Friday, October 30, 2015


 Courtesy of NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day,
 this is Arp 272, some 450 million light-years away. 

Pictures like this are usually trotted out for Halloween. It’s kind of scary, ghostly even. But it is not the stuff of a good scare. I recently wrote a scary piece for our community magazine. It is scheduled for next year sometime, to be run under the title “Do You Remember… A Good Scare?” remembering scary movies. I thought I’d run part of it by you now.  I began the piece talking about “itchy” things like spiders and roaches and ants - oh, my! -  in the movies, but then I went on to this:

 ---    For a really good scare there is nothing like a classics, new or old: Nosferatu, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Nightmare on Elm Street, Dracula, Scream, Frankenstein, The Shining, or Silence of the Lambs. In many, it’s the musical clues make us nervous: it builds and builds and screams, and then!  But Hitchcock was the master of the art of visual clues. In The Birds, you notice the massing of the crows, or a guy lighting a cigar while gasoline runs from a broken pump and surrounds him. You know what’s going to happen, but it’s still a jolt. In Psycho you see the form of a figure approaching in the bathroom, a knife in its raised hand, and, though there is nothing at all gruesome to see, the unsuspecting Janet Leigh is offed while taking a shower. We see the blood running down the drain. Holey socks! What was that? What’s next? Whew!
      At one time or another, we’ve all had real scares, but the un-real movie scares are better for us. A good movie scare can be cathartic, providing a strong physical and emotional reaction that seems to do us good. Like a really good laugh, a really good scare can be therapeutic. It can take us, even for a short while, away from our sorrows and worries. In some instances it can even provide a sense of closure, a sense of “Whew! Well, I feel better now.” ---

Yes, a good movie scare can be therapeutic, but for me the effect goes on longer than the momentary jolt. I tell you, I can no longer go to a scary movie or even read a scary book. Authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King? I used to absolutely love them. I still love them, but only as far as what I remember of their stories. I will never re-read them. The last scary movie I saw, years ago, was a rerun of Horror Express. I dreamt about it all night it seemed, and for several nights. That was it for me and scary movies. Same thing with the last horror novel I read – I don’t need dreams like the ones they produce.

Scaredy cat? Oh, yes! That would be me! 

The Witch Head Nebula - from today's APOD
- not scary at all

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