When it comes to the multitude of movies available to watch, one genre I am always up for is horror. Much like the thrill-seekers who visit theme parks, I watch scary movies because I can get my adrenaline pumping and test my fight or flight instincts all from the safety of being strapped into a seat at home or at a theater.
With the rash of realistic slasher films recently released, I distinguish horror movies into 2 categories. The first category is the “Ghosts & Goblins” bucket in which movies with extraterrestrial beings or undead friends , family members or pets would fall. These are titles like Pet Sematary or The Sixth Sense. The other kind of horror film are the realistic ones that you could actually imagine yourself in (usually much too well) if you had a remote cabin deep in the woods miles and miles away from anyone else or if you happened to have the bad luck of having car trouble along a windy backroad not even yet mapped on the map you bought at the 7-11 before starting your journey. Recent titles in this “It Could Happen To You” category are Vacancy, The Strangers and Funny Games.
Now I know I don’t own a secluded cabin in an old mining town, but I might stop at a run down motel if it was late enough or if I really needed to. Because I can’t trust myself and what I might do if left alone on a dark, stormy, eerily creepy night stranded on the side of the road, it has become quite obvious that the movies that do the most frightening damage to me are the realistic ones.
All in good fun, I wrap scarves or sweatshirts around my neck while watching so that I can have something to cover my eyes with when the suspense becomes unbearable, when the protagonist has the terrible fate of needing to fetch more breadcrumbs from the pantry closet for the meatloaf she’s making and I know the man with the hatchet is standing there in waiting. It’s a good, simple, fun thrill; one that’s enjoyed and easily dismissed when returning home from the theater with a turn of the deadbolt on my front door.
Driving home from Irene’s last night was a different story. Cruising along at 60 on an otherwise empty freeway, I thought about the week ahead and the past weekend’s events. After a while, headlights filled my rearview mirror, and from the height of them in the mirror, I could tell it was a large car, an SUV. Practically hugging the bumper of my car, it hurried along at a constant speed three inches behind me. I looked left at the 3 open lanes next to me and wondered why it didn’t just change lanes.
A few miles ahead, a car was merging on at a much slower speed, much slower than the slow 60 I was already going. Behind me the SUV was driving half in the lane and half on the shoulder, as if it were thinking about passing us both on the right. I moved into the left lane to pass the slow merging vehicle and changed back to get in front of it so that the SUV could pass us both on the left. With some relief I settled back into the far right lane, but to my horror, I found the SUV was once again right behind me, leaving the empty left lanes just as they were.
This game of tailgating went on for some time and finally when I put my blinker on to exit, the SUV followed suit.
It just wanted to exit, that’s all. That’s why it had stayed in the right lane.
But it wasn’t. When I noticed it actually wasn’t the exit I wanted, I turned off my blinker and pulled left, out of the exit lane. And so did the SUV.
This happened once more, as I was about to exit but changed my mind. The SUV followed close behind, mimicking my every move – the turning on of the blinker, the changing lanes, my exact speed minus 2 mph.
What had been calm inside me turned suddenly into panic. Surely the cars around me could see, couldn’t they see this Crazy stalking me? Was this a real “It Could Happen To You” moment in the making???
All I could think about was what would happen if I were in a movie, what could I do. Reflecting back on all the horror movies I’d seen, nothing good could possibly happen. Usually nothing the protagonist does is ever the right thing, and there are actually no good lessons to be learned in any of them. How would we have sequels if the protagonists all knew just what to do?
Finally, I reached a stretch of freeway with more cars whizzing along. I had quit doing 60 a while back, when I realized the SUV could actually run over my car and then I would truly be in a bad place. Speeding along at 80, 85, I finally lost the SUV. Or maybe it had run into a tree and did us all a favor. Whatever the case, I may have to hold off on watching any more scary movies for a while. I also have to make sure to always be prepared with at least half a tank of gas. And I also deserve to continue hating SUV’s. Really, could you imagine a Prius or a Chevy Aveo doing this? I think not.