And the Good Thing is...
by Lovell Mahan-Moutaw

...Movies That Scare the Bejesus Out of You.

I hate movies that scare the bejesus out of you. Horror, gore, screaming, running, blah, blah, blah...it sucks. I have never liked to be scared.

I learned as much about The Blair Witch Project as I possibly could before seeing it. I knew everything, how it was made, where it was made, who made it, how much it cost, how much it was making, who was in it, the premise, most of the story...

...I knew everything...

...except the end.

The end fucked me up for days, no, I must admit, weeks. I turned every light on in my house and haltingly opened doors and closets. That last image in the movie, the one of Mike against the wall, it plagued me, it popped up in my mind at night when it was dark and windy and the leaves outside would rustle.

My neighbors thought it was funny to break twigs and scatter leaves under my windows when I was sitting and reading in my living room. They hadn't even seen the movie and me and my big mouth just had to tell them I was scared half out of my wits.

Of course, my boyfriend, who travels extensively for business, wasn't due to be home for six weeks after my viewing of Blair Witch.

I was alone and afraid and I thanked God that I never liked to camp in the first place.

This happened to me the first time I saw Psycho. Hitchcock was a master (Rear Window, not horror but certainly one of the most highly and enjoyably suspenseful films ever, is one of my favorite films). Psycho was a masterpiece of scary. I saw it when I was twelve or thirteen. We didn't even have a shower and I still flipped out in the bathroom. Janet Leigh claims she hasn't taken a shower since Psycho and I understand why.

Let's not even get into The Shining, only forty-five minutes of which I caught during an all-night fraternity party. Those forty five minutes have kept me away from what some consider a masterpiece of filmmaking. I've never seen the whole thing and never intend to. Redrum can kiss my ass.

Then there was that funky movie I saw when I was a child about the things under the stairs and the other thing with the hand coming up from the grave. Damn, why didn't my mother monitor the television I watched?

I don't get too bothered with the Bram Stoker's Draculas and the Mary Shelley's Frankensteins. That doesn't hit me. Maybe because they were both kinda bad movies or maybe monsters don't scare me.

It is the little girl invading Cole's protective tent and vomiting in The Sixth Sense that gets me.

And Cole taking a whiz while the shadowy figure walks by the bathroom door.

And the unknown of whatever the hell was in that room a the top of the stairs with him.

That kind of thing gets to me.

So what's the good thing?

The memories.

I went to see The Blair Witch Project with two of my dearest friends. We now have the Blair-Witch-on-the-brain syndrome. This manifests itself in many ways including these examples: One of my friends had a dog which was rooting through her garden; she created a few Blair Witch figures out of twigs and stuck them up in her garden - the dog never went back (I kid you not). She told me about this and I freaked, and we both laughed. Also, I was going to an open house several blocks down from my home; the house two doors down from the open house had a homemade twig fence a la the one that batty old lady had at the beginning of the film (I'm sure they thought it was "cute" and "country" and "homey") - I turned and ran. Later I called one of my friends and we giggled for thirty minutes about it. These kinds of things happen all the time, even months after we saw the movie and it lost its power to scare us.

And I saw The Sixth Sense with another close friend. We'd both been assured that it wasn't scary. Well, it fucking was scary and we were both freaking out. But it was also quite sweet, and forever I'll have the memory of going to see that movie with her and grabbing on to her arm and muttering under our breath to each other about friends who lie about movies not being scary.

And I saw Jurassic Park, alone - stupid idea, but I did. I sat next to a homeless man who was claiming his seat through all of the showings and trying to keep inside and safe and dark and alone. Well, he wasn't alone, because often during the film he found me sitting half on his knee and holding his hand and arm. I apologized every time I grabbed him and he didn't seem to mind. He began to watch me rather than watch the movie. He was very pleasant and sweet and he kept me sane through the movie. I was probably the first person who willingly touched him in weeks, maybe longer, and I was lucky he was there and even luckier that he was a nice, patient guy.

And then there was The Silence of the Lambs, which was a superior book. I read it straight through, got into my car and drove to the theater and gorged myself on Thomas Harris', Jodie Foster's and Anthony Hopkins' brilliance. It was a love affair, and far too few people got that, but when they touched, Hannibal and Clarice, I nearly started crying while the woman behind me said, "Gross".

I hate horror movies and I hate to be scared. It sucks, being scared. Gore sucks and blood sucks and screaming sucks. I hate it. But the importance of movies is only partially the movie itself. It is the entertainment and the art and the lesson, and most of the time it is the memory. How it made you feel and why, and who you were with, and how much more it begins to mean to you with time.

The Blair Witch Project will be an important film to me for years - not because it scared the bejesus out of me but because I shared it with two people I loved very much.

So even scary horror movies have their place in my heart - as do all movies (except prison movies, which I detest (with the exception of The Shawshank Redemption) and war movies which really bother me (with the exception of Glory) and...

Lovell Mahan-Moutaw
CineScene, 1999