Movies terrify me. All movies. All movies are scary monsters with black masks and cloaks just waiting to remove their costumes and reveal their true, unholy, black-pit-of-despair scary terrifyingness.
Movies give me nightmares. Movies give me waking terror, guilt and emotional turmoil. Movies are responsible for a good 50%+ of all the anxiety I have ever experienced – and for probably 95% of all the sleep I have ever lost.
I remember most of my nightmares. I remember some from two decades ago. My earliest memory is a dream, and it was not happy.
You know who started all this? Dudley the fucking Dragon, that’s who. After tuning into a show that had previously never let me down, this bleeding episode decided to be about poison bottles. In the big green fucker’s nightmare, the poison symbol from the kitchen cleaner bottle comes to life into a real skeleton. The black jumpsuit with glowing white body paint imprisons Dudley and his friend in some dungeon. There is creepy music and sneaking around, and the rave-party Poison does some general mischief just in case we didn’t get the message that Bad Things Were Afoot. I listened in kindergarten. I already knew about the symbol. My teacher failed to mention that bad acid trips could make it come to life and Get You.
So I go to bed. As I fall asleep I look down past the foot of my bed, out the open door to the end of the hallway, where the stairs lead between floors. Now my own personal bad acid trip begins. The skeleton starts coming up the stairs, slowly, menacingly, raising every little adrenaline powered hair on my body. It turns to look at me before I bounce back awake enough to have the image shatter. Scarcely breathing, I strain my eyes into the darkness. The skeleton starts to climb again. My heart hammers in my silenced throat, and I am paralyzed. Then he disappears. And reappears. And for the next month the only time I can sleep is when exhaustion claims me from my vigilant and terrifying watch over the portal to hell.
You can imagine what The Mummy did to me 15 years later.
I could never tell what would set me off. Night after night, from toddler to teen, I was tormented by demons. We tried moving my bed around the room – not seeing the nightmares approaching was just as bad. Commercial after commercial startled me out of my passive hockey- and Jeopardy-time with my parents. My dad eventually got extremely good at predicting what commercials were dangerous, and would hit mute or change the channel with super hero reflexes.
Indiana Jones (Lost Ark and Temple – but namely Temple). Jurassic Park. Various James Bonds. CSI. Men in Black. Lost in Space. Ghost. The Matrix. Independence Day. Volcano. What about all the films I didn’t see? They still got to me. Their plots and ads found me through friends and media. The Silence of the Lambs. Nighmare Before Christmas. The Ring. Anaconda. Edward Scissorhands. The Sixth Sense. What about the ones too emotional for me to deal? Aladdin (the hourglass scene). The English Patient. Apollo 13. Armageddon. Ever After. Matilda. City of Angels. Patch Adams. Contact.
I remember one of my friend’s birthday parties when we were small. They decided to watch Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom. I knew I had problems with this film. I couldn’t have been older than nine, perhaps as young as six or seven. It is the first time I remember stalwartly refusing peer pressure. I played with the family’s bird and cat, and read a book. My friend was, I believe, offended, or at least understandably upset that I would not spend time with her and her choice of activity on her birthday. As far as my friends could see, as long as we remained younger than 17, I was one of a wuss, a brat or a proud little attention hogging snot. This strategy has been a lifelong embarrassment for me, but I know of no other effective way to keep getting a full night’s sleep.
The problem went away when I went to university. It was comparatively easy to say no to an outing, although the general opinion of my reasons (it seemed to me) wasn’t far from the above. When I moved out of residence, it ceased to be a problem at all. I still had nightmares, usually daily, but they weren’t of the midnight murder variety. As long as I had a roommate, they were manageable. Adding anti-anxiety medication only made it easier, numbing the dreams into more easily forgettable forms. Sometimes I don’t even remember them when I wake up anymore.
After living with Patrick for so long, and being on medication for several years, the movie thing was at the back of my mind. I rarely saw a new film (except by Pixar). But tonight, we returned to the issue.
I’ve been avoiding movies, in case that hasn’t been made obvious by now. It’s not just potentially scary ones; I avoid any and all unknown movies, and the ones that scare me most are ones of emotional content. Borderline PD now intersects with my media choices! Way to go! Freakingframanehelkjasfljgalhalasfdhalgh. I have consistently chosen TV shows that I know are quiet, maybe bouncy, but fluffy. Or documentaries. Emotion has become a foreign culture in my house. I am afraid of anything getting hold on my heart. I am afraid of tears. I am afraid because emotions lead to crisis and crisis is torment.
Tonight, I (bravely) broke this mold. We watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (appropriately over curry), a movie I’ve been wanting to see since I heard about it, and since we went to India some two years ago. And it was emotional. I cried. It was a good movie. It was very sweet.
Really, the bottom line is that I’m here writing. Despite all warnings of my brain, I survived.