İnci on being frightened 80's style
I grew up in an apartment complex in a country where the summers are really very very hot.
The kind of hot where the asphalt streets often melt in the city and after nights in which you feel like you can’t breathe the thick air you wake up all sticky and sweaty in the mornings.
So people either bought AC’s and got on with their lives or summer houses outside the city to spend the worst months on the cool seaside. Houses facing the beach, where swarms of kids laid on the hot sand after cooling off in the sea, played beach ball, ate ice cream, flirted with their first summer loves, played pinball in the chilly evenings, stayed up late at night… When school started you could tell who had a summer house; those kids looked so enviably tanned and happy. You had no choice but to be jealous.
We didn’t have a summer house. We stayed in our apartment until the end of August when we went to visit my grandparents who lived in another country not so hot.
So I didn’t have great, fun, happy summers at the beach but I had an older sister who liked to torture me. You know, stuff that older sisters do. She used to push the elevator’s stop button and jump around to make the cabin shake until I went into a meltdown. She often told me I was adopted and encouraged me to find my real parents and so on. It was crucial for me not to do as she wanted, not to crack. I remember often feeling like I needed to prove how brave and cool I am.
There were other kids in our street who didn’t go on vacation neither. Either because their families had to work or simply didn’t have the money to travel. We used to spend every single day together in the streets, and when it got too hot to be outside we rented videotapes (because that’s what people did back then) and watched them at someone’s home. I was the youngest one in the group, so it happened that in these summers, although very much under age, I started watching an awful lot of horror movies.Psycho-thriller, slasher, splatter, body horror, creature horror, horror comedy… you name it. It was almost a matter of honor, a challenge to prove my recklessness to my sister and to the other kids.
This wasn’t as easy as it might seem and at first my life in the summer was full of fear, paranoia and sleepless nights. When the lights went out in the stairway I used to freak out and run like a crazy person to the next light switch out of fear Freddy Krueger could emerge from the dark. I remember this movie called Altered States which horrified and disturbed me so deeply it put ME in an altered state for weeks. I used to imagine the craziest stories. The rug in front of my bed turned into a pit in which I would fall as soon as I set my foot on the floor and the poltergeist would get me. So I often laid where I was, frozen and shaking. When our third floor neighbor died of a simple heart attack but wasn’t discovered until his body started to rot and reek intolerably, it just had to be Leatherface who put him on a hook and butchered him. After a visit to a stalactite cave I had my own private nightmare of Freddy where his head came out of the cave walls to get me.
I am not suggesting people do the same with their kids. Please don’t replace Winnie the Pooh with House of 1000 Corpses! And no, Mike Myers surely doesn’t set a great example for younger generations.
But Stephen King once said “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones”. And I guess I was lucky enough that that kicked in for me. In time I had dealt a lot with what was scaring me, so I guess I kind of started embracing it.
Growing older, I began thinking that becoming a comic loving vampire hunter like the Frog Brothers wasn’t such a bad choice of career after all. After watching The Nest I developed great respect for cockroaches that used to invade our kitchen every year. I started appreciating the aesthetics of what was unbearable to some. While my little brother burst into tears when he first saw Pinhead, I found him rather elegant. I even tried the “Klaatu verate ne… cough, cough, cough!” trick in many a French oral exam (and no, it didn’t work out for me either, Ash).
I started enjoying this world of spraying fake blood, rolling puppet heads, slushy, sludgy things and screams.
When I was about thirteen we moved out of that complex into our own family house. By that time I had watched pretty much everything on the market. I was set for life.
Leaving my friends was so heartbreaking though that I stopped the tradition of watching horror movies in the summer.
In my early twenties I had a relapse after I fell in love with a guy who introduced me to TROMA and Japanese horror. I had literally tasted blood again and haven’t let go since.
I have to admit that watching horror movies didn’t really toughen me up. Fear always seems to come easily to me and after having watched a good movie I can still feel distressed. I still can’t shake off the feeling that Rottweilers are the guardians of the antichrist and it’s John Carpenter’s fault that every time I see a Husky I eye them suspiciously. Kiefer Sutherland ruined the taste of rice for me big time. Some movies, I can’t even begin to think about how to face. Like, I haven’t had the guts to watch The Human Centipede yet. Eww, really!
I didn’t become a vampire hunter in Santa Carla, no. And I don’t live in the country where I was born anymore, but sometimes in Berlin the summer can get really hot too. And when it does, I often get this feeling some might mistake for a panic attack: adrenaline rushing in, heart racing, knees shaking, tingling hands… But I know it’s not. It’s my call. That’s when I know it’s that time of the year, it’s time to watch horror movies again.
And it’s with more than great pleasure that I announce that for this blog, summer or not, we’ll be doing a lot of watching and re-watching of all sorts of horror movies. Oh yes, I can’t wait!