By: Bailey Smith
The things that frighten us the most in the world are those things that we do not know or cannot explain. The things we understand, the things that we can rationalize or sort into compartments in our mind, are not the things that skulk like shadows in the corners of our consciousness. Unreasonable, foolish, illogical as these fears may be, they still cling pitilessly to the folds in our cognizance. These kinds of fears are often triggered by a traumatic life experience or a horrific event. For me, however, this sort of fear was triggered by a movie.
I first watched The Grudge in the seventh grade. Having never seen a horror movie before, I had little idea what was considered “good” versus “bad” horror. Yes, I had watched Beetlejuice and Ghostbumps and had seen Casper the Friendly Ghost enough times to recognize what did and didn’t scare me. And even though I understand now that The Grudge is not a high-quality horror movie, I still maintain that it is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. At the time, I was just looking to be frightened. I had a friend sleep over that night and we were determined to watch something “grown up.” The cover was not explicitly gory or repulsive in any way that would initially repel my interest. It showed the image of a girl’s face – skin so pale it was grey, with lank, dirty black hair hanging over her startled, red-tinged eye.
At first, I laughed at the seeming stupidity of the characters in the movie and the obvious fakeness of the images that flashed across the screen. As the plot progressed, however, I stopped laughing. I became quite literally paralyzed with fear, a sensation I had previously dismissed as exaggeration. I discovered, however, that there is absolute truth in that description.
Long after watching the movie, I still could not coax the images from my brain. I went nearly sleepless for months – finally discovering that the only way I could sleep was to turn on an episode of a television show on my iPod and let distraction lead to slumber. Even now, I balk at any mention of the movie. It still opens the floodgates in my brain to terror. It is the same reaction as touching a hot stove – as soon as my mind recognizes the direction my thoughts are heading, it snaps away as a method of self-protection.
Even now, I cannot reconcile the extreme reaction I had with the contents of the movie itself. Perhaps it reminded me of a horrifying experience I had as a child. Perhaps it was the blatant disregard for sense that characterized the plot. I don’t think I will ever fully understand what it was about this movie that shook me so. But as I mentioned before, fear of the unknown is the most real and horrible fear of all. And it is this movie, my very first taste of a “real” scary movie, which gave me my first experience of being petrified of what I do not know.