In the run-up to Halloween, along with the consumption of enough sugar to turn us all into wall-climbing diabetic zombies and the rush to find the perfect, cheaply made costume that isn’t so cheap (Americans will spend about $7 billion on candy and costumes for themselves and their pets this year), we inevitably get the old horror movies trotted out on TV to get us into the mood.
We sit in the dark and watch them as we stuff our faces with candy corn and, if you’re above the age of, say, believing in the Easter Bunny, we tend to chuckle more than cringe. Why? Because as adults we become more rational and lose the sense of imagination and wonder about the world we had as kids. Nothing frightens us anymore. Well, except maybe Sen. Ted Cruz or a trip to the dentist.
And it’s not just our view of the world that changes as we get older, the world itself is changing as well. It used to be that, if we weren’t sure about something or didn’t understand something, we naturally feared it or at least avoided it to eliminate the possibility of being seen as uninformed. It’s like my mom with her new computer. She’s not really sure how it works so it scares her a little, like it’s suddenly going to jump up and byte her.
But nowadays, if we’re unsure about something or wonder about something what do we do? We jump on our phones, our tablets, our computers or our wristwatches and Google it. Bam! There’s your answer. There’s no reason to fear that noise coming from your attic. About a zillion mostly reliable sources say it’s probably just that your air conditioning fan needs lubricating or maybe NSA agents are staking out your attic. Nothing to be afraid of, maybe.
And the movies themselves stopped being scary about 50 years ago. Why? Because they no longer leave anything to the imagination. The older movies are still genuinely scary because they require us to conjure up our own monsters in our heads. I watched “The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas” the other night. In the 91-minute 1957 film, the creature of the title is seen onscreen in one approximately three-second shot and only half-lit. That’s it. It’s the wondering, the imagining, that leads up to that shot that makes it scary.
These days we’re shown every hair, tooth, claw and bloodshot eye of the threat almost from the very first scene thanks to computer-generated imaging. Where’s the fun in that?
We fear the unknown but in today’s world of information overload, nothing stays unknown for long. That’s both a blessing and a curse. We can assuage our fears with a quick Internet search. Then again, we can see Anthony Wiener naked. Now that’s scary.
My advice, if you want a good scare this Halloween, pick up a good scary book and use your imagination for a change.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.