I’m pleased to welcome my friend, Nicholas Cara, to Terror Daves. Nick is a devout Svengoolie fan and the accomplished author who penned the highly entertaining Grey Ghost books. Today, however, he just wants to get something off his chest…
I have a confession horror fans, I’m a wimp. There is no way around it, when it comes to the world of horror I’m a chicken, a wuss, a scaredy-cat, a namby-pamby lily-livered yellow bellied wimp. But you know what? That’s okay.
Will you ever see me in a theater watching a new horror flick? Nope. Renting a tape (kids, ask your parents) of the newest or even a dated 1980’s slasher flick? No chance. I mean most show’s on television today tiptoe the line once saved for the strongest R rated Jason or Freddy movies and I’m happy to usually be in control of the remote control safely on my couch which for us wimps is a great feeling.
I was born in 1980’s so let’s get that out of the way here. My generation grew up with the likes of Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers and Chucky. And those VHS’s (again, kids ask your parents) usually came out during every birthday party, sleepover and get together as if they were a rite of passage to the boys of my generation that I would have to survive with one eye shut hoping my friends would not notice. And in retrospect, compared to the horror films of today such as the Saw franchise, some of those horror flicks of the 80’s (which I did eventually see) seem tame. Am I only one that thinks Freddy Krueger might make a face watching some of the films that have come out in the last few years? If I am that’s okay, you might not be horror wimp like me.
So a few weeks ago I asked myself why am I such a horror wimp? I mean, I do understand, no psychiatric degree needed, that internally there has to be struggle in there since while I cannot find myself even stomaching the idea of seeing the latest film considered scary at my local Cineplex I tune into MeTV every Saturday night faithfully to watch the Svengoolie television show. To anyone that doesn’t know, the Svengoolie Show is what imdb.com calls “…an anthology of horror movies, named for its host, who introduces each movie, provides background info on the movie, and performs skits and jokes during intermissions.” So why in the world does this horror wimp never miss an episode of what is called “…an anthology of horror shows”? I’ve racked my brain over and over again on this and finally believe I come up with the reason.
Besides the hilarious talents of Rich Koz walking me along the film every Saturday night, I’m usually joined by another friend. One that has joined me along every story read to me in a book to every reel I’ve ever seen on the silver and small screen. My imagination. The films usually shown on Svengoolie are a brand of cinema that traces back to a time that allowed the audience to scare itself. Through the art of music, lighting and dare I say clever stories the audience could see a suave and aristocratic man who says “Good Evening,” with an accent as the most dangerous monster ever spoken of. But did you ever see Bella actually bite someone? No, but leaving that movie I bet more than one lovely lady allowed their imagination to cause them to touch their own neck, just checking for a mark. Today we get to see through the art of visual effects the gruesome monster’s fanged teeth entering the skin to the microscopic level and that, I believe, is where I’m a wimp. Without anything left to imagine, to come up with on my own, modern horror films leave me empty and unengaged and I guess… well scared. I need the hand reaching out from the shadows and the scream in the distance, not the killer jumping out and five minutes of him bloodily hacking away at victim number four, whose name escapes me, with a large blade.
This horror wimp needs the engagement of imagining the scene himself. Today it just seems like everything is spelled out for you. Bring me there with the score, keep the lighting dark, whisper the wind a little and give me a reason to want myself to be scared and enjoy it. Some of the masters in this were able to engage their audience through just sounds and effects. Have you ever heard the Mercury Theater’s radio presentation of Dracula, or War of the Worlds? Allow yourself to listen to those and let yourself be transported into the story, I promise you’ll jump at every scene without witnessing a single drop of blood. Now not all older horror films are gems, dare I say there are fewer true classics than I would like, for every ‘Them!’ there are two to three ‘It Happened at Lakewood Manor’ but that is what makes the true classic horror films special. And lately newer directors have attempted my craven movie magic. I was almost excited at the attempt of 2016’s ‘Don’t Breathe’ until that one fell off the tracks in my opinion. And I’m actually looking forward to this year’s ‘A Quiet Place’ and what kind of fright shear silence and a snapping stick in the woods can trick my senses into. But maybe that’s just me, maybe I might be the only one out there who lets, and dare I say, needs their imagination to run faster than the zombies on the Walking Dead to enjoy horror. But that’s okay, like I said earlier, I’m a horror wimp.