When I was seven or eight years old I begged my parents to let me stay up late and watch Poltergeist with them. They finally relented, probably to teach me a lesson. They regretted it. For the next few nights, I would get in my own bed until I started imagining trees breaking through my windows and toy clowns trying to get me. Then I would get cold and sweaty and sleep at the foot of my parent’s bed.
They didn’t learn their lesson. About one year later, I watched John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. This time, I knew it would scare me. I knew it would keep me up all night. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep in my own bed. And yet I did it anyways, and the results were even worse that time. When my eyes would close, I would see the blood in the petri dish leaping out when the hot needle touched it.
Things haven’t changed much. I sleep in my own bed when I get scared, but only because I don’t have any other beds to sleep in. I don’t like genuine fear and I do have my phobias. But I like to be frightened by books and movies, although it doesn’t happen very often. Fear is a hard thing to pull off as a writer. Gore has become a substitute for plot. Many popular horror movies and books are now gross exercises in “Are you able to sit through this?”
But they are popular. Fear sells. Darkness is sometimes exactly what we seem to want, even though it is not really a pleasant emotion. Why is this?
Are you one of the people who enjoys a good scare? If so, why?