I haven’t been scared by a book or movie in a long time. Oh sure, I’ve managed to scare myself by walking in the woods at night while bears rustle around in the underbrush, but that’s not the same thing. If you have to put yourself in danger to scare yourself, it’s not as much fun as watching Friday the 13th and accomplishing the same thing.
The most I can generally hope for is a case of the willies. Paranormal Activity creeped me out (up until the last fifteen seconds), but that’s the first movie in a long time.
It accomplished it by acting like the real thing. I’ve always been fascinated by books or movies that strive toward authenticity. Whether they claim to be based on true stories or if they claim to be the diary or last known footage of the victim. The Blair Witch Project, Quarantine and Paranormal Activity are all movies that actually affected me. They were actually able to scare me, because I wasn’t preoccupied with thoughts about the special effects or how they got that one shot. They blurred the line between fantasy and reality.
It’s this blurring that interests me: the ability for the filmmaker to make me believe, for a second, that the horrifying thing I’m seeing is actually real: that there are ghosts, that there is a witch in the woods. If fantasy can convince me it’s reality, if only for a second, then it’s gone above and beyond the call of duty. And that’s worth something to me.
Sure I have nightmares and I start avoiding dark places, but that’s a cost that I’m more than willing to pay if I can be scared, if only for 90 minutes.