Often when I watch a horror movie there are scenes where I beg the characters not to do something. Dumb teenagers, don’t go in the dark woods to find your friend! Stupid guy, don’t provoke the paranormal entity in your house! Don’t you know any better? Haven’t you seen a horror movie?
I’ve always had two thoughts on the matter. First, most obviously, I understand without the characters doing these things, there would be nothing. Without brash actions that elicit gore, torment, or horror, we are not entertained and there is no movie. But leaving it at that is no fun. That being said, my second thought is to blame their actions on a mélange of ignorance and placing their existence in an alternate reality where they don’t know any better, where they haven’t seen a horror movie.
But recently I’ve been questioning my second notion.
Last September I moved from an apartment into a house. As we’re moving in I find a silver ring in the garage on the floor. I think it’s weird that the thing is laying out in the middle of the garage but…well, whatever. It isn’t anything, right?
Meanwhile, certain parts of the house feel strange. Uneasy. I blame it on bad wiring which causes high EMF, which causes paranoia. That explains that, right?
Stick with me, guys. I’m bringing this thing full circle in just a moment.
Fast forward a few months. Water pump under the house breaks. Landlord is in and out fixing stuff under the house. Everything gets resolved, but we hear weird things down there after. Sometimes a vent sounds like it is being shook even when no air is coming out. Loud thumps. At one point we heard voices outside, the crawlspace entrance slamming shut and no other noises after. It was just the landlord, right? No, he says. He hasn’t been there in weeks. No one has.
Dun, dun DDUUUUUNNNN!
This could be the beginning of a horror movie. The ring I found in the beginning is possessed. A malicious spirit is taking it’s time in tormenting me slowly. Noises. Voices. Maybe a horrific serial killer is living under the house, waiting to make his move. Yet I don’t do anything about it. I ignore the noises. I check under the house by myself. I write off the weird stuff, thinking there isn’t any way it could be any of those things. No, there is no spirit or serial killer. There is no—
Don’t I know better than to ignore potential signs of ghosts? Don’t I know better than to check under the house by myself, with no weapon, and a weak flashlight to guide me? Haven’t I seen a horror movie?
My newly developed theory is that characters in horror movies handle situations almost exactly how we would in reality. When bizarre things start happening, we might, offhandedly, think about spooky things. But we don’t act on it. When we hear a weird noise camping, we either ignore it or go investigate. We don’t grab anything useful, get in the car and drive away. Last year when zombie-ish stuff started happening, we didn’t (at least most people didn’t) break into chaos, board ourselves in our houses, and get ready to start blowing brains out.
No, no. Just like the characters in the movies, we ignore the signs and go about our daily lives as if nothing is going to happen. Not every weird thing is a paranormal entity, or serial killer, or start of something bigger. Of course not.
But that, my friends, is the start of the horror movie.