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MARTHA SEZ: ‘One suspects them of being spiritually tainted’

October 19, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Have you noticed that the closer we get to Halloween the more horror movie previews we are exposed to? I notice this every year, and I don't like it.

It happens when I'm just watching the news on television, minding my own business, or when I go to Netflix to binge watch my favorite show, which at the moment happens to be "Better Call Saul," a show that is scary enough in its own way, but not in the way I am talking about.

The kind of scary I'm talking about features creepy music and the suspense one experiences when faced with imminent supernatural evil. Sometimes small, precocious children of questionable innocence are included. One suspects them of being spiritually tainted, but often it is difficult to say for sure. Usually teenage girls or beautiful young women are victimized, although they may also be complicit. (And why, I have always wondered, do the beautiful young women have to fall down when they are running away, and then just sit there on the ground in a kind of stupor, staring back at whatever is chasing them?)

The supernatural, by definition, is on a different plane from the one we inhabit. Its electromagnetic frequency is presumably outside our range, and yet somehow we are all able to tune into it, especially after dark. The planes are discrete; some describe them as parallel universes. In the horror genre, however, one plane bleeds into another, resulting in suspense, often the presence of small children and beautiful girls and, in a movie format, the obligatory creepy music.

"Jurassic Park" is about as scary a movie as I can stand, but it is science fiction, not horror. I would go so far as to suggest that, in the life of your average person, encountering imminent supernatural evil, as depicted by Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King, is roughly as rare as encountering a live velociraptor.

"Jurassic Park" does make use of suspense and such gothic horror tropes as imperiled children and monstrous creatures. As in a horror story, the convergence of two parallel planes, in this case the prehistoric and the contemporary, is integral to the plot. The difference is, the dinosaurs, however terrifying, are part of the natural world, and so not entirely beyond human control. The exciting part of all the movies in the "Jurassic" series is when the dinosaurs bust out and prove infinitely more uncontrollable than their scientist creators expected.

Women were not helpless in the first "Jurassic Park" movie. I especially liked the little girl, Lex, using her computer skills to save the group of scientists from death by dinosaur.

When I was in college I read the gothic horror story "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James and as a result was awakened by nightmares every night for a week. Luckily I was living in a student dormitory, so I wasn't alone.

I could claim to have read all of Stephen King's novels since, as my daughter Molly pointed out, if I have read one of his books I have read them all. Technically, however, the only Stephen King book I have read is "It," which featured not only imminent supernatural evil and children, but also dark underground passages, clowns and spiders. That was a long time ago, and I don't know how I managed to get through it.

Watching "Better Call Saul," I do sometimes have to avert my eyes, but so far, aside from the antics of Tuco Salamanca, it is not too scary for me to watch. For some reason, no matter how dumb and fakey it may be, it is gothic horror that really gets me.

I must say it has been pretty scary for me to watch television after 9 p.m. as we get closer to Halloween. When whoever decides on programming at the networks figures children should be in their beds, they start slipping little snippets of upcoming horror movies into their advertisements. Generally I go to bed pretty early; I can't even imagine what they are showing at midnight. For people like me it's generally safer to stick to public television at this time of year. Mostly I am on my guard, but sometimes I look up and see something scary by mistake.

Well, I had better get in my car and drive 50 miles or so now to buy Halloween candy. It is beautiful here, but rustic.

Be careful, and have a good week.



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