My dad took me to see Poltergeist in the movie theater when I was 4 years old (um, thanks, Dad?). That was a defining moment in my life, as it produced two conversely related effects on me—my unshakable fear of what is lurking in the closet and my undying love of horror films.
I’ve always been drawn to the scariest of stories. If a movie has a killer in it, I am first in line. If it is loaded with suspense and jump-out-of-your-seat moments, even better. Bring on the psycho madmen, creepy characters, blood, guts and gore. Of course, the classics are the best (a la John Carpenter), and the zombie movies in the past decade (both campy and not) have been stellar. Big fan, huge.
But there is one thing I’ve noticed about my undying love of scary movies lately—it’s dying. And the only things to blame for this decline in slasher flick enthusiasm are the biggest blessings of my life, my two children.
I started noticing it when I was pregnant with my first son. Whenever a scary movie would debut, my friends would come a-calling. Much to their surprise, I shied away from most invitations, saying I didn’t want the murderous moments to spook me straight into labor.
I kept making excuses, and now here I sit, a few years later, with two little boys and a scary movie addiction I used to have. My horror consumption, both in book and movie form, has dwindled to nil.
Here’s why: being a parent introduces a whole new level of vulnerability into your life. There’s something about holding your tiny child in your arms that rearranges your psyche. You now hold a level of responsibility that you never did before—you are in charge of keeping another human safe.
Most parents don’t want to be reminded of the fragility of people’s existence.
Most parents don’t want to be reminded of the weirdos and craziness out there in the world.
Most parents don’t want to imagine their own children being preyed upon by any threat, fictional or otherwise.
I’m sure my waning desire to be voluntarily scared to death has been impacted by societal issues as well. With one horrific mass shooting after another, terrifying situations that used to be just the plots of scary movies are now on the news regularly. Someone coming after a group of strangers with unexplainable bloodthirst is not so inconceivable anymore.
If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is. And, frankly, that’s enough fear for me.
So, it’s time to make a change, and “think happy thoughts,” as they say. I will remember fondly the days that I excitedly sat and watched one chilling film after another (sometimes even by myself), but you won’t find me engaging in that pastime much anymore. It used to be that being jarred into breathless fear made me feel alive; but now, I’ll just take a boring Tuesday, please. As parents, we really like boring days where nothing goes wrong and everyone is happy, don’t we?
Oh, dearest scary movies, the parents of the world bid you a fond farewell. Our hearts spend enough time in our throats thanks to day-to-day parenting; we don’t choose to have them lodged there in our “free” time. It was nice knowing you.