Zombies scare me.

I know that this is part of the point of zombies; they’re not usually in a story to make it more cuddly or increase the romantic angst, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies notwithstanding.  But I tend to have a really bad reaction to zombie movies or books (World War Z in particular) that’s disproportionate to the source.  It’s to the point where I’m unwilling to play even as fluffy a game as Plants Vs. Zombies because I know I’ll have nightmares later on.  That’s pretty damn sad.

The thing is, I’m pretty sure it’s not the zombies themselves that I’m scared of.  It’s what they represent to my subconscious.  Contagion, panic, friends turning hostile and murderous.  Those are the things that get to me.  And I know some of this has to do with my own personal issues (it’s probably no coincidence that I had my first zombie-related nightmares after getting some bad medical news).

It’s been discussed at length that trends in horror tend to correspond to similar undercurrents in popular culture.   Trouble is, I don’t know enough about horror or popular culture to make a sweeping statement about the zombie zeitgeist.  But for a number of reasons (one of which is, admittedly, along the lines of “holy crap I need something to write a blog post about”) I’ve been thinking about fear, specifically the kind of fear that makes you freeze up rather than panic.  And I’d rather not reduce every monster down to its sociological underpinnings, not least because that kind of analysis strips away all the nuance.  (I get irritated with attempts to map stories out as allegory for the same reason.)

What interests me is that point of personal contact — the individual shiver, the image that’ll stay with you till late that night and the next.  For me, it’s the idea of losing everything and everyone, the despair that permeates a lot of zombie apocalypse stories.

So what monsters scare you, personally?  Nameless horrors for their implications of an uncaring cold universe?  Werewolves for their unbridled id?  Ghosts for their implacability?  Haunted houses for their shifting geographies?  Or are there certain setups in horror that trigger it for you, rather than the monsters themselves?  (Or are there monsters that scare you for reasons that have nothing to do with their symbolic roles?)

10 Responses to “braaaaaains”

  1. August 26, 2009 at 9:18 am

    As presented in one of my classes, monster theory essentially states that where society has a conflict, monsters in fiction arise. Apparently my conflict all has to do with being tormented by my grandfather’s Irish fairy stories as a child–fairies scare the daylights out of me. I can’t go out at night by myself without cringing a little, not the least bit afraid of bears, but of fairies, or fairy circles, or nightmares, or banshee. It’s very silly of me.

    Zombies, however, don’t phase me in the least.

  2. 2 Mia
    August 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I find that most of the normal horror tropes don’t really get to me. The first movie I ever saw was Fright Night and I always had a bit of a crush on Robert Englund so I’m not really the terrified at the horror movie type, but there are a few monstrous things that can literally make me hyperventilate.

    1. Clowns – I don’t know why, but I just don’t trust that painted on cheesy grin. I’m not the worried about harlequins or mimes, ect…they don’t scare me, but put on a squishy red nose and oversized shoes and I’m done.
    As the boys from Supernatural said:
    Dean: Planes crash!
    Sam: And apparently clowns kill.

    2. Evil Homicidal Families – Whether it’s the crazies in the Hills Have Eyes, or in House of a 1000 Corpses, after I see a horror movie with an evil family I dwell on it for weeks. It’s probably some deep-seated fear about my family turning on me or something.

    Those are really the ones that do it for me when watching horror movies. Of course, I can convince myself all manner of things are scary at night with the lights off. 😉

  3. 3 Terri-Lynne
    August 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    People scare me. Ghosts, zombies, monsters of all kinds–nah–not scared of them when the lights go out. People. If I find myself alone in a parking garage with Joe the Mailman, I may just scream bloody murder. Really, aren’t monsters just putting our fear of one another into a perspective we can handle? There are no monsters–but there are monstrous people. ::::shudder::::

  4. 4 Emily
    August 26, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Mirrors. But you knew that.

    Things where something is just one degree off from reality: the television that flicks on without the remote, the shadow falling the wrong way, the bus message that reads “HELP” instead of “OUT OF SERVICE”…

    Things that reinforce eerie paranoia–like the announcer on TV addressing the person who’s watching (from _The Game_) or random shapes assembling into messages (“FULFILL THE PROPHECY!”) or a group of people simply staring in one direction soundlessly.

    Eggh. I’ve just creeped myself out enough to want a huggy bear.

  5. 5 mlronald
    August 27, 2009 at 7:20 am

    NotAnotherExit, I like that take on monster theory. Can you recommend anything to read on it? (And wow, I hadn’t considered fairy circles as scary at all. Maybe I’ll take on the fairies and you take on the zombies? Or is that tempting fate?)

    Mia, Clowns haven’t ever hit my personal freakout button, and I’m not sure why. I can see how scary they could be, but most of the time they’ve just seemed sad rather than scary. (Although when they’re really good, not even the rubber noses can stop them from being funny.) Families, though…I’ve stayed away from horror movies like those two, so I don’t know how deeply they’d affect me.

    And yeah, all kinds of things suddenly become scary late at night. I’ve learned never to read even slightly scary novels while at my family’s old cabin, because the “skitterskitterskitter” of squirrels on the roof takes on all sorts of bad meanings.

    Terri-Lynne, that’s a good point about monsters being our fear of other people given a different focus. Does it still apply to the nameless-Lovecraftian-horror aspects as well — or as Em mentions, the sense of something slightly awry? I think the cases where the monster masquerades imperfectly as a human (viz. “I do not drink…wine”) is a point where they overlap.

    And Em, it appears we have similar scare points. Who’da thunk it. The mirrors are probably just the most obvious symptom of that. (I remember some really old Flash cartoon in which the beardy old scientist was put in a mirror-lined room to drive him mad, and I didn’t really find that plausible until I imagined being in the same situation, at which point aaaaaaa.)

  6. August 27, 2009 at 11:21 am

    You know, Zombies were never on my personal fear-meter until just recently. I decided that I was *mumble forty something mumble* and that it was completely ridiculous that I had never had the guts to watch a horror movie. So I tried to watch Dawn of the Dead, because there was a cute dog in it, but couldn’t make it in very far. And ever since then???? Terrible nightmares about zombies.

    And merry go rounds, for some reason.

  7. August 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Cockroaches. I have a serious phobia of cockroaches. I’d rather there be a zombie in my house than a cockroach.

  8. 8 mlronald
    August 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Cathy, sometimes that’s just enough. (And there’s a cute dog in Dawn of the Dead? Oh dear. I’m guessing it doesn’t make it, right?) I know there are horror movies that I ought to see for their storytelling, but I know my weaknesses. Maybe if I followed them with, say, Disney movies.

    Kat, ew ew ew ew ew. Cockroaches are less of a fear and more of a creep-out for me, but I’d really, really rather not be in the room with one. My skin’s crawling just thinking about it. Ew.

  9. August 31, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    With regards to the dog: They made a point of stating that the zombies were not interested in dogs, so technically, I guess that he made it. Since I was unable to make it through the end of the movie, I turned to IMDB who stated that the “heroes” made it to the supposedly zombie free island.


    But I have faith that the dog made it and that there were lots of bunnies to chase and a girl dog to hang out with on the island.

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