x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The hoary appeal of horror films

There's a question I usually ask myself within about 10 minutes of watching a horror film, and it's usually along the lines of, 'You're scared of horror films, so why are you watching this horror film?'

There's a question I usually ask myself within about 10 minutes of watching a horror film, and it's usually along the lines of: "You're scared of horror films, so why are you watching this horror film?"

It's a question that I came face to face with last weekend as I sat down in the cinema to watch The Woman in Black.

I knew it was a horror, it was a Hammer horror, the reviews had the word "horror" in it and, by and large, any title involving a lady wearing mostly dark clothing isn't going to be a slapstick comedy (with the exception, perhaps, of Sister Act). I'd even seen the stage play, which had indeed scared me. (Come on! She appears in the audience!)

But there I was, eager to watch Daniel Radcliffe and his drawn-on-stubble attempt to unravel the secret of the haunting spectre in the big ol' scary house. And within 15 minutes, there I was, with the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, my scalp feeling like it was a hat that was suddenly too small for my head (does anyone else get this when they're scared?), and my mouth silently urging Harry Potter to not go down the dimly lit hall into the room where all the shrieking is coming from, and instead head home and get an early night. Well done, me.

I really don't know why I do it. Sometimes the internal image you have of yourself can be far removed from reality. Some people consider themselves "sporty" because of an addiction to Fifa. Others suggest they are "music fans" when they mostly listen to Adele and Coldplay and are perhaps tempted to purchase the new Ed Sheeran album. Perhaps my self-portrait is of someone who "isn't at all scared of horror films" when actually I'm terrified of them.

Even when not watching scary movies, I'm my own worst enemy.

For as long as I can remember, I've had this moronic ability when alone in a dark room to think to myself: "You're not at all affected by this dark room, why not prove it by thinking of the scariest film you've seen?" And then, every time, I conjure up an image, perhaps a particular scene from The Exorcist, that bit in The Ring when she climbs out of the telly, or anything involving clowns (thank you, Stephen King), and within seconds I'm motionless, unable to reach for the light switch for fear that a ghostly apparition is going to appear at the window or a wrinkly, blue-veined hand is going to emerge from behind the sofa. I'm 31 years old.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Although as I type this now, fully aware of my condition, you can be sure that as soon as the next fright-fest hits screens, perhaps just like women are supposed to eventually overlook the pain of childbirth to go through it again (apparently, don't quote me on this one), I'll have forgotten it all and will be there, watching the horror unfold through the gaps between my fingers.

If you see me, please just give me a pat on the back and tell me it's not real.

aritman@thenational.ae

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