My earliest memories of watching horror movies were when I was just a young kid probably 8 or 9 and the movie that sticks out the most is Halloween. Prior to this, I had failed attempts at Nightmare on Elm St., The Exorcist, Salem’s Lot, even Cujo freaked me out. Here’s the setting. The lights in my house are all turned off, it’s me, my older brother (the middle brother, the oldest comes into play shortly), and our uncle sitting on the couch getting ready to watch Halloween. Thinking to myself I CAN DO THIS! As little Tommy Doyle is looking out of the window my uncle decides it would be a good idea to reach for the knife he stashed in the couch and proceed to scare the hell out of me. Mission accomplished. As the movie goes on, I believe it was the part when Lynda was getting ready to meet her demise, it was at that moment my oldest brother dressed in blue coveralls, mask, and knife in hand decided to walk out from around the corner of the dining room. I ran out of the house.
Thus, it was at that moment of complete and utter fear and terror that my love for the genre was born. This sort of torment wasn’t the first nor was it the last. As I started to dig further into the genre, I found myself being amazed at not only the antagonists but also looking at the inner strength of the protagonists and their will to overcome and survive. Did it always work, no, but they never gave up? Now, not all horror movies are set up like this. Look at the Saw series. Is Jigsaw the villain or is the crooked insurance salesman the villain? Do you root for him to solve the puzzle and free himself? These types of questions I think make the genre so much more and is just one facet of its attraction.
Just like a good book, song, or place, horror movies provide a safe comfort like none other. There’s nothing like the feeling your favorite song brings. Reliving fond memories or remembering a departed loved one that comfort is there and it never fails at doing its job. That is what horror does. It provides a comfort that some may not understand because the first thought when you say horror is people getting killed, blood and gore are everywhere and while this is true the comfort in horror comes in the disguise of strong characters that in the face of the worst-case scenarios dig deep into there souls and persevere. If Laurie Strode can beat Michael Myers, then why can’t I ace a test, or apply for the big job, however, there’s a whole different reason why horror movies are a blanket of comfort and reassurance. I use them to help with my depression.
Back in 2010, I was diagnosed with depression. I was halfway through my career in the Navy and when I was diagnosed I was terrified. Not only is this a taboo subject in the military, I was at risk of possibly losing my security clearance and my job. When I told my wife, she was the ultimate comfort in reassuring me that WE will get through this and adjust as needed. Therapy was a huge help and to this day I look back on those days with my doctor and lean on those sessions. Another session that would take place came out of nowhere when one day my wife and I had the great idea to watch all of the Halloween movies (no not Halloween III) and dissect the movies. How many different actors played “the shape” who was the best Michael Myers, stuff like that, it was at that moment I realized the importance of horror movies.
The tenacity of Laurie Strode, the drive of Dr. Sam Loomis, the soul and character of Father Karras, the warrior that is Nancy Thompson. These characters were tested and with steadfast resilience, they all came out to the other end changed forever but stronger than ever. Watching Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers for the millionth time is different than me watching Star Wars IV: A New Hope for the billionth time. Both movies I can quote line for line, but for me, there is not a scene in A New Hope that has the same effect on me that Halloween 4 has. The scene I’m talking about is when Loomis is in the diner that Michael has completely ransacked. Loomis goes to use the phone and realized the line has been cut. He feels Michael’s presence and slowly with fear and trepidation and simply says “Michael, why now, you waited 10 years. I knew this day would come. Don’t go the Haddonfield. If you want another victim, take me but leave those people in peace. Please, Michael…god damn you”. I’ve said numerous times that this scene is pure movie magic. It has everything you want in a scene and more. Good versus evil. Overcoming your own fear at the same time acknowledging your fear. Not completing the goal and then chasing the goal with unabridged tenacity and grit. Loomis never gave up and YOU CAN’T GIVE UP.
It wasn’t till I was in my ’30s that I realized that I was using the character of Dr. Sam Loomis to help me with my struggles in life regardless of my age. Whether it was in my teen years when I had zero clues what these feelings meant or when I was homesick and deployed, or when I was diagnosed with depression and absolutely terrified of what laid ahead, it was characters like Loomis that put a hand on my shoulder and said we can do this, you can do this. Reassurance comes in all forms and at times unexpected sources but as long as it comes. We all deal with emotions differently and some may read this and not understand and there are folks that will read this and understand completely.
I suppose that seeing other people deal with their fear as you try and figure out your fear is comforting in a strange way but it’s as if that one moment you and Loomis are battling your fears together and if for a split second you can crack even a little smile and realize it is going to be okay. Seeing Father Karras battle the demon that has possessed Regan and when he put himself aside and invited the demon into his soul and then threw himself out of the window; that’s pure character, soul, and emotion at work. Now I know leaning on The Exorcist for comfort is absolutely odd and the last place 98 percent of the population will turn to but for some that is the ultimate reassurance that you can overcome adversity and fear, you have the power to carry on. That’s beautiful and that is why horror movies will always be there for me and I will always be there for them.
Comics, Culture, & More…A Personal Journey – Horror Movies, Depression, and Unlikely Heroes
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