Trick or shriek!

Halloween is only a couple of days away and it’s almost a giventhat, between now and then, most of us will indulge in a favoritepart of the season: the scary movie.

But what is scary?

The horror genre has its roots in early short films byfilmmakers such as Georges Melies and in German films such as”The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu”(1922). In the 1930s, Hollywood expanded the monster film genre toinclude moody classics such as “Frankenstein,” “TheWolf Man” and “Dracula.” The race was on.

Scary FuckingQuiz

1. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
2. “We all go a little mad sometimes.”
3. “I don’t think it’s deer though, man. It sounds exactlylike that shit last night. It’s on all sides of us.”
4. “I spent eight years trying to reach him and another seventrying to keep him locked away when I realized what was livingbehind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply evil.”
5. “There seems to be an alien pubic hair in my gin.”
6. “The Trench sisters were two proper Victorian ladies – theycooked and ate several young children, including a niece.”
7. “I have no plans to call on you, the world being moreinteresting with you in it.”
8. “We can’t go into hypersleep with that thing running loose.We’d be sitting ducks in the freezers.”
9. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
10. “To her, it is just another child, but to us it is thebeast.”
11. Silent film, but great fingernails.
12. “I got a rock.”
13. “They know we’re in here now.”

a. Alien
b. Halloween
c. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (Okay, so he’s not scary,but what about that Lucy?)
d. Jaws
e. Night of the Living Dead
f. Nosferatu
g. Poltergeist
h. Psycho
i. Rosemary’s Baby
j. The Blair Witch Project
k. The Exorcist
l. The Shining
m. The Silence of the Lambs.

11-13: You know your horror movies!
8-10: You could play a victim in a horror movie.
5-7: You need to see more horror movies
0-4: Your life IS a horror movie.

Answers: 1(d) 2(h) 3(j) 4(b) 5(k) 6(i) 7(m) 8(a)9(L) 10(g) 11(f) 12(c) 13(e)

Horror films today are often grouped into three categories: thesupernatural (including monsters, vampires, demons, etc.), thepsychological (of which “Psycho” is a prototype) and theslasher (think “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). While thefirst group references the pre-nuclear era, the latter twocategories are post-World War II phenomena, sprung from an erawhich also saw the development of specifically apocalyptic filmssuch as “Godzilla” (1954) and “Fail-Safe”(1964).

But what defines scary?

For some, scary is what jumps out when they’re not expecting it.For others, it’s got to involve blood, intestines, dismemberedlimbs or split pea soup. Some prefer the psychological thriller,where nothing is as it seems and the horror is more implied thanliteral – think of the root cellar scene in “Psycho” orthe plot twists in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Sigmund Freud wrote an essay titled, “The Uncanny,”suggesting that the “scariest” is often the familiarbehaving or appearing in a startlingly unexpected and terrifyingway. This may explain the lure of films such as “Night of theLiving Dead” (1968) and “Alien,” in which the bodyis either postmortem or an invaded space alien harboring a lethalparasite.

Why do we watch? Is it for the adrenaline thrill? Is it liketaking a playground dare akin to who can keep their eyes open thelongest? Some theorists suggest that we’re attracted to theimplicit yet “safe” violence and sexuality in horrormovies. Others suggest that horror films serve as an escape valvefor all sorts of unmentionable, id-based emotions. Whatever theexplanation, it’s clear that we internalize the on-screen action.After “Jaws” came out, some people gave up swimming.Ditto for deep woods camping after “The Blair WitchProject” appeared.

This Halloween, I’m offering a little trick or shriek in theform of a scary movie semi-obscure-one-liner quiz. It’s pass/failand I promise it won’t affect your GPA.

Between now and Sunday, keep the lights on and thecloset door closed and don’t forget to check under your bed everynight. And remember: “Even a man who is pure of heart/ andsays his prayers by night/ may become a wolf when the wolfbaneblooms/ and the moon is full and bright.”