film (for t.v.) depiction of a book. The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris seem to offer no end of high protein liquid diets and dental challenges. I'll admit I'm not a follower of that series, though I have tuned in on occasion. Another series I enjoy watching occasionally to get totally creeped out is The Walking Dead. Zombies! I know the feeling of being on autopilot, with a task you know you need
Some dead guy (girl?) from The Walking Dead,
though, in this case, he's The Crawling Dead.
to get done (in this case, flesh eating, in my case, usually some deadline or other) but not a lot of focus to get there.

I remember thinking that Poltergeist was a new way to scare (that was back in 1982) because it so vividly depicted circumstances way, way beyond our control. Yes, another ancient Indian burial ground is involved, but so are forces beyond the grave that are more than just dead and stopping back for a visit. They're powerful and motivated with some sort of light-related hierarchy. Just remember, "Go into the light." Unless you're still alive and just somehow trapped in that monstrous dimension. In which case, run away from the light, but try not to run into gangly gorgons who look like this....
One of the things I like about more modern scary movies is how they play with the very real possibility of things unseen destroying us utterly and horribly...like bacteria. Contagion was a recent one that I found terrifying. It wasn't developed as a horror movie, but horrify it did. When our own bodies turn against us, we're in for a real fight.
Bacteria! The modern horror.
Death stalks a knight in The Seventh Seal.
Ultimately, there's nothing like a good story about being stalked by Death, especially when it's more subtle than a disintegrating citizen with a penchant for bite-sized pieces of yourself (i.e. zombie). Death is resolute and persistent. It's tough to reason with it, but it can be done. The Seventh Seal (1957), directed by Ingmar Bergman, is a must-see this Halloween week. In it, the Black Plague is decimating the countryside. A medieval knight plays an ongoing game of chess with the personification of Death as he tries to elude his fate. Yet, the suspense comes with us knowing that fate is hard to escape. Look behind you....it's coming! 
What scares you?

Kellyann Zuzulo
Read it today!


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