Of all the things that shape us a people, there are few more impactful than what frightened us. For a lot of us, some of the most vivid memories we have include us jumping out of our seats or scrunching our eyes tight. But is it enough to be afraid when you were ten? How about when you’re twenty? Forty? What made lasting impression? What scares us now that never did before? Can those movies that scared us so easily in grade school still pack a punch post-college?
As a final send-off to our 31 Days of Halloween event, we gathered together some of our most fearless staff members to talk about what freaked them out, and what still does. After a month of sharing all sorts of scary things with you here at AiPT!, we thought it only fair to take a moment, go around, and share what scares us.
Cam Petti: There are plenty of things that freaked us out as kids, but we’ve grown up to see them as goofy. But what has lingered?
Alyssa Jackson: The tv movie IT for me. I saw it when I was 8 and it scarred me. I think that scene with Beverly in the bathroom is still legit awful and Tim Curry’s Pennywise? *shudders *
Jason Segarra: Really? I feel like it doesn’t hold up due to the hokey-ness of early 90’s TV production. As a sceptic, I find it hard to be scared of anything supernatural anymore. Real people in real settings I find a lot scarier than monsters and ghosts.
Brian Clements: I think there are things that were scary and aren’t anymore, not because we aren’t kids, but because the things we see have desensitized us to them. It’s why murder porn like the Saw series is popular. We have to keep pushing the envelope. I’m watching Kenneth Branagh as Iago (in Shakespeare’s Othello) right now and he is more frightening to me that any supernatural thing. For something to be truly frightening it has to have lasting effect.
Jim Lehane: I’m legitimately scared of The Ring. Girlfriend at the time made me watch it and I have refused to watch any scary movies since. It still scares me just thinking of it.Brian: See, that’s lasting horror.
Jason: I did feel like The Ring stuck with me that night because my TV was at the foot of my bed next to my door, so if Samara had come out while I was sleeping, I’d have to like tackle her to try and get out of there. It didn’t really last or impact my sleep per se. Like when I was a kid and saw Alien I was scared because I had air vents. But I didn’t think Aliens were actually in my house. After a few weeks at least. Nowadays I’m more likely to be scared by a documentary though.
Cam: Well I think there’s a difference between like, “ugh, this TOOO reeeeal” and “oh man, this could happen.” Global Warming is scary, but like, serial killers are are like, Halloween scary. Here’s a crucial question though: can those things from our childhood still scare us?
Patrick Hellen: Here’s my hot take: once you have kids? No. Not for me at least. I got WAY bigger shit to be scared of now.
Brian: True. The play Rabbit Hole scared me more as a parent than I’ve ever been scared. It’s about the aftermath of a toddler being killed by a speeding teenager.
Patrick: The monster under the bed is a wuss compared to my kid getting sick, school shootings, car crashes, “why is he breathing like that? Maybe I’ll just sleep in here to make sure he’s ok.” Pet Sematary, classic horror novel. The undead stuff? SNORE. Kid running into the road? AHHHHHHHHHH!
Cam: Would you say that the escapism and adrenaline rush of horror is uninteresting to you now that you get that rush from fearing for your kids?
Patrick: No, it’s still interesting because I can still get to that moment, but it’s LESS intense. Like Blair Witch when I was a teen = HOT STUFF because me and my friends were huge campers. Now, as an old Dad, “The hell are these morons doing in the woods? Get em Witch!” *sips cocktail from couch* *checks kids 11 times*.
Brian: There has to be a sense of believability for something to be horrific. Blair Witch was scary because we had never seen viral footage of anything before really. I was genuinely frightened a few times during the last WWE PPV, not because I didn’t know it was staged, but because there were moments where one wrong step could have legit killed a guy.
Cam: I think that speaks to a relatability factor too. I think horror is a lot like comedy in that it’s all very much based on the time it came out and where you were in your life at the time. I would be interested in hearing if someone who was 40 when Blair Witch came out was fascinated by the storytelling, or was as bored by teens in the woods as you are now. The other aspect of the Blair Witch is that it was a novel concept, thus unknown, thus scary.
Patrick: I’ve never thought of that. Novel means new neurons firing.
Brian: Well, your stupid brain fills in the gaps as well. “I don’t know what’s going to happen but it might be these thirty things.”
Patrick: The Jaws effect. I can imagine some scary stuff.
Cam: I suppose that speaks to the larger question of what “fear” really is when it comes to media. To me, the most “frightening” things are “it could potentially happen in real life.”
Patrick: I think the first viewing is really the only time true breathless fear can happen. Paranormal Activity, first watching, was scary. Part of it was the unknown, part was the breathless feel of the theatre. We’re tribal animals, so if everyone else is holding their breath I think that spreads. Blair Witch was crazy scary in the theatre. At home, you’re checking the fridge and pausing it to take a dump etc. Taking a dump pulls you out of the fear.
Jason: Yeah a theater experience really heightens the reaction.
Cam: See, like the fear factor of things like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity seems to be that “it’s not that far from real life.” Even Exorcist and Elm Street give you the sensation of like “oh man, what IF that happened to me?”
Patrick: Yeah I can see that, but you can make a case for other things that are WAY outside of real life. Event Horizon, Alien movies. I’m distant from that, but damn if it’s not scary.
Alyssa: One of the Image comic books coming out in the spring is a haunted house story set in a city apartment because he said he had never seen that.
Patrick: I think cities are scarier, because people. Bears scare me, but you can do stuff to avoid them. Messed up humans? Wellllll.
Alyssa: I think for me, people exposing themselves as monsters is super terrifying. 10 Cloverfield Lane seriously damaged me. I cannot forgive that movie for ruining John Goodman.
Cam: What were some of the things you saw in movies that made you afraid in real life?
Alyssa: The X-files led me into reading “real life” abduction stories, which scared the ever-loving crap out of me.
Patrick: Luke Skywalker getting his arm chopped off made me much more concerned about losing a limb than I imagine is necessary.
Cam: Twister was foundational to me being freaked out about storms for a while.
Nathaniel Muir: I did grow up in the 80’s and it seemed like kidnappings were abnormally high. It might be because I’m older and I don’t think about it as much now, but I remember watching movies and if some guy looked suspicious I would say “he looks like a kidnapper.”
Alyssa: It was in the cultural messaging. Stranger Danger! Also it was mixed up with Satanic panic and other rhyming warnings.
Brian: I do get the willies at amputations in film because I have had problems with my knees and legs since I was a kid. I had to have one knee’s growth plates removed to even out my growth and I saw a short kid who had the opposite surgery: lengthening the short leg, so anything in that realm gives me the heebie jeebies.
Alyssa: Oh god, yes. Amputations are awful. Again, the X-Files man. Mulder has a dream? Or he’s stuck in a VR or something, and they say they amputated his legs.
Cam: Looking back at what scared us all, any predictions for what fresh horror will warp the next generation of children?
Patrick: THE INTERNET IS DOWN!
Jason: It’s already started with a few movies like Unfriended and books like Stephen King’s Cell, but I do envision some sort of social media supernatural murder thing. The Snapchat Slayer or something.Patrick: Tinder Ripper.
Jason: The Kik Killer.
Patrick: The Grindr Grinder.
So that’s a wrap on Halloween 2017! Let us know in the comments what scares you, where you think the horror genre is going, or if we’re just total babies!