Yesterday, I went to see the movie Paranormal Activity. I had the best time possible while being terrorized—and eating Junior Mints! I have never experienced such tension. It took me ten minutes, after the movie ended, to get my breathing back to normal and longer than that before my muscles completely relaxed. (For you movie critics out there, yes, I could have done without the last thirty or so seconds of Hollywood cheese.)
Obviously, I love a good horror movie. And by good, I don’t mean the movies that are just an excuse to show a thousand gruesome ways to kill someone, I like the ones that play with your mind. The ones that maybe … just might … could possibly … really happen. Last year’s The Strangers was another movie I loved though, again, I think it ended two scenes too late.
A psychological element to the horror is far more interesting to me. I love walking a “what if” thought into the darkness. I have that kink in my mind. Every time I stand at the ocean’s edge feeling the wind and sun or mist, gazing out over the endless sea, I always have this thought: what if something HUGE rose up before me?
Sometimes on winter nights, we have fog so thick you can’t see the front of your car as you’re driving. On those nights, I’m never quite sure my car won’t drive right into another dimension. When, in rare moments, I realize I hear no sounds at all, I fear time has frozen and I quickly look out the window to make sure I can see something moving. Once, while hiding in the dark bathroom, moaning like a cartoon ghost to fun-scare the kids, I frightened myself so, with the sense that something stood behind me, that I had to turn on the light and stop the game.
I’m telling you this because I’ve been thinking about writing horror again. Cold and dreary winter is almost as good as dark and stormy nights for writing dark tales. There’s an art to probing into that visceral layer where blackness rages, then pulling back into the light at just the right second. The dark half in me knows she will never master that art, but she needs to purge her thoughts about what really goes bump in the night.