Paranormal Proclivity

Of the vast array of movie genres, horror flicks rank the lowest on my list. If watching teenagers getting hacked to bloody shreds by a chainsaw-wielding psycho from Texas (we have a lot of them here, you know) is your thing, that's cool. But please don't invite me over for BBQ and an all-night TV gore-fest marathon. It's nothing personal, it's just preference.

Listen, I get it. It's not real. That's not blood, it's katsup, and that's not some guy's intestines; it's spaghetti. Whatever. My problem is that after seeing someone hacked up in a life-sized blender, I can't get it out of my brain. The image keeps looping in my mind over and over like a needle skipping on a record that never stops playing.

When I young, maybe six or seven, I remember a TV commercial for a horror movie that showed a girl around my age being pulled through a wall by tangle of flailing, bloody arms. Another I recall was of a woman cautiously investigating a noise inside a closet, and as she--BAM! Something yanks her in and you hear a deathly scream. Thirty-second clips, that thirty years later still have me eying sheetrock with suspicion.

In my later life, I recognized the facade behind terror, and even managed to watch a few of the classics. Scream made me laugh, especially when Drew Barrymore answered the phone. And that Freddy dude with the bad skin? I really couldn't blame that guy for slicing up those kids, given that hideous, woolly sweater he had to wear. After a while, that sort of chafing can make anyone want to don a leather, glove with Kinzua knife affixed to the fingers and start swinging away.

Of course, during that era, most horror film seemed to have a ridiculous quality about them as illustrated by the one I came across about a killer snow man*. The back of the VHS box showed a picture of a classic snow man complete with a top-hat, scarf and corn-cob pipe trying to kill a naked woman in her shower. (I'm guessing the water heater was on the other side of the house and in the time it took for the water to get hot, Frosty used his carrot nose on her as a shiv.) I can't remember if I take my medication from one morning to the next, but a homicidal snowman reminds me never to drop my drawers until steam's billowing up from behind the shower curtain.

In recent years, torture porn became all the rage. Yeah. I don't think so. Running a power drill through someone's eyeball, and spooning out their heart with a melon baler while they are forced to watch--are you kidding me? I've just confessed to the impact a snowman has made on my daily routine, can you imagine how I would act after watching one of these films and then walking into a Home Depot or Crate & Barrel? I read an article where audiences were actually throwing up in the theaters during these films, and, get this, the directors took it as a compliment. I should mail them an envelope brimming with my yak and sign it, "From your biggest fan."

Thus far, I've only mentioned what a mere image can do to me. That's bad enough, but if you really want to carve an indelible mark into my brain, add somewhere on the film's poster or in its theatrical trailer the phrase, "based on a true story." I had vowed to never watch anything with that claim attached to it, but when an old girlfriend asked me to watch The Amnityville Horror with her, I agreed. (With Adam and Eve it was an apple; with me it's horror movies). I may have cracked jokes and poked fun through the entire ninety minutes of spooky mayhem, but the overriding thought that kept repeating itself was, "This crap really happened. This crap really happened. This crap really happened." If evil ghouls can turn Ryan Reynolds (who's plays a stepfather no less) into an evil madman, that's plenty freaky to me.

To those in marketing, touting horror films as being based on actual events might make for good hype, but to me, it strips away that lone bit of ammunition I need for combating my hyperactive imagination. In such cases I can no longer tell myself, "Hey Big Guy, that crap's just CGI and raspberry Kool Aid." No, instead it's something closer to, "Holy Polyester! That sh#t's real ...and they're coming for you next!" Then I can't sleep for days, which all seems plain stupid on my part, and it probably is except for the fact that I actually do believe in ghosts. Now, I realize everyone has their own opinions on the topic, and I respect that, but we can save debates for later. Yes, I believe they exist which can terrify the Honey Nut Cheerios out of me, but not as much as one other entity--demons.

Again, not wanting a debate here, and feel free to call me crazy. But, unlike ghosts, which I've had no contact with, I have met several perfectly sane people who themselves have experienced demonic happenings. None of them were possessed, but one had been involved in an exorcism; the rest had gotten caught up in calling out to demons thinking it would be cool. (They don't now.) I'll skip the details, but their stories were compelling enough to forge my certainty that demons exist.

So, that all said, imagine my reaction the other night when Ashley held up a red and white Netflix envelope as she announced with unrestrained glee that we had something good to watch that evening.

"Yeah," I answered, catching her excitement. "What is it?"

"Paranormal Activity," she replied in a voice that sounded ominously like Vincent Price's.

For the next hour and twenty-six minutes I downed enough Absolute and soda to kill a 300-pound Ukrainian mob boss, hoping it would help me to forget the evil dealings of a demon plaguing a typical suburban couple. I had heard the movie was scary-really scary, but a Costco-load of Depends Undergarments couldn't sop up the results of what certain scenes caused me to do--proverbially speaking of course. Somehow, though, I managed to survive through to the ending... and the alternate endings... and the bonus footage. Even so, I knew the worst night of sleep was soon to be upon me. (Turn down your speakers and shush off the kids if you're brave enough to click on the link. I won't even link to the alternates, they are so gruesome.)

Theatrical Trailer

As I predicted, every half hour, my eyes popped open to search the room for blurry dark masses hovering in the air and cloven footprints in the carpet. At one point, the hair on the back of neck stood up when I felt a strange force pressing against my leg, but it only turned out to be Ash kicking me to the edge of the bed again. And then there was the nightmare.

I dreamed I was in this large house. There was no furniture, and everything--the walls, the doors, the carpet--was a colored in various shades of pink. Running from room to room, I could tell something--something unseen--was chasing me, and no matter how much I tried to get outside, no escape exit existed. Finally, I ended up cornered in a large walk-in closet where, on the floor lay a pair of pink high-heeled shoes trimmed with equally pink feathers. Seeing them filled me with an intense and unexplainable dread. Then I snapped awake.

When I told Ash about it the next morning, she agreed my dream was weird. "I wonder what the deal was with the shoes?" she asked aloud.

At that moment, the TV caught both of our attentions. Allie and Avery had been watching High School Musical 3 and there, on the screen was a brief shot with one of the characters wearing shoes very similar to those in my nightmare.

Want to know which type of movie ranks just above horror films in terms of creeping me out?

* They actually made a sequel for the snowman movie in 2000 titled, Jack Frost: Revenge of the Mutant Snowmen.

PS. My aversion to the paranormal is ironic given that I've just started working on a young-adult novel in which ghosts make up a major portion of the plot.

PPS. This was supposed to be a 500-word post, but as you can see, it become a monster of it's own. Sorry.

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