When I was in the sixth grade, my good friend invited me over to his house for his 12th birthday/slumber party. I joined a group of our friends there shortly after school got out on a Friday, and we were all thrilled about the festivities to come. Within the first few hours, we had jumped around on the trampoline and compared backflips, played wiffle ball, held a GoldenEye tournament—basically we were having the time of our young lives. After a late dinner of pizza and SpongeBob cake, we jumped back into the video game world. Several Mario Kart races later, the birthday boy announced that it was movie time. And not just any movie—Stephen King’s It.
Being the naïve, social follower I was, when nearly everyone agreed it was a brilliant idea, I feigned enthusiasm. But once I fully realized what genre of film It fell squarely into, I became absolutely mortified at what was happening. I tried to be calm and convince myself that I could handle an old scary movie—“No problem!” I assured my shaking nerves. Then the VHS tape slid into place, the lights went off, and I gulped.
The great thing for fans of Stephen King is that the film version of It has two parts—for me, this was nothing less than an absolute nightmare. After an excruciating 187 minutes I had taken a total of three breaths, and everyone started filing into their respective sleeping spots for the night. I was much too slow, and wound up with a spot on the outer ring of sleeping bags—killer clowns would easily be able to attack my curled up back as I tried to wedge myself into the cozy inner ring, I realized.
The next morning, I woke up after a few hours of fitful sleep, and sat in my mom’s car in a daze on the way home. For the next three weeks, I couldn’t sleep. The first night after the birthday party, I swore I heard a clown cackling downstairs and very nearly shit the bed. Indeed, Stephen King’s It had turned me off of horror films forever. I grew older, and quickly ran away from any terrifying movie that hit theaters, even the ones that became classics. The Ring? Nope. The Grudge? Absolutely not. The Ring 2? Were you not listening for The Ring 1? Honestly, even Scary Movie 3 gave me a few jumps—things were bad.
This is an affliction that I don’t envision getting better anytime soon. I’m 23 and the last time I knowingly watched a horror movie for longer than ten minutes was that fateful birthday party in March 2002. There are several reasons why, mostly which stem from the simple question: why would you do this to yourself? My go-to thought about the horror genre is that I’d much rather sleep for the next three weeks than not, so I stay away. It’s simple. As an outsider looking in, I can only speculate as to what horrifying techniques are used these days to make grown men hit octaves they’ve never dreamed of, but I can only assume they’re extremely gratuitous. Oh, what’s that, viewer? You feel secure in bed? Well then, let’s have a demented, pale, murderous girl-soul appear UNDER THIS GIRL’S SHEETS. Good luck ever sleeping again!
If I sound a little bitter with respect to scary films, it’s because I am. Terribly, terribly bitter. When horror films go beyond normal scare tactics and actually offer something interesting besides the thrill of chronic heart problems, maybe I’ll watch. Probably still won’t though, if we’re being honest. Also, stop marketing them as based on a true story. I get it, the terror is real. Thank you. Now get the fuck away from me.