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The 5 Stages of a Scary Movie: A Case Study featuring Insidious


I pride myself on my ability to get through scary movies. I’ve been in training for years, ever since middle school when one of my friends started hosting an annual Halloween party where a bunch of teenage girls would gather in her basement and marathon our way through about five horror films. I had to fight back the fear-induced tears for those showings or else risk the whole eighth grade finding out I was scared of movies that are designed to frighten people. And when you’re 13, you can never live that kind of embarrassment down. Anyway, as an adult I’ve found myself well-equipped (read: desensitized) in the face of most horror movies, but every now and then one comes along that reduces me to a shaky, paranoid mess, ready to dive into the cowering stance of a startled meerkat at the first sign of peripheral movement. Insidious was one such movie. Below I have documented the reaction stages of an effective scary movie based on the recent experience of one of my housemates luring me into watching Insidious.

1. Denial (of How Scary This Movie is About to Get)


The opening credits of Insidious feature footage of a house run through an artsy Instagram filter (Aged Ray-Ban Sierra, I believe). We also see a creepy and terribly backlit old woman holding a candle and cackling maniacally. What are you trying to do, Insidious, exploit my fear of the elderly? It won’t work, I tell you. What’s the worst that Creepy Victorian Ghost Woman can do—start telling stories about her grandchild’s latest violin recital?

2. Anger (at the Movie for Being a Manipulative Son of a Bitch)


It’s not fair loading your movie with 50 jump scares per minute. I wasn’t ready! Also, Insidious features a number of scary scenes that take place during daylight hours in a normal-looking house, which frankly makes me feel a bit violated. Isn’t there some kind of horror movie law that all the scariest scenes have to take place at night? The daytime scenes are supposed to be the time for me to remove my hands from in front of my face and stop clenching the arm of the sofa, or the arm of my poor housemate. I’m also angry that this movie found a way to make Tiny Tim’s masterpiece “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” sound creepy. (Actually, I don’t know who I’m kidding—Tiny Tim’s entire body of work has always been a little bit creepy.)

3. Bargaining (with the Characters to Stop Being Complete Dumbasses)


It’s a well-known fact that characters in horror movies have to be the types of people who will do increasingly stupid things as the movie goes on, from denying that there’s anything weird going on in their homes to exploring the creepy attics, cellars, or cellar-attics that always seem to come attached to horror movie houses. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to talk those characters out of doing dumb shit every time it happens. I just don’t understand why horror movie people always feel the need to investigate supernatural occurrences. If I saw some creepy figure lurking around my house, I would be screaming and running down the street and asking questions later. I’d probably beeline it for the local police station, actually…because even if ghosts aren’t subject to the laws of physics, they’re probably subject to the laws of local government, right?

 4. Depression (of the Couch Cushions as the Movie Reaches Maximum Creepiness)


Insidious gets to a certain point where it seems to stop caring about silly things like plot and begins to focus on the things that really matter—cramming as many weird ghosts and demons as possible into the last 30 minutes. This was also the point in the movie where I gave up trying to maintain any dignity in front of my housemate and shifted into full-on fetal position. Sweet, sweet fetal position. Nothing can hurt me when I’m scrunched up like that.

5. Acceptance (of the Fact That I’m Not Going to Be Capable of Being Alone for At Least 24 Hours)


I tried, for the record, to sleep in my own bed after the end of that traumatizing movie. But there were lots of dark corners in my room that were perfect for ghosts to lurk in, and then I went into the bathroom and a slight breeze moved the shower curtain, and that was when I knew that the Dignity Train had truly left the station and that I would need to have a Safety Sleepover with Housemates #1 and #2. I recruited a housemate to sleep on either side of me, so that if a ghost entered the room by either the door or the window, they would attack my housemates before they got to me. I guess if I’d been thinking through my scary movie logic, I would’ve remembered that ghosts don’t actually need to go through doors or windows, but I was beyond thinking through the finer details of horror movies at this point of the evening.

Here’s a trailer for Insidious, should you feel the need to subject yourself to it:

As an added bonus, here’s another creepy short film that Housemate #1 sprung on me recently. Now I get creeped out every time I see a cat skulking in the dark:


About Madeline Jacobson

Saturated in pop culture since 1990. Writing about it since 2012. If you want to talk to me about anything I blog about, please do! Comment on my blog, or find me on Twitter @mjacobsonwrites

One response »

  1. Pingback: Horror Hound Weekend Preview! | Horror Horde

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