Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Terror Tuesday: 'American Psycho' by Brett Easton Ellis

Welcome to another edition of Terror Tuesday, in which I share the books, short stories, movies, and short films that have scared me the most. Feel free to share what scares you in the comments!

By all means, 'American Psycho' by Brett Easton Ellis should not have scared me as badly as it did.

The book itself is not scary in a "the call is coming from inside the house!" kind of way. It's more graphic and gory than macabre or psychological, and yet when I read this book back in my early 20s I immediately had to throw it in the trash can (not even the recycling!) and take out the trash and spend the night at a friend's house. I feel silly even calling this a scary book, and yet here we are.

I think what happened is this: while I'm not as much of a fan of serial killer media as my brother is or my friend Nicole is, I can appreciate a good psychological mind-fuck. "Silence of the Lambs" is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I really enjoyed the first season of "The Following." But generally speaking, I'm not into the genre known as "thrillers," or mysteries, or who-done-its. I especially don't like when the victims are all young women -- which I was at the time I read this book; and I didn't like how Patrick Bateman was a normal-seeming white dude in a suit -- which is what I worked around at the time, too. I remember reading a certain nausea-inducing scene in the book right before my then-boss sent me to stand in line at the bank, in Midtown Manhattan, where I swore I was surrounded by Patrick Batemans.

So maybe that's it: I'm sure 'American Psycho' is exactly the hard-core parody of 1980s American white Wall Street culture that many claim it is, but I wouldn't know because I've blocked out a huge chunk of some of the books more disturbing scenes and refuse to read it again. I guess it's not for single young women still living alone who work among the be-suited young men of Midtown Manhattan to read. As I'll be discussing in future posts, sometimes things are scary purely because of the context in which they are absorbed.

What scares you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Terror Tuesday: 'The Boogeyman,' by Stephen King

Welcome to Terror Tuesday!

Saying that something by Stephen King is scary is a little like cheating, isn't it? Yet, most of what I've read by him -- and I've read a lot -- I don't find scary scary, just sort of mildly disturbing or kinda gross.

Enter 'The Boogeyman,' a short from his collection 'The Night Shift.'

I can barely think about this story without freaking out, so I'll keep this quick. 'The Boogeyman,' is, at its core, a story about parental fears, the fears all parents feel when it comes to keeping their children safe from harm. I've mentioned before that one of my biggest fears since having children is that I won't be able to protect them from bad things happening, and I feel like this is what King explores so well in 'The Boogeyman.' In a very short story King manages to play upon a very human fear of the dark, a very parental fear of something bad happening to our children, and a deeper, darker parental fear of something bad happening to our children that is our fault, and turns it into one of the most terrifying stories I've ever read; and I used to be a horror editor.

Would I be this scared if I had read this before having children? Maybe. 'Rosemary's Baby' gave me nightmares and I saw that movie long before I had kids. In fact, I read so much Stephen King in junior high, especially his anthologies, that I may actually have read 'The Boogeyman' many years ago and just forgot. But, I read it after having both my children and now if you'll excuse me I have to go hug them both and recheck that the video monitor we have for their room is still working.

You can read 'The Boogeyman' for free in its entirety here, though you have to scroll down a bit.