A Real Fear of Make Believe

Wednesday, February 24

By Piper Rae Davidson

I hate scary movies. 

I hate anything that resembles a scary movie.

I even hate comedies about scary movies - which come to think about it is an actual genre, and I can’t think of any reason why.  It’s like a paint by numbers of the Guernica - but creepy. 

 I’ve never seen Jaws, you couldn't pay me to watch The Shining, and I even block my eyes from the cringey peril scenes in action movies. Do you remember that scary final scene in Toy Story 3?  I remember what it sounded like with my hands over my ears in the other room. I was a teenager.  When it comes to watching movies, I am like Nemo's Dad - everybody stay the hell away from open water.

So yes, I would say I’m shaken easily, but yet I spend hours tuned into true crime podcasts, watching blood-soaked documentaries, and reading In Cold Blood like it was a comic book. I wouldn't even let my Dad show me the IT trailer but I’ve seen all 15 seasons of Criminal Minds. I find it infinitely easier to witness the capacity of my fellow humans to do horrific things to another person, than to watch a fictional person fall victim to an imaginary monster. A laughing clown in the sewer, absolutely not, but bonafide serial killer stalking my demographic - how can I get more details? This, admittedly flawed mindset opens itself to endless ridicule - most notably from my Stephen King loving father. 

I've heard it all. My brother will tell me I'm overdramatic, boys my age will say “Maybe you just need someone to watch them with” (insert stupid winky face). However, what I have discovered over the years is that I am not alone. In researching the inconsistent duplicity of my mind's fear response, I ventured to the place that truly haunts my nightmares - Reddit. Weaved into this dumpster fire of a platform is a multitude of threads and forums dedicated to those who prefer true crime or reality based crime shows to fictional thrillers. And by prefer I suspect what they mean is “prefers real serial killers to clowns.”  Like me.  

The most widely accepted theory as to why so many have this backwards mindset is that fantasy breaks the bounds of human mortality and morbidity. While technically fiction, I can sleep at night knowing that the villains of Criminal Minds are portrayed as human - people just like myself (well, mostly) and those around me. Pennywise, however, is some magic immortality shit. He comes back, what, every 100 years? I wouldn't know, seeing as I did not watch the movie and won’t for a minute consider the book, much to Dad’s chagrin. The point is, the true horror comes from the unknown. Ted Bundy was sentenced to death, George Foyett was strangled by Aaron Hotchner - they’re not coming back. The creepy doll thing from Annabelle (again, haven't seen the movie)? Who knows if it will ever truly be gone.  The whole tendency toward horror movie sequels seems to support my suspicions...fictional monsters are never truly gone!

It is a bit incongruous that we are taught to do smart things like not take candy from strangers, keep our keys in our hands when walking home at night, and all sorts of things to counter real dangers that we absorb day to day without being scared, but not a single one of us has really planned out what to do if trapped in a off-season hotel that is slowly twisting your mind inside out.  Everything I know about The Shining comes from its Wikipedia page, but just reading the premise is so terrifying to me that I have to recenter myself (my dark karmic balance) with soppy TikTok edits of Spencer Reid for the next hour . 

And so to all the like clown/doll/alien fearing minded media-consumers out there, never again let someone question the logic of your fears. Rather, ask them how they plan to handle being trapped on a made up spaceship with a made up alien, in a fictional future - because pepper spray really only seems to work on humans. Always remember, (or desperately try to forget) that humans may die, but demogorgons just disappear until next season. 

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