Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fear: What Scares You the Most in Books and Movies?

I am no longer in the habit of indulging in self-fright by reading books that are too alarming or watching movies that terrify. But that’s today. When I was young and foolish, I took chances.


Back in the day, I read several Stephen King novels that have stayed with me forever. Cujo was the first. Pet Sematary was even worse. I still read Stephen King from time to time, but I read the synopses very carefully before I buy. And I don’t read King novels after the sun goes down.

As far as the movies made from King novels, I think the only one I dared to watch was Carrie. If I had watched the others, I might have been scarred for life.

My friend and critique group co-member Brian Kaufman wrote a few horror novels and ran the chapters through our meetings. I had to “woman-up” and read critically without freaking out. I can safely say that’s the only way anyone will persuade me read about zombies (Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse) or a creepy haunted house with a possessed owner (The Wretched Walls). Also any story that features werewolves, vampires, or Hannibal Lecter.


Brian has moved on to other genres (The Fat Lady’s Low Sad Song). That one is not scary.

I avoid scary movies altogether. Sometimes I get unpleasant surprises with movies I expected to be suspenseful but not horrifying. Like that bunny scene in Fatal Attraction. Or the surprise-fist-through-the-glass-door scene in what might have been Sea of Love, but I’m not sure because it’s the only scene I can remember of a whole movie. When the fist crashed through the glass, my hand that held a container of popcorn flew up involuntarily and shared my popcorn with all those sitting around me. My soda was safely in the cup holder instead of my hand, thank goodness.

Music can be a fear trigger for many of us, I’m sure. Consider Psycho, Jaws, and, for me, the theme from Deliverance. Yes, I saw those movies a long time ago, before I knew better. The music still sends chills down my back.

Are you a reader or movie fan who seeks out the scary stuff? What scares you the most in print or film?


Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is also now available in a large print edition. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” will appear in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, scheduled to be released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was recently interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

15 comments :

  1. Hi Pat.

    I don't do scary, as you may recall.

    Did want to give thumbs up to Brian Kaufman's Fat Lady ...

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  2. No scary stories for me. However, I do read (and write) books that contain occasional suspenseful scenes. My preference is that those scenes don't raise my blood pressure and they include internal dialogue from either the perpetrator's or victim's POV and address motivation and/or fear. The scariest movie I remember watching was Hunt for Red October, which hardly qualifies as fodder for adrenaline junkies.

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    1. LOL -- Hunt for Red October seems quite tame next to Pet Sematary, that's for sure.

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  3. I generally avoid scary movies... The Exorcist pretty much cured me of those! We did watch "Get Out!" at home recently. One thing that taught me was that I can sort-of- kind-of handle "people-scary" movies. It's the "supernatural-scary" movies that freak me out...

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    1. People-scary as in Jack Nicholson in The Shining? I forgot to mention him.

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  4. Thanks for the mentions Pat. Though I'm working in other genres, I still write horror late at night...what scares me is supernatural horror. And that's what I love to write. But only in October. Or when the moon is full.

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    1. Oh dear...it is October, isn't it? And I suppose the moon is full. Everyone can now think of Brian Kaufman (played by Jack Nicholson) writing horror late at night...

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  5. I love scary books and movies. My mom loved Night Gallery and Night Stalker. I grew up watching those series and scary Vincent Price movies with her and we both read Stephen King (Carrie, Salem'ss Lot, The Shining). They made me shiver. Girl child and I usually do a movie marathon in October and look forward to new releases. There are a lot of disappointments now though. It's like horror writers forgot how to scare people. Now there are just a few boring tropes regurgitated ad nauseam, and lots of special effects gore.

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    1. You're a braver woman than I am. I'd probably have nightmares every night if I watched that many scary movies.

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  6. I haven't read any of King's longer books, but his short stories, especially the ones made into movies, like Stand by Me called The Body in the book Different Seasons, plus Apt Pupil, and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. All were terrific both as novellas and as movies. None scared me either. You're right about the music in movies. No one could ever forget the music to the movies you mentioned. Making those scary scenes come alive in a novel is much more difficult.

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    1. You're so right, Polly. You can't write that magic music effect into a book...which might be why I can read scary stories a whole lot easier than I can watch a scary movie.

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  7. I can't do scary or gory anymore - too sensitive in my old age. :D

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    1. I wimped out a long time ago, Dani, long before I got old. :D

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  8. When I was young, like under 8, I went to drive-in movie with my cousins and family. The movie playing was The Children. Now, you could watch that movie today and laugh at how ridiculous it is, but then? I had nightmares for YEARS about kids who, through contact with a toxic environment, turn into zombies and kill the adults!!!

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