Sunday, July 5, 2009

5. Look Away

Don’t you ever wish someone had told you to look away during that part in Indiana Jones where he falls into the circus car full of snakes? Or that part in Star Trek where the Klingons dig into a tasty feast of maggots? What about in The Tin Drum, when all those eels dart out of the horse’s eye sockets? But you kept watching, and now you have that image stuck in your head forever, thank you very much. I don’t like bugs. Hate ‘em. There’s lots of movies I like otherwise, but there’ll be that one scene, that one quick shot with something that absolutely makes my stomach churn, and for weeks after keeps me looking under the sheets before I get in bed and examining all my food before I take a bite. I know better than to watch The Fly, or Swarm, or Tremors. But there’s no reason I shouldn’t enjoy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when there’s only that one scene with the giant cockroaches. I really like The City of Lost Children, except for those parts with the flea. They’re quick; if I close my eyes, I’m fine; the trick is knowing when to close your eyes. So I started keeping lists; I’d watch movies and carefully take down the minute and second when the bugs appeared; then I’d take note when they’d passed from the screen for the last time. I did this for a lot of movies, all of my movies, hundreds of them; whenever I’d watch one again I’d have my list at my side, ready for the bugs. I wondered if anyone else did this. I wondered if anyone else would like to have a look at my lists. They were pretty long, covering all of mine, and my friends, and a lot of the video rental store’s movies. So I put it online. First I got a blog, then registered a domain name and got up a full-fledged website. I found out other people kept lists, too, for whatever it was that freaked them out--spiders, drowning scenes, clowns, weird food, blood, snakes. They emailed me their lists. I put them up. I gave them editor access for as they added new movies to their lists. I made the site a wiki, where anyone could add their own lists, their own categories of creepy stuff. I called it (I’d originally called my blog but there was already a website registered in that name, a repository of horror stories of customer maltreatment, where people told the “you-won’t-believe” stories about rude waiters and incompetent clerks.) It took off. People are scared of all sorts of stuff. One guy put up a list of all the movies with unexpected shots of clouds of steam; another has a list of movies where women characters wear red nail polish. Check it out; you can browse by movie title, genre, or specific creepy thing. You’ll see a list of start and end times, ratings of just how horrifying each shot is, from Mildly Creepy (an icon of a guy peeking through his fingers) to OhMyGoshHideMe (an icon of someone behind a welder’s mask with earmuffs and their hands across their face). Stuff gets reported pretty quick; I’ve got guys running bootlegs who put up warnings before stuff even hits theatres. We’re working on getting review copies, as soon as we convince the bigwigs we’ve got a big enough base to make it worth their while. So that’s what I do now, keeping up with the website. A couple of psychologists emailed me once, something about analyzing people’s fears and self-efficacy, but they never called back. Some film students came through once and started vandalizing, deleting every title in the registry, but we blocked them pretty quick and I had everything on backups anyway. Go check it out. You’ll never get taken by surprise again.

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