It takes more than that to scare me
March 24, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
This short film has been getting a lot of buzz. It’s called Lights Out and is only 128 seconds long. Some people have said it’s the most frightening movie ever made. It takes more to scare me, but I’ll let you be the judge.
Personally I wasn’t scared at all. I didn’t even flinch. You need to view the movie full screen to see that at 0:18, 0:24, 0:28, and 0:31 there’s the silhouette of someone standing there in the hallway. At 0:34 the woman gasps and there’s a blast of blast of ominous music because suddenly we see what looks like a naked, bruised, female body is standing right there in front of her, facing in the other direction. It’s barely visible.
The silhouette in the hallway is interesting only because when I was seventeen I made a very similar drawing for my sister Carrie to silkscreen onto a T-shirt. It was based on the Pink Floyd song “Careful with that Axe, Eugene.”
Here’s my Eugene drawing. Carrie never got around to silkscreening it, which is probably just as well. Who knows what would’ve happened to me if I ran around wearing a shirt like that?
As for Lights Out, I expected an ending like that, so it didn’t make me jump.
Throughout my life I’ve had terrible nightmares. Some of them are in Volume Three of the Ghosts Trilogy, Hallucinabulia: the Dream Diary of an Unintended Solitarian. Of course we’re not all required to be frightened of the same things. I’ve never been all that afraid of monsters. People were much scarier.
The most terrifying experience of my life occurred on December 28, 1995, when Tim and I were nearly murdered by a man with a giant semiautomatic pistol.
Before that night I’d been in several major car accidents. In one I completely lost control on a curve because I was driving angry in the rain. The car spun out so violently that my head hit the window and the steering wheel.
Another time some Armenian gangbangers rear ended me at a stop light. I looked into the rear-view mirror and saw them coming at about eighty miles per hour. I had enough time to think about internal decapitations, in which your skull is separated from the spinal column. So I grabbed my head with both hands and lay sideways across the front seat.
It was the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. I was rammed down into the seat so violently that my hips and elbows struck the metal framework under the padding. My car was knocked fifty feet into the intersection. I’d been hit so hard that the roof was buckled. My poor Toyota Corolla was several inches shorter.
When I realized I was still alive, I jumped out the car, ran back to the dazed gangbangers, and screamed, “MOTHERFUCKERS!” so loudly that I was hoarse for a week afterword. Then I calmed down, held up both hands, and signaled them to roll down their window. After determining that they were both all right, we began to exchange insurance info.
Three fire trucks, two ambulances, and several cop cars showed up because about fifty people called 911. I was able to drive my car home, but it was totalled.
Car crashes, being told I might have brain cancer or multiple sclerosis, and being told that my liver had failed can’t even begin to compare with a smiling, bobbing little shit with a gun about to shoot you in the back of the head.
Yet in June of 2012, someone called and said he was going to come over and murder me. My body reacted for a few seconds; I got chills followed by heat flashes. But then I became very calm. I wrote an e-mail, a matter-of-fact reminder that I’m very heavily armed, and within a few minutes I recieved another phone call telling me that the threat maker was deeply ashamed and would never hurt me. After that initial adrenaline rush, I felt nothing but annoyance.
I used to be afraid of hell and demons, but now I know that one must consent. Evil is volitional. So that doesn’t bother me anymore. If you say, “Screw you, buddy,” you’ll be fine.
Plane crashes are still frightening. A brilliant, underrated film called Fearless, starring Jeff Bridges, Isabella Rosselini, and Rosie Perez, has an exceptional plane-crash scene in it.
I think I’d rather be shot than go through that. And Tim just reminded me of another fear I have: being in the ocean at night, knowing that a huge, merciless predator is nearby.
October 9, 1996
Wearing scuba gear, I worked in black water at the base of a pier. It was night, and I collected silver Roman coins from the mire. There were thousands of them. I had a flashlight that illuminated a circle about two feet wide on the mucky bottom. When I shone the light around me, the beam went less than a yard. The water was like ink.
A monstrous shark circled me in the darkness. Though it was invisible, I could tell that sometimes it stopped and hovered, watching me. When I tried to see it with my nearly useless flashlight, it flexed its body and whipped away. Its sudden movements generated pressure waves that made me sway, and clouds of greenish brown silt momentarily reduced my vision to inches.
As I put the coins in a bag, I knew that at some point a mouth four feet wide would rush out of the blackness, right at my face, but I couldn’t stop. It was inordinately stupid of me to have gone into the ocean at night. No amount of money was worth being torn to shreds by giant teeth. I was terrified, panting into my regulator, my wetsuit full of sweat. Yet there was nothing I could do now. If I stayed, the shark would kill me. If I swam to the surface, the shark would kill me. If I backed past the pilings of the pier toward the shore, facing the open water, the shark would kill me. It was too late. There was no way I’d survive this. Coming down here in the first place had doomed me.
I sensed onrushing bulk and raised my flashlight; what looked like a concrete wall flew past as the shark turned at the last second. It was as big as a city bus. In the silty water, my flashlight may as well have been a birthday candle.
Soon it would all be over. I numbly picked up more gleaming coins, waiting for the shark to finish playing with me and end my life.
So if someone makes a movie about an airliner full of insane people that crashes into a shark- and Humboldt-squid-filled ocean at night, I don’t think I could see it. But there was a time when this terrified me.
Overcoming that fear was the hardest thing I ever did. Someday I may fly again. At night. With crazy people. Over the ocean.
Give me a few more years to prepare.
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