I, a Scaredy Cat, Watched 5 Iconic Scary Movies for the First Time: Here's What I Learned (and Want You to Know, Too)
SPOILERS AHEAD for those of you who haven't seen Friday the 13th, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street or SCREAM
I’ve never needed to see a scary movie to know that I hate them. I’ve always disliked being scared at all. I once, when I was 10, let my older sister drive us 20 minutes to a haunted house, only to make her turn back. Another time, I pelted my neighbor with candy on Halloween because he jumped out of a bush to scare us — I was 7. When I was 13, and finally able to get into a PG-13 movie, one of my best friends decided that we were going to go see the 2006 remake of When a Stranger Calls. I dreaded every single moment leading up to it and hated every single moment while watching it.
To put it lightly, the movie traumatized me. It wasn’t even all that gory or traditionally scary, but every time I got a babysitting gig, I would be paralyzed by an overwhelming fear that I would receive a call from a murderer that was coming from inside the house. When a Stranger Calls became my first and last scary movie — until now.
In the year of our Lord 2019, I was brainstorming ideas for Halloween and it hit me: Now is the time to watch all of the scary movies people have referenced through the years — for the sake of content. I often do these types of things to myself; give myself a weird self-dare to see how funny something will be. In other words: I was going to torture myself now and hopefully laugh later. How hard could it be?
As it turns out: really hard. I didn’t anticipate how much anxiety and adrenaline would be coursing through my veins for a week straight. I would finish a movie, only to be kept up until 2 o’clock in the morning, not because I was having nightmares, but because my body could not and would not physically relax.
I also documented my experience on my Instagram Stories, if you are so inclined to watch me slowly lose my mind through the lens of my poor roommate, who I made sleep with his door open for the entire week. I will admit, it wasn’t all bad. Sure, it was mostly bad, but it wasn’t all bad. I did learn a few things from these movies. (Warning: Spoilers ahead.)
Friday the 13th
My first movie was Friday the 13th. I chose it first because the only thing I knew about it was that it took place at camp and I figured, Well, I’m not going to camp anytime soon am I? This can’t possibly be that scary.
But friends, it was scary. In fact, the end caught me so off guard, that I made my roommate sleep with his door open to protect me from Jason (who I kept calling Jared). Here’s what I learned:
- Don’t go to camp. Ever. I don’t care if you are looking for camaraderie and s’mores. Go on Tinder and roast a marshmallow over your gas stove. Nothing good can happen to camp.
- If someone tells you not to go to camp, listen. If you walk into a diner and say, “I’m heading to camp!” and every single person in that diner stops what they’re doing and looks at you like you’re crazy, maybe that’s a sign! Especially don’t go to camp if someone that the town named “Crazy Ralph” tells you not to go. The person everyone calls crazy is usually right.
- If you’re ignoring my first two pieces of advice, at least don’t hitchhike to camp. This is a surefire way to get fully murdered before you even get to camp.
- Don’t have sex in an abandoned cabin. If you’re going to have sex in an abandoned cabin, check the bunk beds before stripping down and doing the nasty on the bottom bunk while your friend is MURDERED on the top bunk. Oh, and check under the effing bed, Kevin Bacon!
- Actually, don’t have sex at all. I was kindly informed by my roommate that this is the ol’ trope of horror movies. Have sex and you die. (Do y’all think becoming a nun is that hard or…?)
- DON’T. LET. YOUR. GUARD. DOWN. Just because the police have shown up to your rescue does not mean that you are safe. In fact, they could be waving to you from the shore as you float along after surviving a mass murder and you should still wonder, Am I safe? The answer is no. You’re never safe at camp.
I Know What You Did Last Summer
Up next was the 1997 classic, I Know What You Did Last Summer. Overall, this movie had enough campy moments in it (Jennifer Love Hewitt screaming “WHAT’RE YOU WAITING FOR?” was so perfect) that I wasn’t entirely miserable watching it. It also had some amazing fashion moments.
Overall, the scariest part of the entire film was that these teenagers were so uncomfortable with the idea of maybe getting into trouble that they were fully willing to commit murder to save their own asses.
- Don’t hang out with people who are total turds. I’m not trying to victim blame anybody (except Barry, played by Ryan Phillippe, he was the worst) but if you have friends who would forego alerting the police about a hit-and-run, there’s gotta be a pattern of behavior. Stop hanging out with those friends. Get nice, happy, non-sociopathic friends.
- Maybe just call the police when you do something wrong. If you find yourself in the same situation as Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe, just call the police.
- If you are going to accidentally commit murder, at least CHECK THE BODY before just trying to dump it?????? Not advocating for murder, but at the very least get someone to check the corpse’s pulse before you plunge the body into the ocean and just … cross your fingers?!
- Don’t just commit a MURDER because you’re worried about your football SCHOLARSHIP. I’m looking at you, Barry.
- Don’t get on a boat with a stranger, no matter how scared you are that your boyfriend could be a crazy, hook-handed killer. I spent a lot of the movie convinced that Freddie Prinze Jr.’s character was “The Hook Hand” and even I wouldn’t have gotten on a boat with a total stranger to get away from him.
- I repeat. ALWAYS. CHECK. THE. BODY. How many times do I have to say it?! I know that there is a sequel to this movie, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and if we were all just doing our due diligence, that wouldn’t be the case.
