Halloween for me has always been less about the costumes and pranks and more about getting the delightful smorgasbord of random, and ‘new’ (as in my parents didn’t normally buy it and so it was a new treat to me) candy from friendly strangers that my parents had vetted. Then when I got too old to go begging for candy (and could pretty much buy it for myself) my Halloween night priorities shifted to enjoying the Halloween programming offered up by my everlasting, loyal friend, good ole’ television.
My programming consisted of safe, more light-hearted Halloween themed fare such as The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror or It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or the Halloween-themed Roseanne or marathons of Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes.
What I didn’t do was real scary, in the form of movie marathons involving the beloved creatures of the night like Vampires or Demons or Werewolves or Zombies or Serial Killers. Nope. No sir. Not even a little bit.
For you see, my friends, I am a wimp. Not quite afraid of my own shadow, but sneak up on me and I might defensively turn and punch you in the throat. Or since I’m so short, pop you in the chest and give you a wicked bruise. I wouldn’t even notice you were friendly and immediately apologize, because I’d have taken off running in the opposite direction to get as far away from you as possible. Better to be alive and apologize than eaten, sucked dry, or possessed because I wanted to be nice.
Unfortunately, this scaredy-catitis (or what I’d like to call a healthy fight or flight response) has prevented me from enjoying some of the more iconic pop culture flicks and being in the know with the rest of my friends. Salem’s Lot, Werewolf in London, The Exorcist? Nope. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Omen, The Lost Boys? Out. Are there cannibalistic creatures or zombies (the creatures I loathe the most)? Yes? Then that’s a no to 28 Days Later, The Descent, Evil Dead or Dawn of the Dead.
I recently dared to override my scaredy-catitis when 30 Days of Night came out. Being the film nerd that I am, I love a good premise: vampires attacking an Alaskan town during the month it is in total darkness and cut off from the outside world? Cool! Sure, it has vampires, but it’ll be okay- especially if I have a little liquid courage beforehand. Unfortunately, I spent the entire movie watching the movie from behind my hands, listening to the horrible things happening on-screen and unable to flee the theater since my movie buddy locked us in by choosing seats in the middle of the theater. As a result, I spent the rest of the night completely sure that vampires were going to stumble out of a side street alley as I walked home or just crash into my apartment to rip my throat open before my friends could do anything to save me. I was so worked up that while recovering from my trauma at said movie buddy’s apartment, I nearly punched her curious cat when it made the mistake of sneaking up on me in that creepy way cats sneak up on people.
After that incident, I had resigned myself once again to not being able to enjoy the scarier things in life. No matter how cool the premise, I just wasn’t built for that kind of entertainment.
And then The Walking Dead shuffled onto the scene in 2010 and took cable and pop culture by storm. Everyone was talking about it and praising it as game-changing television, and as a woman who prides herself on being up on everything pop culture, it killed me to not be watching that show. I’d try to innocently channel surf my way to ‘stumbling’ onto AMC when the show was on, but would chicken out for fear of seeing a zombie or a zombie eating someone or some other ooky thing. I tried to ignore it, but the love for the show just kept getting bigger and bigger until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
I had to watch this show. I had to get over my scaredy-catitis.
So I rented the season one DVDs, turned on all the lights in my apartment, locked all the doors so as not to be disturbed or surprised by friends or zombies, and plopped down on my couch to watch the show.
Six hours later I was a Walking Dead fan, and somewhat less of a coward. Yes, it was gory and intense, and there were times I thought I heard shuffling and gurgling breathing in my basement (which I handled by jamming a chair under the basement doorknob until a roommate returned to check it out), but I had made it the entire way through the season without turning it off or hiding behind the couch pillows! This was major progress for me!
My breakthrough with The Walking Dead has allowed me to be a little less fearless in checking out season one of American Horror Story, which may not have been a completely coherent series, but was creepy as all heck and darned good time. Now, I’m watching this season of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Asylum (both worthy of a Halloween weekend marathons) with eager glee and anticipation of the gore (even with the lights dimmed a bit, but always with the doors locked and a weapon handy, should the need arise). I’m not a completely reformed wimp, but I’m not letting it keep me from the things I love-like good television.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
The Simpsons Tree House of Horror
The Walking Dead
The Twilight Zone