Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Horror, The Horror

As much as I try to avoid them in an effort to preserve my sanity, I'm still a sucker for a scary movie. I should clarify here; I'm not talking about those over-done teen flicks with the wacky, stereo-typical, drug-smoking Jamaican guy, the big-boobed, dumb blond cheer leader who 'puts out' and the nerdy girl who takes off her glasses and her blouse in the last scene, nor am I talking about those crappy, B-grade shockers which actually feature creeping vampires wearing black capes and turning into bats, disfigured, drooling monks and ware wolves which howl in silhouette before a full moon. I'm talking about REALLY scary movies, like the ones with faceless little girls who walk slowly, unstoppably, towards you, or the ones with large, high ceilinged rooms, completely bare apart from a lace-lined basinet – man, it took me two years of therapy after seeing those films before I could go to the bathroom at night in our old house without turning on every single light – and THAT'S what I mean by a scary movie.

Of course, there's also the other type of scary movie, in which the ghouls are not so much mythical creatures from the underworld, but rather a nasty, more sinister kind of evil which, as we grow up and learn more about our surroundings, we know actually exists in our real, everyday world. And it's this type of scary movie that I wanna dwell upon here.

In these types of films, you don't necessarily know that what you're watching is supposed to be scary; the story usually starts slowly, and plods along as it introduces us to everyday characters like ourselves. Just like in real life, we are introduced to these people through a glimpse of their often hum-drum, normal daily routines; shopping, paying the electricity bill, picking the kids up from school, taking them to the park, catching the bus, watching celebrities on TV ... just the routine, normal stuff that we all do everyday.

Often in these films, through the course of these everyday events, we are introduced to various, seemingly external characters, usually men, who play a minor, although significant role in a single daily episode. It might be the kindly guy who works behind the photo-processing counter at the mall, or the old, friendly bloke who turns up in the outback to help fix your broken-down car, or perhaps the quiet man on the bus who moves over to give you a seat, and who mentions how beautiful your young daughter's hair is. Simple interactions which seem like everyday occurrences (which is exactly what they are), and definitely nothing to be scared of.

Invariably, as these movies progress, the passenger on the bus happens to turn up again, this time at the main character's local corner store, and next time outside their home. Or perhaps it's the photo guy who finds an extra print and brings it to their house, even though they'd never given him their address. Or maybe it's the insistence of their rescuer to spend the evening at his camp because the nearest town is too far away. These scary movies are excellent, 'cause each of these somewhat odd happenings still appear a bit normal, but for the viewer who, through the series of initial, everyday events, has developed some affinity for the central characters (and perhaps, who has started to become one of these characters) it starts to get a little eerie.

By the time we begin feeling uncomfortable about what's happening on the screen in front of us, it's too late. Just as if this was actually happening to us; just as if it was the guy from our own photo processing place, or the guy from our own bus trip, by the time we realise something is amiss, he has already infiltrated our privacy. Like the helpless characters, we too are helpless to stop watching. The plot has been constructed very slowly, and very methodically, and now we're implicated.

And the best part in these films, and by "best" I mean the "totally shit-scary" part, is when the penny finally drops and we discover just how whacked-out this guy is, and if you'll indulge me, that is usually when, as the central character, you have just sent little Lilly off to the park to walk the dog with kindly old Harry from next door. Just as you have every afternoon for the past three months, you kiss Lilly and wave with a smile as she walks away with her little hand in his, and with the old blood-hound, Rex, straining on the leash in front of them.

An hour or so later, and you notice you have been hovering around the front window, waiting for them to return. A few hours after that, you have been to the park twice to see if they are there, but no sign, and you are getting frantic. Again you go next door and bang on the door, calling for Lilly and Harry. No answer. Desperate, you climb over the fence and peer through the only window in the house. The rapidly-fading light makes it difficult to see inside, but soon your eyes adjust and you see a large room, completely devoid of furniture or floor coverings. The space is bare and cold looking, and then the walls catch your attention.

What you had absently assumed was dark, patterned wall paper, you now notice to be a floor-to-ceiling collage of photographs - every inch of the wall is covered, and on each one, someone's face has been blacked-out with a permanent marker. With a start, you fumble with your torch and peer more closely at the closest wall, and right there and then, the wind rushes out of you. Gripping the windowsill with horror, you notice that in each photograph, immediately beneath each scribbled, black marker mess, is the body of a little girl dressed in a summer dress or winter overalls, holding Rex's leash.

Now if you're anything like me, it's at this moment in the movie that your blood runs absolutely cold. Up until then, there had been some suggestion that all was not well, but at this point, the danger has reared its head, and the real horror of the helplessness of the situation has been revealed. To me, this real, easily identifiable, and genuinely imaginable horror is what is the scariest thing to watch. It's scary because it really happens – we see it on the news and read it in the papers ever week. Investigations later reveal a lonely individual with severe depression or mental illness, often manifesting with a degree of obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

As I said, at that point of the movie, when we see the photos on the wall, or the hoard of scrap-books full of newspaper clippings, or the collection of victims' cars, the thousands of candles, the names scrawled all over a wall, the collection of knives ... whatever it is, it makes my blood run cold. Much like what happened to me on the bus only a couple of days ago.

But first, just like in these very scary films, I need to introduce you to the hum-drum, drone-like daily existence that my life has become since, while en-route to Tibet, the Chinese authorities have put the stall on my visa application. Basically, rather than just spending a couple of days of fine dining and catching up with friends in Melbourne, I am now faced with five weeks of getting up in the cold, dark mornings, and struggling to the office on the crowded train, tram and bus, sitting in a dimly-lit, miserable office all day, and leaving in the cold, wet, depressing dusk to retrace my steps towards the cold, dark, miserable and, as you will soon discover, sinister outer suburbs.

