Let's applaud the hapless victims in horror films. They contribute so much to our enjoyment of their terror, their hysteria, and their blood. They are sliced, diced, minced, blintzed, mangled, strangled, eaten, beaten, slurped, blurped--feel free to insert your own action verbs here--and grilled and chilled in countless ways, just to make us jump in our seats, upchuck our popcorn, or tickle our fright-bone. They lighten our distressing job's tedium and those tomorrow's and tomorrow's and tomorrow's doldrums. Their witless, death-attracting antics creep forth in an endless and frenetic pace from film to film, keeping us happy--because we are not them.
The more paranoid you are, the safer you are, that's the public service message every horror movie leaves us with. Anyone who takes a dirt road detour, leaving the sureness of good solid tarmac beneath their wheels, well, what more can be said? If you follow directions from a toothless, unwashed, gas station attendant with expensive tourist swag in his unkempt excuse for living quarters, you're just begging for it: the drawn-out and quartered, bloody end of it. But if all horror movie victims acted smart and careful we would be bored stiff because nothing bad could come of it. So why do we keep writing books that show potential victims how to survive?
I'm tired of seeing self-help books for how to survive the onslaught of disfigured homicidal maniacs prancing around backwoods barbecues where victims are the main course. Just once I'd like to see the Idiot's Guide to Being a Good Horror Movie Victim. Let's face it: the dumber the victims are the more we like it. Who wants smart kids outwitting Freddy, or the class geeks outwitting the limb-ripping gizmos in SAW? It's better for us to not clutter up the storyline with fearless vampire killers or damned-if-I-go-down-without-a-fight cheeky-monkey, cleft-chinned heroes adroitly using weaponry to go after the endless goo-dripping demons and eye-plucking psychos that brighten our day.
If the addle-brained teenagers and loopy backpackers and bumbling public officials survive, where’s the horror? Horror films exist to make fun of the unfortunate, the slow to grasp, and the different ones among us. Ha ha, you’re dead but I’m not--that sort of thing. Some human cattle needs to be slaughtered so that we can eat our serving of grue without terminal indigestion. Some people must always be tortured and put to death in gruesome and ever-increasingly sicko ways to make us feel better that we are not about to be pickled in a jar like them, or stuffed in a razor-lined barrel and rolled down a hill, or crunched on by some prehistoric monster, or turned into bloody cotton candy by killer-clowns from outer space. We need victims to look under beds in the dead of night without flashlights, wildly party in haunted houses on Halloween night, boldly read spells from human skin-clad tomes that use flattened eyeballs for bookmarks, and knock on locked doors to dilapidated houses situated in the middle of nowhere.
So in the spirit of good victimship, and in the absence of a proper victim's guide book (publishers, please take note), here are some of my time-tested guidelines to follow:
- Always take a stranger’s advice, especially where to sleep and which unpaved road to take, when you are lost in the middle of nowhere. The more in-bred they look the better. Missing teeth are a plus, too.
- After "killing" any man-made monster, serial-killer, mutated freak, humongous alligator, or seriously infected zombie-like personage, make sure to walk up to the prostrate body within arm’s reach, bend real close to see if it’s still alive (yes, even though you were trying to kill it), and act surprised when it rips out your neck for that always popular, spray-of-blood-gasp of surprise.
- Make sure to slowly walk up to and dramatically look over the window sill through which you just pushed any hulking, eye-plucking, hook-carrying, psycho-butcher.Extending your neck for a solid choke-hold is essential here, and lends an air of authenticity. A startled look of surprise and flailing your arms is required.
- Never pass up a dare, especially when it involves swimming in isolated, giant leech-infested lakes, entering haunted houses, sleeping (or dancing) on freshly dug graves, venturing into dark caves without proper maps or spelunking gear, or reciting 'Bloody Mary was a lesbo' in front of your bathroom mirror three times by candlelight.
- There is safety in numbers, but in a horror movie we can’t have that; so make sure to split up whenever danger and imminent death is close at hand. Splitting up, especially when searching for someone who is missing precisely because he or she decided to go it alone in the first place, really sells the astonishment factor with the audience. The how-stupid-are-you-guys factor, that is. It makes audience members feel very superior as they chow down on that fattening and wallet-lightening bucket o' popcorn and obscenely large DIET COKE.
- Don’t carry or charge your cell phone. Cell phones make it too easy to call for help, so either lose it, drop it, or find a place with no bars (the reception kind, not the drinking kind). Even if the movie budget allows everyone to have one, script writers cannot possibly be expected to think through every situation where using a cell phone would complicate the easy-picking's nature of victim elimination. They are only human, you know.
- When a meteor lands nearby, make sure to find it and poke any gooey glowing stuff oozing out of it really good with a really short stick. Brownie points for holding the gooey stuff close to your face to look at it, and extra points if you make like you are sniffing it.
- When running away from danger, scream like crazy, slow down to look back often, and trip over your own feet once or twice. Slow moving homicidal terrors, like mummies and zombies (old school, okay?) need all the help they can get. When the creature, psycho, mutated-carrot thing, jello blob, or disemboweled but mobile flesh-eating dead person gets close enough to hack, bite, or strip the flesh from your bones, jump up, make like you are really running for your life this time--right into a tree. It makes it more suspenseful for the audience. They also get a slapstick, Three Stooges kind of chuckle out of it.
- Learn English. It does not do anything to enliven the horror, but I'm getting tired of reading those nonsensical subtitle translations in Asian horror movies.
- Girls, leave the door unlocked while you take a bath or shower in totally unfamiliar surroundings, especially decrepit, deserted hotels with no clean towels. Also, along the same vein, dress as inappropriately as possible. Skimpy, tight-fitting clothes are required dress to bring in the young male audience. Clingy, wet shirts a plus.
- If the door creaks, don't go in first. The first person to go in gets it fast. It’s always the next person to go in who gets the worst of it. A good victim makes suffering look easy.
There, I've done my part. Now you do yours. Study hard and make sure to practice these rules as often as possible. Of course, due to the nature of these guidelines, you may not get much chance to practice--if you know what I mean.
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