Speaking of scary movies, today is also the day that auteur M. Night Shyamalan is scheduled to release his newest and scariest (and first R-rated) film, The Happening. I’ve seen a lot of hype about this film over the past few weeks and I think it looks like one of the most interesting things that have shown up in the theaters in a long while. But I won’t go see it. Because I don’t see scary movies. Because they scare me.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, almost all aimed at mediating the ‘scariness” of the film. I won’t ever go see a scary movie on the big screen, but I will occasionally watch a scary movie at home under the following conditions: (1) it’s been described to me as “not that scary” by someone whom I trust, (2) I already know pretty much everything about what goes on in the film, especially in the “scary parts,” (3) I get to watch it in my own home, on a television, in the afternoon, preferably a sunny afternoon, and (4) I get to hold the remote (so I can pause or stop it whenever I want).
So, under these conditions, I’ve actually seen all of Shyamalan’s other films and I really liked almost all of them. I think his films are smart and philosophical, and that he is a real master of his craft. But I also will concede that Shyamalalan’s previous films (none of which were R-rated) weren’t “that” scary. My aversion to scary movies has basically two roots—Poltergeist and Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte—both of which absolutely terrified me and which explain my severe anxiety around clowns or psychotic-old-women-who-look-like-Bette-Davis even to the present day. I don't think I actually believe in ghosts or evil spirits, and I'm pretty sure I don't believe that either ghosts or evil spirits are able to inhabit otherwise inanimate objects (like clown dolls, televisions, or trees, just to use the Poltergeist example)... but I do believe in all the scary and evil things that human beings do, especially if they're psychotic and look like the older Bette Davis after being spurned by her community and locked away in an antebellum mansion for too long. And I also believe that it's entirely possible that one of them is hiding under my bed.
From everything I've heard about it, this is what Shyamalan's The Happening captures so well--that is, all the unlikely and improbable things that are so scary because, however unlikely or improbable they may be, they're also possible--and this is why everyone is reporting that The Happening is a genuinely scary movie. So, if you're one of those people who isn't "really" scared by scary movies, I hope you go see it and then tell me all about it.