“Of All the Base Passions”

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.

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8 thoughts on ““Of All the Base Passions”

  1. I remember The Grudge being one of the first horror movies I had ever watched too. After watching the trailer and hearing about it from friends, I found myself too scared to watch it, but mustered up the courage to watch it a few years after it came out. When you said that you couldn’t coax the image out of your brain for months, it reminded me of how I felt after watching the movie. I was terrified of the thought that the house in the movie could carry such dark memories and have that curse become a part of it. For a while after watching the movie, I could still hear the sound the “grudge” makes that signals it being nearby and at night, my mind would play tricks on me and make me think that I can see its figure in the shadows. I’ve also watched the Japanese version, Ju-on, which is just as horrifying, in my opinion. I can say that this movie has scared me more than most other movies I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of horror films. Although, I feel like after watching The Grudge, not many other films could scare me as much, or I’ve just been good at avoiding the other really horrifying movies.

  2. For me, it was Signs (from 2002). I was a giant chicken growing up; I was scared of birds, ladybugs, butterflies, trees. You name it, I was probably scared of it. So, naturally, it only made sense to watch a movie where the monsters from a different planet looked like skinny trees that melted under water (on that note, the witch from the Wizard of Oz scared me as well). I refused to go anywhere near a window for days and the only safe place was the bathroom (because of all the water). Watching it ruined my life but almost 11 years later and present day data regarding aliens, Signs is no longer scary. As you mentioned, I can compartmentalize this movie and most other alien movies, which are now just strange to me. The worst part of that is now my “fear of the unknown” is unknown, which makes each scary/horror movie terrifying and life altering until it is done and I realize that “oh yes, clowns are creepy but they aren’t coming after me today”.

  3. I think one of the reasons Grudge is scary to people is because it’s not just an upset spirit or a demon, it’s all caused by a curse that jumps to people who are angry. Everyone gets angry at one point or another, and it’s this fact of human nature that makes the movie scary because anyone can be inflicted with the curse. This movie should be a warning sign to people to keep their cool and talk things out.

  4. I have always blocked out the memory of me watching the Grudge, however, after looking this movie up again, the terrible creature on the cover of the movie reminds me of the movie that scared the crap out of me for the first time, The Ring. The Ring ruined scary movies for me from the beginning because I watched it late at night with my best friend when I was 10 years old or so. What scared me most about this movie is that fact that I was worried that the girl was going to chase after me, and that she was real, something that I could not rationalize at the time. From then on, I hated scary movies.

  5. I had the exact same reaction to The Ring. I still cannot watch The Ring without being scared for the next seven days that I’m going to get that phone call and something horrible is going to happen. I think what makes The Ring and The Grudge so scary is that both movies do a great job of keeping the source of the “scare” very specific, but still relatable. As mentioned in a previous reply, The Grudge is relatable because everybody gets angry. Similarly in The Ring, the scare is relatable because you die by watching a movie – something that the viewers of The Ring automatically relate to because they are watching a movie in real time.

  6. The Grudge sounds terrifying! I totally agree that it’s the things you brush off that sneak back into your mind while you’re trying to fall asleep. I hope that I never watch anything that affects me like The Grudge seemed to affect you! Are there other movies you find as terrifying as The Grudge? And where does it take place? Somewhere ordinary like a house? Or somewhere that you aren’t likely to find yourself, like a wax dummy factory?

  7. I only saw some of the grudge, and I can recall turning it off because of the eerie noises that made me somewhat afraid. But I agree with you and Amelia on how things that you brush off sneak back into your mind. There have been several scary movies that I have seen (Paranormal Activity 4, The Strangers especially) in which events that occurred in those movies still pop up when I’m alone at night. Is this the only movie that had this type of affect on you?

  8. Pingback: Horror Movies: Almost Famous | The Course of Horror

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