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Fear Factor, Nightmares, & Scary Movies

fear factor creepy guy

Last month our oldest son woke one night around 1am with his first “scary” dream. Through his tears he told me that he saw the “creepy guy” my husband constructed in our front yard for the annual neighborhood Halloween scarecrow competition. He worried that the guy was walking around on our back porch. I awkwardly hoisted myself up over the side of his crib and curled up beside him, rubbing his back to calm him. We whispered together about the “guy” not being real and how dreams are like movies in our minds. I couldn’t blame him for being frightened. In truth, the guy Paul created was pretty terrifying, even in the daytime! As we laid there together, I starting thinking about scary movies and nightmares and how our brains work.

Finally Noah started to drift off to sleep, his body getting still, his breathing slowing. I felt my own eyelids tugging at my consciousness and resolved NOT to fall asleep in the crib. Suddenly, I felt his small body stiffen beside me as he drew in a sharp breath. I followed his gaze to find a large dark outline hovering over the side of the crib, leaning in toward us. My heart jumped clear into my throat. Several terrifying seconds seemed to pass, suspended in time. “Eliza?” the dark shadow questioned. I released the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.

It was Paul.

Oh MY GOSH he scared the crap out of us. He had arrived home from work in the time I was responding to Noah’s cries. Expecting to find me asleep in bed, he instead discovered I was missing. Nowhere to be found in the house. Until at last it occurred to him to check the baby monitor and there I was. “It’s just Papa,” I tried to soothingly say to Noah and I felt him sigh in relief.

My heart continued to race, adrenaline pumping. There was no risk of me drifting off in the crib after that. I wondered whether Noah would be able to sleep now as well. Another five minutes or so passed and I decided to attempt to head back to my own bed. Surprisingly, no further tears ensued. And before I even closed the door to his bedroom, Noah had positioned himself in his “just about to pass out” pose.

I have never really been a fan of scary stuff. It sounds weird when I write it out like that – as though people generally DO enjoy scary things – I know that’s not necessarily true. But I definitely know people who enjoy the adrenaline-laced fear factor involved in (what I deem) “scary” things like horror movies or bungee jumping off of bridges. Personally, there is no way you could convince me to bungee jump. Not for a million dollars!

And I barely made it through Jurassic Park when it first debuted back in 1993.

fear factor unsplash old theater

Ok, I actually wasn’t exactly truthful with that last part. The truth is – I didn’t make it through Jurassic Park. One of my best guy friends was a big movie buff and always wanted to see the newest blockbuster film as soon as it came out. Somehow I got convinced to tag along despite my resistance. And of course I ended up squeezed in the theater seat between two guy friends who both happened to have dates with them. I vividly remember the part where rainwater quivers in a huge footprint, trembling with the sound of approaching heavy stomps. And then the tyrannosaurus rex appears in the rearview mirror…

Let me remind you that I was not in the theater with a date.

I had no strong teenage arm to clutch and hide my face against.

Mind you, this is how I can always be found watching anything scary: tightly huddled against the nearest warm body, fingers jammed in my ears to block the sound (that’s the scariest part IMO!), and eyes squinted or completely closed depending on the build up of the scene. I promptly excused myself to the restroom and crawled apologetically over the legs of a row of disgruntled people toward the exit. Twenty minutes later my friend found me sitting on the floor just outside the theater door. “How did I know I would find you here?” he asked, as though it was no surprise to him that I had been too scared to return.

When I was still a fairly young kid, somehow I found my way to watching Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho. I don’t recall who I was with that would have allowed it, perhaps I was at a sleepover party or something. Anyway, it completely traumatized me.

I literally spent the ENTIRE following year sitting down in the shower ensuring I never turned my back to the curtain.
fear factor unsplash psycho

I have not EVER enjoyed a scary movie that I can recall. There are certainly some psychological thrillers for which I have an appreciation. Seven, Silence of the Lambs, The Shining… to name a few. All great movies, but none of which I would say I enjoyed per say. And yet somehow again this year “watch a scary movie on Halloween” found it’s way on to our Autumn bucket list. Paul isn’t a big scary movie fan either, thank goodness. And I have found that I can usually get my Halloween/scary movie adrenaline fill in by simply watching previews. However, there is something strangely tempting about watching a scary movie *in the comfort of my own home, WITH my husband* around Halloween.

So this year we chose the 2017 version of Stephen King’s IT.

I was a little disappointed to find it was only the first half of the story. While the original movie was MUCH better in my opinion, the special effects were pretty freaky in this newer one. We also had “watch Stranger Things, Season 3” on our bucket list this year, and had been saving it to watch before Halloween. I definitely spent the majority of the time (watching IT and Stranger Things) with my fingers jammed in my ears, clinging to Paul’s arm. But I didn’t hate either.

Maybe I’m finally overcoming my fear factor. The fear-tinged surges of adrenaline were intense but not intolerable. I think I’ve had my scary movie fill for the next 12 months at least. While I don’t foresee myself doing any bungee jumping EVER in my life, I imagine I will probably find myself watching Part 2 of IT next year when the holiday comes around again.

And for Noah? No scary movies for him for a few solid more years. He recovered quickly from his bad dream. We were able to console him easily the following few nights by promising we would “tell the creepy guy” not to bother him. Who knows if he will grow up being drawn towards things that ignite his fear factor or only dabble in the dark side during this spooky time of year. Only time will tell. Though he did seemed a little sad to see our “creepy guy” get disassembled when we took down the holiday decorations this week.

fear factor pumpkins

What about you? Are you a fan of scary movies? What’s the most terrifying one you’ve ever seen? I’d love to know (mainly so I can make a mental note to keep those off of our bucket list in years to come haha)!

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