I have a story for you all. I think it’s an important one if you’re to understand my perspective going into the topic for today.
See… I’m not a big fan of being scared.
Actually, that’s not strictly true. I do like a little fear in my media, so long as it’s in controlled doses. I chalk it up, ultimately, as a dislike of being out of control. I think this is why I like scary things like true crime – though they’re scary, I’m still exercising control in learning about these worst case scenarios. (As if, I don’t know, knowing more about Jeffrey Dahmer makes me more equipped to handle myself in a crisis situation. It’s not logical, I know.)
But things like scary movies or haunted houses… they’re fear for fear’s sake. And that’s the kind of fear I’m not a fan of. This has been true about me for as long as I can remember, but my particular hatred of purposefully scary things stems from one traumatic experience… my tragic backstory, as it were…
Before I entered high school and ruined my family’s schedule with marching band, we liked to go camping a lot in the summer and fall. It was the main way we vacationed – packing up our camper and towing it to some campsite, sometimes meeting friends, other times just hanging out as a family around the campfire. These were some of my most fun family memories.
In particular, I loved when we would go to campsites around Halloween. Many family campsites would organize Halloween-themed events, including trick-or-treating around the campers, costume contests, Halloween-themed karaoke, and all manner of fun spooky activities. And of course… there were the haunted attractions.
Often, these were hayrides, as is the one in this story, but there were haunted mazes and houses too.
But the hayrides… oh the hayrides. Great, lumbering tractors snarling, pulling behind it a wooden wagon filled with straw that somehow managed to poke its way into shoes, hair, mouths… even through the fabric of your pants. And then the tractor would rumble off onto some pre-determined path through the woods, as campsite employees dressed in Party City Halloween costumes and doused in fake blood hid in their pre-determined areas.
I don’t remember how old I was when I took this fateful ride, maybe ten, maybe even younger, but I do remember my friend Sarah, whose family we were camping with, nervous to go on it.
Confidently, I advised her, “Just imagine all the scary people in their underwear.”
After a long, long wait where me, Sarah, Sarah’s little brother Andrew, and our moms made up songs to pass the time, we finally boarded that chariot to hell.
I’ll be honest – I don’t actually remember much of what made this particular hayride so terrifying. Really, I only remember two things.
One: at some point in the ride, wet spaghetti was thrown at us from the bushes. I assume this was meant to simulate guts, but it was not very appreciated.
Two: During the ride, a man with a fake chainsaw leapt onto the back of the hayride, coincidentally where I sat with my face implanted into my mom’s glove (where, ironically, I could not picture any of the scary people in their underwear, because I could not see them), and Sarah had barricaded herself under the bench of the wagon. This was not very appreciated either.
And since that night, anything with “haunted” in it makes me nervous. My freshman year of high school, I was blackmailed into going into a haunted house at Universal Studios and even though it wasn’t that bad it was not worth the horrible anxiety I felt in the line leading into it. That same trip we went on Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride, and I felt that same terrible anxiety right up until I realized the ride was “Nightmare Before Christmas” themed for the holiday season, and that the ride actually wasn’t that scary.
And, even when my best friend convinced me to face my fears head-on when she invited me to come to Conner Prairie’s Headless Horseman night, which features, surprise-surprise, a haunted hayride, and I rode it, and it was perfectly fine… none of that changed my gut reaction to anything “haunted.”
No matter how many times I’m proven wrong about this, I’m convinced each new haunted thing is going to turn out like that first fateful hayride.
I apply the same anxiety I feel about haunted houses to horror movies. In a way, both are relinquishing control of my fear to an outside source, a source I cannot stop. Okay, I can stop a horror movie, but like… you know what I mean. I can’t just quit my fear, and since most horror movies are fictional, I can’t learn facts obsessively about them like I can true crime.
…Or can I?
So what does this all have to do with the topic for today? Well, today I’m talking about a Youtube channel I’ve become obsessed with lately – Nyx Fears.
Nyx Fears, or May, is a Halloween-loving movie and media critic who creates hilarious and fascinating critical analyses of mostly horror movies. She’s probably the exact opposite of me in that she really embraces the macabre and the horrific, both in her personal style and in her tastes. She decorates her living space like it’s Halloween all times of year and, most pointedly, she enjoys horror movies.
And this is my new favorite way to consume horror movies. May’s analysis is filled with admiration for the craft of horror film, and she always has a fascinating take on each movie. And I’ve found that this method of consuming horror… well, it just works for me.
Maybe it’s lame, but as much as I dislike being scared, there’s something fascinating about horror that I often find myself unable to enjoy thanks to my particular issues with being scared.
But May’s videos are the ultimate solution. She takes great horror movies, steps back from them, and presents them in a humorous and informative light. Not only does this allow me to experience them indirectly, but it also, in some cases, has made me more willing to watch horror movies less as an uncontrollable source of fear, and more as a piece of art with a message.
Now if she could just convince me to figure out my problems with haunted hayrides…