My 45-Day Halloween

September 10, 2010

I love autumn. It’s my favorite time of year. The last three months pack in the most holidays, and my birthday, and with the cooler weather I can enjoy being outside and wearing more formal outfits than Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops. The sun sets earlier, giving me more opportunity to turn down the lights, put on some quiet music, and cozy up with a mug of tea and a book.

But this year, I am arranging things differently. The evening’s entertainment will fit the season, and because I have so much to consume, I’m celebrating Halloween on September 15th and continuing into November for as long as I can take it, until my brain turns into jelly.

Last year was a real freshman effort: I read Penguin Classics’ American Supernatural Tales every night in October, and queued up only horror movies on Netflix. I averaged one, maybe two movies a week.

This year will be different. This year I’m filling up the mental tank with High Octane Nightmare Fuel.

The plan is three movies a week, through the mail; and two–at least two–online. The reading is still mandatory. This year I’m finally getting around to finishing my copy of Lafcadio Hearn stories, purchased in 2007. I have the 1964 Japanese film Ghost Stories (Kwaidan) high up in the Netflix queue (along with 40-odd other titles), based on folk tales Hearn had translated for American audiences in the 1890s. So I’m getting educated as well as frightened.

The movie list is an eclectic one. I added classic titles like Rosemary’s Baby and Them!; some David Cronenberg films; zombie movies; vampire movies; American cheese; and some ghost stories.

For online viewing, I queued up all the episodes of “Masters of Horror” than I haven’t seen, and a bunch of horror movies clocking out at 100 minutes or less (because I get uncomfortable sitting before the computer any longer).

I sprinkled the queue with some feel-good comedies, to act as a mental balm as the weeks go on. By early November I’ll be using Nickelodeon cartoons and one of the finest (and holiday appropriate) episodes of “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” as an extra-strength dose of brain bleach to get me functioning again.

I go into this with some trepidation. I’m guilty as charged of having an overactive imagination, as well as still retaining some childhood fears. While I’ve outgrown my fear of the dark, I’ve learned to be more afraid of what is hiding in the dark. I never sleep with my arm or leg draped over the side of the bed, because I’m afraid something will grab me. Sometimes when I wake up thirsty, and sit up to drink water from the cup on the nightstand, I think to myself, “What if hands reached out from under the bed and grabbed me?” When I get up to use the bathroom, I avoid looking in the mirror because I am afraid of what I will see looking back at me, maybe right in my face or in the room reflected behind me.

But then, that’s what makes this horror so delicious, compared to the mundane horror of everyday existence. It’s easier to deal with vampires and ghosts than the idea of going into poverty, of letting down your loved ones, of losing your spirit as the world grinds you down. The scares I find in entertainment media are easier to take than the scares of the real world. In this different kind of frightening, I’m also escaping.

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