Earlier this week, my wife and I made a terrible mistake: Flying home from a wedding, we ate nachos for dinner at Baltimore / Washington International. Thirty-six hours, numerous sprints to the bathroom and a stop at the ER later, we were both emptier than Bernard Madoff’s investment accounts. While standing in line at the grocery store with bananas and applesauce (the only things we thought we could keep down), I overheard a man in a mesh-back cap recommending movies to the woman next to him. He liked Dr. Strangelove. She tried to remember the plot of Cujo. “Never watch a horror movie,” he intoned. “They’re the devil’s work.”
It’s becoming more and more difficult to accuse Americans of senseless prejudice. After all, in 2008 we elected our first African-American president and first Vietnamese-American congressman (a Louisiana Republican, incidentally). But we love stereotyping genres -- particularly horror. Yes, horror stories aren’t “nice.” They don’t strew warm fuzzies in their wake. They’re grim, gritty, macabre. But these qualities are less important than what the author chooses to do with them. Horror doesn’t only hang out with slasher flicks and splatterpunk. It can teach us to fear the right things. Greed, for example. Or humanity’s innate depravity. Or -- and this would surprise my meshbacked acquaintance -- a God-estranged life.
Temptation told me to tap the genre critic on the shoulder and explain to him the true path. But instead I rang up my meager purchase and hobbled out to the car. I had my own horror to face -- an intestinal one.
(Picture: CC 2007 by Bern@t)