I just finished watching a movie called Lights Out, a tidy little horror film about a malevolent force that’s only visible in darkness. A trope that’s been done before (Darkness Falls; Vanishing on 7th Street ) this might be about the best. If you plan to watch it, skip the trailer, since most of the good scares are spoiled there. If you’re short on time, just watch the trailer.
In a strange coincidence (what Milan Kundera might call “a dimension of beauty”), I listened to a podcast that same night called Lore, which relates true life inspirations and stories for some of our most enduring fears and myths. The episode I listened to began by talking about Nyctophobia, or fear of the dark. How fitting.
The theme of darkness continues with M.J. Pack’s Certain Dark Things, a collection of horror stories that explore themes of love, loss, friendship, and family with mixed results. Some of the stories don’t land, like a story of a certain “Norma Jean” who visits a seer to cast a curse on a certain famous family. She pays the price, but the emotional impact is blunted by a tired familiarity with the source material. In the stories live women with impossible desires; some are punished, some live to “feed” another day. The best stories exploit these women and their relationships with other women, such as Tracking, where a series of disturbing DVDs leads the main character to revisit the scene of forgotten childhood traumas. There is a pervasive theme of sleeplessness, where characters are haunted by their own misdeeds or chased into insomnia by a perverse desire for horror. You get what you ask for, the stories warn, and it’s never what you think it will be. Certain dark things are better left alone.
To complete the nightmare, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. A classic that I would have loved as a kid, this is the kind of book that really is an ideal campfire read, complete with instructions on when to scream (NOW SCREAM! AHHHHHHHHH!). I happened to read this out loud one night while sitting around a campfire and after performing a theatrical scream for my 9 year old sister, who clearly thought my mind was beginning to go, the fire popped and she jumped. Mission accomplished!
I’m not immune to nyctophobia. As a kid, I would watch the shadows morph in my room and imagine the furniture moving with evil intent. My most recurrent nightmare always involves light fixtures that fail to light. Darkness falls indeed, and when it does, who knows what lurks in the shadows (NOW SCREAM!!!)
*other dark things
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?
- Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.
- The Darkness, starring Kevin Bacon.
- The Darkness 2: I believe in a thing called love!
- Alone in the Dark starring Tara Reid as an archaeologist.
- Say the word Dark repeatedly. It gets weirder. It’s a weird word. Dark. Dark. Dark. Dark. Dark.
- I haven’t watched Darkness Falls since it was released in 2003, but now that I know it stars Emma Caulfield, I may have to suck it up and watch it again. Bunnies! It could be bunnies!
- I don’t recommend the audiobook version of Certain Dark Things; the narrator doesn’t jive with the source material, like Julia Child reading The History of the Third Reich.
- Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark includes a variation of one of my favorite poems, The Man of Double Deed. In my Google wanderings, I found this amazing music video for the song.