While researching horror films in grad school, I came across a few interesting articles that took an ethnographic approach to the genre. One such article interviewed college students about traumatic childhood experiences of watching scary films; interestingly enough, subjects reported frequently about the impact of watching movies like The Exorcist, Jaws, or Halloween at too tender an age.
These articles fascinated me in part because I had similar experiences. For years, I avoided horror films in part because of a few psychologically scarring incidents as an impressionable youth. Case in point: my brother and I caught snippets of Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI on cable, and afterward, Jason Voorhees frequently appeared in my nightmares. Even after I started watching horror films in middle school, I refused to watch Friday the 13th movies until I was in college.
But in the interest of self-reflection and maybe a little therapy, I’ve decided to revisit my most traumatic cinematic reception experiences from childhood. I’m interested in better understanding my frightened responses, and also reflecting on the ways that these films may have shaped my later viewing experiences and tastes. What’s more, I plan to use this exercise as a way of demystifying those texts which previously had so much power over my imagination–what may have seemed frighteningly realistic as a child might now come across as gloriously campy. Finally, this series will give me a chance to consider the ways memories can be impacted by emotions, since I expect that much of what I recall about these initial viewing experiences won’t quite jibe with the text as I see it now.
These entries will likely be a combination of confessional tales, film reviews, and self-reflection. First up will be the aforementioned Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI. Check back for the entry soon.