My Trick for Watching Scary Movies Even Though I'm a Total Coward

Illustration for article titled My Trick for Watching Scary Movies Even Though Im a Total Cowardem/em

I wasn’t particularly interested in Bird Box. And then there were memes. There were so many memes, my god. So I became interested insofar as I wanted a little more context to understand what people were laughing about. But based on the Wikipedia description and the trailer on Netflix, this was a movie that would offer a lot of tension with little reward. So I skimmed it.

“You SKIMMED a movie?” A friend chatted me. Yes. As I was watching, whenever it felt like something jumpy or terrible was going to happen, I hovered over the scrubber and previewed the scenes, fast forwarding to the point of temporary resolution, or else watching without fear because I’d already spoiled what was going to happen. Had I been watching this with someone else—either huddled in bed on a laptop or with friends in a theater—I would have relished in our shared unease. I may have viewed some parts through the slits of my fingers, but I would have watched. When I’m watching stuff on my MacBook alone in my apartment, I don’t enjoy being on edge as I watch a movie with lots of gratuitous tension. I hate watching characters make a series of predictably bad choices. I don’t like to be uncomfortable. So I skim.

I’m an innately and deeply anxious person, but I’m still fascinated by horror and suspense. I relate to the Ringer confessional in which the author describes reading descriptions of terrorizing films on Wikipedia rather than actually watching them. I do this as well, but for shows and movies that dance the delicate line between being wholly terrorizing and just featuring a few particularly terrorizing moments, I can consume the content mostly as it was intended, with just a little skimming.


You might argue that stripping a viewing experience of its suspense is a disservice to the creator’s intention to build tension. Perhaps it is. You might call me a coward. You are correct. Technology has afforded me an alternative way to watch suspenseful content in a more personalized way. Cowards want to be a part of the zeitgeist, too. We just have to be scrappy about it.

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My co-worker, who is very young and not particularly introspective, does the same thing. My two cents: As a long time film fan of all types and stripesWhy bother? Get involved in something you CAN fully enjoy, rather than dread, ignore, and work-around—get fascinated by some other genre. Perhaps you get a little boost from avoiding and skimming, I don’t know. If I was that shook or anxious before and during a film I would choose something else to view as an entire experience. Understand—a good horror or suspense film is worth all the angst and sense of dread with the lingering effect of great afterthoughts. For instance a movie like “28 Days Later”? I was gripping the arm rests, rocking back/forth and coming out of my seat. (I do make sure no one is behind me...) It was like being on a good rollercoaster ride! The other thing is face your demons and write them down, or if you are artistic, illustrate. Some of the best horror writers/artists are people who have been haunted and compelled by their worst fears. That’s all. Oh! I do have a method for crying during a movie so you don’t end up looking like a mascara mess on the way out. If you slump down a bit and tilt your head back slightly, the tears fall down laterally and out of the way instead of straight down. Not so much as I’ve gotten older, but when I was young you would practically need scuba gear to sit next to me.