It was while stewing in my own, depressive juices on the bus a couple of mornings ago, that I experienced real, blood-chilling horror. In my semi-comatose, commuter state, I boarded the bus, checked my ticket through the machine, and momentarily moved up one level of consciousness as I scanned for a place to park my substantial Donkey ass. I avoided sitting next to the loud-mouthed school kids 'cause I wanted to read, and I bypassed the business man reading his broadsheet newspaper as I didn't fancy a smack in the face with every turn of the page. I avoided the fat guy ('cause two fatties on one seat just isn't practical) and I selected a vacant spot next to a respectable-looking, middle-aged woman. She was well-dressed, with elegant, not-too-much face make-up, excellent posture and she was, I assumed, reading a novel. All in all, the most benign choice for a seat on the bus that morning.

I sat down and busied myself with getting my book open, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, and as I settled into page 542, I noticed in my peripheral vision that my well-dressed neighbour was not reading, but writing, very quickly. I didn't pay too much attention, however, as I was slowly drifting back into a coma, but I did notice that she would periodically stop writing and look up to the very upper corner of the window, before resuming her correspondence.

Melbourne traffic being the ridiculous joke that it is, I came-to about ten pages and only 200 metres later, and realised that the lady beside me had been writing frantically the entire journey, except during her periodical scrutiny of the upper window. I stole a glance at the writing in the open, lined exercise book in front of her; she had just turned the page, and was completing the first three lines, not with words, as I had expected, but with an identical, continuous, curling line from left to right. "A bit strange", I mused, and returned to my book, but rather than take up my (by comparison) less interesting novel, I noticed only moments later that this prolific woman had completed the page with a further, identical thirty-odd lines, at which time, true to form, she looked up and stared at the upper window, before returning her gaze to her book in order to turn the page.

And as she did, my blood drained cold. As she attempted to turn the page, she fumbled, and in doing so, revealed an entire exercise book, perhaps sixty-four pages, each one filled with thirty-odd lines, and each line featuring the identical, scrawling script. I started visibly out of my mediative state, and tried to look at her face beside me, as I did, she met my gaze with a cold stare, devoid of any warmth or companionship, but with a challenging menace that left me with only limited control over my bladder. Unintentionally, I had shuffled away along the seat, and with relief I noticed my stop approaching. I rushed off the bus, and stood leaning against a pole as I sucked in lung-fulls of cold, fresh air. After a time, when my shaking had slowed enough to walk, I shuffled off to the office feeling frightened and alone. What an unfamiliar, unforgiving and sinister world this is.

____________

"I can't remain here any longer. I am an outcast; a freak to these people. All I want is to get by without hurting myself. All I want is to be able to mind my own business, and to live, work and be myself. It is not my fault that I was born this way, and yet, to all of them, I am a monster."

"If they only knew the agony I must go through; the years of therapy, just to get me out the door. What I have gone through, just to spend a few hours each day amongst them. They told me I am allowed to go outside. They told me that I am a person too, with all the rights of other people. They told me that I was equal ... but it's not true."

"Sure, I might dress like them; put on make-up and look like them. But I will never be one of them. Not while the danger remains ... the danger of me flipping-out. I couldn't handle that again – the horror in those people's faces. The women shielding their children's eyes from the sight of me, as they would some hideous monster. The screams of panic – I couldn't bare that again, being the object of everyone's fear and hatred."

"I thought I'd come so far. How bloody stupid I was to believe that I could hide my repugnance from the world. I should never have tried. Oh, how I have enjoyed my wanderings these past months. How I have loved being amongst them, feeling the cold wind and rain on my face. I genuinely believed that I was going to be OK. Just doing those little, secret things – those simple, silly routines ... it was never ever going to make it all alright."

"But I was a gullible fool. Because those stupid games - those coping mechanisms – they weren't invisible at all. They were there for all to see, and today, on the bus, I saw a man looking at me with that familiar terror, that same fear and distaste as I had seen in those faces before, all those years ago. I hate them ... and I hate myself. I'm staying in here now. Staying until I ... until it all goes away. That's what should happen. Monsters must be locked away where they can't do anyone any harm."




OK, so I said they didn' t scare me, but this portrayal of Dracula, in the early, German silent movie, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, still freaks me out whenever I see it. Pic: Wikipedia

6 comments:

sabrina said...

I am just like you la Donkey...despite the tough exterior, i am a big scaredy cat!

I refuse to watch ANY scary movie especially those Korean or Japanese ones cos if i do i won't be able to sleep at all cos i will keep imaining that someone is sitting in my chair the whole night watching me sleep :p

The Editor said...

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DonkeyBlog said...

Sabrina - yeah, keep 'em away from me, especially if I've had a coffee in the last three days.

Editor - you saying my blog is dull? No, I got ya

lived-legna said...

I get a rush out of scary movies... I literally take peeks behind my fingers or a shawl.

Anyway, what I really meant to say was, one day when you're all done traveling and saving the world, you should write a story about your life Donkey. Really.

DonkeyBlog said...

Livid-legna - well, thanks, but I'm not sure there'd be much chance of anyone reading a great, big, steaming pile of excrement like that ... although the Da Vinci Code did OK I suppose ;)

lived-legna said...

You'd be surprised Donkey... I'd read it for sure! :-)