Well they tell me Halloween’s coming up. I’ve never been a huge fan of this particular occasion, since I’m only moderately enthusiastic about dressing up in costumes and my sweet tooth isn’t that big either. Still, I thought it might be fun to take another tongue in cheek look at genre savvy this year and so, without further ado, I present you with How to Survive a Horror Movie.
Now this idea may sound preposterous on the face of it. After all, there are so many different approaches to horror movies, different kinds of threats and/or monsters to menace the characters (henceforth “the opposition” in this article) that being prepared for all of them seems like an impossible task. But it’s important to keep in mind that tackling impossible tasks is what fiction is all about and horror movies are just as much fiction as anything else. So let’s get dangerously genre savvy and see what you’ll need to survive should you find the creepy music tinkling in the soundtrack of your life.
Now I’m going to assume that you’re media savvy enough, or common sensical enough, to realize the basic measures that need to be taken to survive a horror movie. Things like:
- Avoid dark places.
- Don’t go anywhere alone.
- But don’t couple up. Three is a good number.
- Don’t investigate strange noises even if you have an entire combat infantry regiment for backup.
But there’s more to surviving a horror movie than just that. Let’s take a look at some things you shouldn’t do, let me make a few suggestions on added precautions to take and finally look at a few places where your mileage may vary.
For starters, don’t:
- Try to acquire conventional weapons, at least nothing beyond a decent knife. The opposition tends to target the largest, most dangerous people first to prove its overwhelming power and make itself as scary as possible.
- Mock the opposition directly or the people you’re with. Antagonizing the opposition just draws it’s attention, much like trying to out muscle it. On the other hand, being a jerk is a lot like looping a millstone around your neck. People will hesitate just a fraction of a second when you’re in trouble, and that’s enough to sink you.
- Try and drop off the radar completely. The opposition never forgets you’re there and if your friends do… well, it’s like asking to be left alone. And we all know how that ends.
On the other hand, do:
- Try and keep the attitude light. Jokes are okay, just not mean-spirited ones. While the opposition often strikes when you’re feeling relatively secure, and breaking up a lighthearted mood does add to it’s threatening nature, it can’t strike you directly, as then you die unafraid (which is unacceptable) and it can’t continually strike during a punch line – that makes it predictable and thus less frightening.
- Get ahold of a bag of salt. From giant slugs or oozes to ghosts and demons, salt is a great general purpose horror survival tool, either as a weapon or a defense. And if you get trapped somewhere for a long period of time you can use it to season your food.
- Get ahold of a bag of rice. If the opposition is OCD, as vampires (see Sesame Street or just look up arithmania) or human psychopaths tend to be, the need to count it, or at least clean it up when you spill it, will slow them down.
- Get ahold of a bag of fresh garlic. The opposition often smells horribly, which is to say you will not enjoy smelling them; often to the point where your attempts to flee will be overcome by gagging. Garlic was good enough for Van Hellsing to overcome this problem, so it’s good enough for you.
- Try to avoid confusion over which bag is which and combine all three of the above items into one bag. Trying to dissolve a giant slug with a bag of garlic will just make you look silly. Shortly before you end up looking dead.
- Find and burn anything that falls into the uncanny valley. Leaving that stuff around is just asking for trouble.
- Burn any documents in languages you can’t read, especially when it’s in dead languages. Don’t try and figure them out. Don’t take them around to experts. Don’t hang sings around your neck that say “Victim, Please Eat Me”. Just get ’em gone then get out of town.
- Put objects to be destroyed directly into the fire and watch them burn. Put them in a box or something else before burning them and you’ll walk away thinking they’re gone when they’re actually hidden in the ashes. Or worse, some kind of switcharoo will take place and you’ll burn the wrong thing.
- Maintain a respectful attitude towards the objects you destroy. The fact that you regret destroying them may be enough to deflect whatever vengeful spirit is using them as a vessel to attack you. Yeah, the odds are bad but it’s worth a shot. Don’t laugh like a maniac unless you’re prepared to try and out-evil horrible ancient evils.
Finally, here are a few things where value is going to depend on what your opposition is, or what kind of person you are.
- First and foremost, wearing a cross or other holy symbol. If you wear one all the time, great, keep it on. Ditching it probably paints you as a target. But if you don’t wear one normally, putting one on is just as big a target – the opposition loves hypocrites. And not in a good way. Of course, many forms of opposition don’t care about your faith one way or another but oftentimes you won’t know what you’re facing until it’s too late.
- Learning about the opposition is a two edged sword. The opposition gets a lot of it’s fear factor from the fact that you don’t know anything about it. On the other hand, it’s a bad idea to start your research before you know you’re in a horror movie – being the know-it-all is just a another kind of target on your back, so don’t do this until you’re sure you’re in a horror movie so finding out the opposition’s weaknesses, if it has any, can be a death sentence. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Just don’t be the annoying dumb guy.
- Building positive relationships with the people you’re stuck with seems like a good idea. It keeps them from leaving you behind and it makes the time pass easier. However, the opposition likes nice guys. And not in a way that’s any better than it likes hypocrites. There’s a careful balance between being a target and getting along, especially since jerks are just as big a target as the overly nice. It’s probably best to act like yourself and hope everything pans out. Not much of a plan, I know, but in some ways fiction is exactly like life…
So there you have it. The next time you find atonal music drifting through the background you’ll be ready, or as ready as anyone ever can be, to face the horrors of… horror. So long as the film has a decent budget you should come out okay.