Halloween was equal parts horrifying and confusing to me. I was constantly asking my roommate why Michael Myers was doing what he was doing. I hated that there wasn’t some obscure moral code that he was following that would make me feel better when I was finished. For the last two films, I had been able to convince myself that I was safe because I wasn’t at camp or an attempted murderer.
I thought that maybe he was functioning off of the ol’ “have sex and die” rule, but it got muddled when he went after our girl Jamie Lee Curtis, who did nothing wrong! For that reason, I once again forced my roommate to sleep with his door open.
The music was the real star of the show here, and I loved that I could tell when something bad was going to happen because of it.
- If you are, for example, headed to a psychiatric hospital, and you notice that the patients (who are considered criminally insane) are on the loose, TURN. YOUR. CAR. AROUND. Sure, maybe you’re concerned! That’s totally normal. Just turn your car around, find a payphone far, far away, and notify the proper authorities. Do yourself a favor. Do Jamie Lee Curtis a freakin’ favor.
- If you think someone is following you, call the POLICE. Jamie Lee Curtis’ character spent way too long being followed by a creep in a mask without telling anyone that she was being followed by a creep in a mask. Not that the police would do much, considering the other thing I learned is that adults are idiots.
- Don’t try to get laid while you are supposed to be babysitting. It’s an offense you should be fired for, but in extreme cases you will absolutely be murdered. Not only does it break the ‘don’t have sex’ rule, but it also is just … wrong? I mean, little Kyle Richards (yes, of Real Housewives fame) could have caught you and been traumatized!
- If your boyfriend is going downstairs to get some beers and shows up in a sheet, pretending to be a ghost, make him remove said sheet immediately before just flashing him. “But we are the only two people in the house! Why check?!” Well, because it could be a psychopath.
- If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times. CHECKTHEBODY! Or at least stab it one extra time for good measure.
- And, while we’re at it, STOP THROWING AWAY THE WEAPON. Jamie Lee Curtis threw Michael Myers’ knife to the ground not once, but TWICE. The first time, she thinks that she killed Michael and just … lets it go. Then, when he comes back to life, she has to face him again, and after “killing” him a second time, she drops the knife … AGAIN. I can forgive you for making the mistake once, Jamie Lee, but after that, I have no sympathy.
Nightmare on Elm Street
I hated every single second of this movie. Well, not every second. There was one blissful minute where a young Johnny Depp wears a crop top, but everything else was pure torture. The premise of the entire movie is that a child killer just has free reign over people’s dreams and it is … the worst.
I will also add that I watched this movie — which was arguably the most disturbing and gory of the bunch — while I was wildly hungover. We’re friends here, so I’ll admit it. My roommate insisted that we watch it during the day so as not to traumatize me further, which meant we woke up, rolled ourselves to the living room and got to it. 10/10 do not suggest watching when you feel like you could die at any moment anyway.
- Don’t sleep. That’s it. Just … don’t, I guess?
- Develop a caffeine addiction and then please refer to the previous rule. Coffee or caffeine pills will probably aid in the whole not sleeping thing.
- If you do sleep, pick someone who doesn’t clearly have narcolepsy/sleep deficiency to keep guard, instead of a young Johnny Depp in a crop top, who can’t manage to stay awake for more than three minutes. That fact that poor Nancy asked her boyfriend, Glen (played by Depp), to stay awake to make sure that she could be woken up, and he couldn’t even do that, was infuriating. And you’d think that, after the first time he snoozed instead of saved her, he would try harder. But no. This boy had narcolepsy.
Everyone told me that SCREAM was the perfect movie to end on because it’s allegedly a satire, and since I had forced my way through four other movies, I would have a greater understanding of the tropes that the horror genre tends to follow.
“It’s kind of funny,” one of my friends said. “Oh, you’ll really like it,” said another. Liars. All of them were liars. This movie had more jump-scares than any other on this list, sending me into a tailspin that had me begging my roommate to let me stop.
- Just…never answer the phone. Ever. I think the lesson to be learned from this film is that, if you don’t ever answer the phone, you’ll never be murdered!
- In fact, just set the phone on fire. You no longer have a phone. If there is no phone at all, then there’s even more of a chance that you will not be murdered. It’s simple, really.
- If your boyfriend tells you that you’re bumming him out because you’re sad that you saw your mom get brutally murdered, dump him, girl! Honey, I know you want to fix him. I know that he looks very sad and a little scary. I know you think he is “the one,” but if he climbs in your window and tells you that he wants an NC-17 relationship and then tells you that your PTSD is messing up his sex life … DUMP. HIM.
- Don’t go through a doggie door. You won’t fit. There’s just no way. R.I.P. Rose McGowan’s character, we hardly knew ye.
- Don’t let your friend stab you in the name of trying to prove that you’re the lone survivors of a mass murder. It may sound cool, but in the end, you’ll just end up bleeding out because he wasn’t being careful enough. Although … maybe you deserve it at that point?
- ALWAYS TAKE THE SAFETY OFF. I am personally not a fan of guns, but if you happen upon a gun and you’re about to make a big speech about, oh, I don’t know, catching the bad guys and saving the day … make sure you can actually use the gun to protect yourself. (Looking at you, Courteney Cox).