I think we can all agree 2020 was a s--t show and we would all like our year back. After a year of being on lockdown, parts of the world are slowly opening up again. This is a relief, but for too many, myself included, this is kind of terrifying and I’m not quite ready to be fully integrated back into society.
I have a lot of anxieties about life in general. I’m not quite where I want to be in my career or personal life. I somehow found a silver lining during the pandemic. I realized everything was on pause, meaning all the things I worry about on a daily basis were also put on hold. I understand exactly how messed up it is to find a positive in all that destruction, but I think if you are honest with yourselves, you too may have found some respite in the pandemic nightmare.
Pandemic aside, there are so many other things with which to contend. I’m away from home. It’s difficult to be away from the faces I know and the people and culture that have been a part of me my whole life. For the first time, I feel very much like an outsider. El Paso is nothing like the rest of Texas. I am now situated in the Eastern Central part of Texas and it feels like a whole other world and I have forgotten all of my social skills.
Besides feeling like an alien, I have lost my best friend and constant companion. My dog of ten years went missing last November. I never knew how much I would miss him or worry about him. But working from my apartment and being shut off from the rest of the world has allowed me to grieve away from the eyes of strangers. For the first few months after his disappearance, it was difficult to make it through the day without choking back tears. Already prone to panic attacks, the anxiety increased and crept up at really inconvenient moments, like driving on dark Texas highways.
Well, I am now on antidepressants and exercise excessively. These are ways I have found to manage my feelings. However, finding comfort is a completely different story. Since childhood, I have found solace in escapism. Finding a cozy spot to read books has always helped, but so has watching movies, in particular of the horror genre. Horror has always provided an escape, but moreover it has provided warmth. This goes back to my elementary school days of finding spooky books to read in a dark corner of the public library. Books like Bill Brittain’s The Wishgiver or Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series provided fun that felt a bit like mischief. These books certainly paved the way for my love of horror movies.
These books were like gateway drugs. Naps have always been a rarity for me, but sometimes a nap would sneak up while reading these books, which later progressed to finding a nap while 976-EVIL played in the background. To this day, if I’m looking to take a nap, I find a horror movie to throw on, preferably something from the 70’s or 80’s.
The books led to watching Tales from the Darkside on Saturday afternoons with my mom and grandma, which eventually led to one of my favorite pastimes of patrolling video store aisles looking for the best rental. This was a preferred Friday night activity. While some of the friendships have dissolved over time, I have some really fun memories of watching many films for the first time with those friends. Even now, I still watch films over the phone with my closest friends. We don’t regret a minute of our pandemic viewing of Verotika.
There are films that feel like warm hugs despite the violent and creepy content. The best kind of movies to do this are the ones where the horror is more on the uncanny side. No matter what harsh reality I face, I know that there won’t be a werewolf waiting for me, at least I really hope not. Yet, some movies with their ultra realistic themes and social commentary also find a way to help. When Dani sobs herself into hyperventilation in Midsommar, there is something touching in the way the other women feel her pain.
While films like Lucky, Get Out, or Night of the Living Dead have a lot of realism to them, they open the door for communication and understanding much easier than actually trying to discuss these issues head on. It’s hard to comfort someone or give wise words of advice about real life. Yet it’s easier to assure someone that ghosts, monsters, or immortal killers are not real than to have the patience to deal with someone’s actual fears or problems. For the most part, parents or older relatives know how to comfort you when you think there’s a monster under the bed. There is a safety in that. It is difficult to provide any kind of reassurance when the problem is real.
The world becomes simple again with horror films. There’s an evil, it’s destroyed (sometimes momentarily), the end. If you feel lonely, grab a pint with Shaun and Ed. Be the hero of your own story like Laurie Strode. I’ll tell you about some of the movies that bring me solace in the next article. Sometimes a horror movie can be your best friend. Also, if you are my dog and you are reading this, please come home.
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