The latest instalment of 31 Days of Horror 2020 comes from writer Dorianne Emmerton.
2020 is horror film that would get very poor reviews. Environmental apocalypse, rise of global fascism apocalypse, pandemic apocalypse – sheesh, it’s totally unbelievable those would all be happening at the same time, pick one!
Related to the new and awful circumstances of my life, my brain-work-good skills are at an all-time low and you will find absolutely no erudite film analysis in the below. These are just the films that popped into my head when asked to write this, and it’s little more than a narcissistic stream of consciousness. Enjoy!
Invaders from Mars (1986)
This is not a good movie. At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not a good movie. I have heard that it is a bad movie from people whose opinions I respect. It is, however, the first horror movie I ever saw.
I was far too young. I was born in 1978, so by the time the film got to the wall of rentals in the convenience store in my half-a-horse town, I was probably ten. My babysitter at the time thought that was old enough to watch the film he’d brought. I doubt he ran this by my parents.
The things I remember are:
● The teacher eats a frog. Gross.
● Everyone you ever loved or trusted is actually out to get you. This spoke to some of my own insecurities and gave them a lively boost. Not that I thought people wanted to access my brain through the back of my neck to take over my body. Just that they all secretly hated me, and were just waiting for the most hurtful moment to let me know.
● At the end, it all starts over again. There is no escape. Such is life.
Luckily I am now a grown woman with a good job that includes health benefits for therapy.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Ok, so it’s not a horror movie per se but it’s got “horror” in the title, and evil aliens, and murder, and cannibalism, and this is about me and delving into my psyche, so we’re talking about it.
My parents rented Rocky Horror when I was fourteen. They had seen it before. They wanted to show it to me – on purpose. They probably had to drive to the next town, which had a full rental store. (Not Blockbuster. We didn’t have anything that big name. Heck, we didn’t have a McDonald’s at the time.)
After it was over they were concerned that I didn’t seem to enjoy it.
“No, I loved it,” I responded.
“But you didn’t even laugh,” they said.
How can you laugh when you just watched depictions of oral sex and fetishy gender-bending while sitting beside your parents? How can you laugh when the whole time you’re thinking: Oh my god they know I’m queer, they want me to tell them, that’s why they’re doing this – isn’t it? Or not? I can’t tell them! But maybe they know I’m queer? Oh my God. And also… am I kinky?
Anyway, I’ve never been to one of those nights where people dress up and throw things at the screen, but I do know every word off by heart, and I’m out to my parents. And I’m out to my parents. About being queer, at least.
Evil Dead (1981)
I didn’t know I was entering into a fandom that would help me win friends throughout my early adulthood, which really helped as I moved to Sudbury, Mississauga, and then Toronto. I did know was that it was a bonding experience with my parents, despite that it now seems shameful, in the retrospect of my feminism.
There is a scene where a character is sexually assaulted by a tree. My parents and I went off on tree puns that were also rape jokes. I’m not proud of this. But it’s a moment in my fraught teenage years where my parents and I connected and appreciated each other, and for the rest of the time I lived there we could make each other laugh by bringing those bad puns back up. Our house was surrounded by acres of trees, so there was a lot of opportunity. And that’s something that helped being a miserable closeted fat queer in rural northern Ontario in the 90s.
Audition (Takashi 1999)
I know one of your previous writers already listed this, but this is my article, so you’re getting it again, because this is the only film that has made me feel seriously, physically, frightened as an adult.
Sure, I had just eaten a weed cookie. I had also just moved in with a boyfriend (mistake) into an apartment in an old, creaky house where the neighbours harassed us for the slightest noise, and certainly did not abide us smoking weed. Thus the cookie. My boyfriend was away on a trip so I could indulge my love of sub-titled horror films, which was not in his realm of interest. (We didn’t have anything in common but an appetite for drugs.) But edibles have always had an uncomfortable agitated effect on my body, and I was alone in the strange apartment, and Takashi Miike’s masterpiece had me clutching the blankets and checking under the bed.
Perhaps some part of my naïve early-20’s heart was making unconscious connections between my awful boyfriend and the misogynist protagonist of Audition, who lies and cheats his way into a hot young wife, Asami. Maybe I knew that I wanted to be a dangerous woman, not a compliant one. If so, then my terror stemmed from just how extremely violent Asami becomes, and fear of finding that capacity in myself.
But now I’m 42 and so far I have not cut off anyone’s body parts. I suspect I never will.
28 Days Later (2002)
2020 is perhaps not the best time to be recommending films about a virus, but this is really a zombie movie. The zombies were different from any zombies I had seen before. The zombies were fast.
I’ve always loved zombies, perhaps because of some similarity with my original terror with Invaders from Mars – zombies are people you love and trust, and then they change and they turn on you. Usually, you have some time to process what’s happening and run away because the zombie is slow. But in 28 Days Later they are out to eat your brains at the speed of an Olympic runner. I am the opposite of an athlete and would be breakfast for the living dead about ten minutes after I woke up from a coma.
The protagonist, Jim, wakes up from a coma at the beginning of the film. You see his eyes, Cillian Murphy’s gorgeous eyes. This was the first time I had seen fast zombies, and also the first time I had seen the heart-rending beauty of Cillian Murphy’s face.
The military is a rapey organization in the film, as in life, and I like that fair representation. Danny Boyle is a very good director; everything is slick and visually stimulating. Cillian Murphy will never be my boyfriend, but I’m probably not going to get eaten by zombies. We’ve already got three apocalypses happening right now, throwing zombies into the mix just wouldn’t be fair. I hope the universe agrees.
Dorianne Emmerton grew up in Northern Ontario and now lives in Toronto where she writes queer and/or speculative fiction and organizes literary events such as the bi-monthly Brockton Writers Series and the Author Showcase at the annual Bi+ Arts Festival. She has short stories in venues such as The Bronzeville Bee, The Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, and Room Magazine. You can follow her on twitter @headonist.