As dictated by the letter X, I liked Stephen King as a teenager. I read Firestarter, Pet Sematary, Thinner, and two short story collections. Pet Sematary was first-rate horror. It contained one of the most terrifying sentences in modern literature: “Zelda stood there.” Okay, I’m going to admit it: When I read fiction, I often visualize it as a movie. None of the real Stephen King movies were nearly as good as what I had imagined.
The movie that scared me the most is The Exorcist. I was thirteen and believed that sort of thing actually could happen. The Conjuring seemed like a genuinely frightening tale, but the people behind me in the theater would not shut up. I couldn’t fall into the trance. (Episode IX will likely be the last movie I see in a theater.)
When I was in college, there were fliers around campus for a lecture on Satanism. Some friends and I went. I don’t remember much except he kept saying that Rosemary’s Baby was the greatest advertisement for Satanism. In the second part of the lecture, he started to proselytize, so we left. The next day, we heard that the guy had a heart attack and died right there on the stage.
Years later, I worked at a video store. One evening, two girls were meandering around the horror section. I asked if there was anything I could help them with, and they asked for a recommendation. We didn’t stock The Exorcist, and the only other horror movie I found memorable was Rosemary’s Baby. I told them that it was about a woman who was pregnant with the devil’s child—it was more creepy than it was scary. Their restrained laughter indicated that they weren’t interested. (I would have been more knowledgeable if I owned a television.)
I’m working on three long form projects: a novel, a novella, and a memoir. The novella is a horror story. Sylvia Browne, the phony clairvoyant on The Montel Williams Show, told a man that his house was haunted because it was built on the site of a pest house. Pest houses were in vogue in the mid-19th Century. It’s where people with communicable diseases were quarantined—where they went to die. I had originally thought about adding a Satanic element, but it turns out that Satanism didn’t have much of a foothold in America at that time. So…I bought The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook off the internet. (I ordered a book from Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, but they never sent it. The eternal spirit of Ms. Laveau owes me $24.)
Since The Aberration is a haunted house story, I wanted to check out works of the sub-genre, just to look for clichés to avoid. I bought The Amityville Horror. I even watched alone, in a darkened room, late in the night…nothing. My Dad was upset that I paid $16 for such a terrible movie.
There are fewer R-Rated horror movies these days. Most are PG-13, which, by definition, can’t be too intense. I dragged the folks to The Ring—mainly because I wanted to look at Naomi Watts on the big screen. It wasn’t even the least bit frightening. A friend and I saw Dark Water. The advertisements made it look bloodcurdling, but it was pretty tame.
When whichever movie I just watched is over, I want to have “that feeling.” The feeling that there is a dark energy around everything in the house. I don’t want to leave the couch for fear that something evil will overcome me. I can get “that feeling” from reading a good horror story. Somehow, Ouija 2 on basic cable almost did that.
I’m also in the middle of writing a torture story. I watched Hostel—one of the best movies I’ve seen, regardless of genre. It was the product of a sinister, dark, and twisted imagination. I have one of those, too.