Squawk Radio

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Things That Go Bump

In honor of Halloween, I’m going to ask: What scares you? I don’t mean real scared. Real scared for me is doing something like driving across the Mackinac Bridge. It’s high. It’s long. It sways. You could really die if you fell off. I was scared witless by a blimp when I was five, but that’s a long story involving the effect of Cold War paranoia on an overly-imaginative child.

I’m talking about entertainment-type scared. Frankly, most things to do with vampires don’t scare me. I read about every vampire book in every genre that comes out (or at least have them all on the ever growing TBR pile), and I see every vampire movie, but not because I find vampires scary. The first time I read Dracula, I thought it was silly. But I was 13 at the time. Reading it as an adult I saw that it was all about sexual repression, fear of female sexuality, and the fear of said sexuality being awakened and corrupted by dark, foreign strangers. But it still didn’t scare me.

But a lot of books and movies have scared me over the years. The first movie I have vivid memories of scaring me is The Exorcist. I was somewhere in my early twenties at the time. My sister and I went to the movie, came home, and without a word from either of us, my sister proceeded to move the rollaway bed into my room so we wouldn’t have to be alone that night. Hey, we were products of a parochial school education.

Then there was Halloween. The original slasher movie. The one that has hardly any gore in it, but is really frightening. My boyfriend made me go to that one. Then he refused to stay the night after he brought me home. Rat. And for some reason he and I are still good friends to this day.

I don’t necessarily find Stephen King’s books scary. However, back when I was in college I made the serious mistake of reading The Shining late at night, in the dead of winter, in an old Victorian mansion. This was not a good idea.

Remember the television show Twin Peaks? There was this evil spirit thing called “Bob” on the show. Bob scared the hell out of me. Gave me nightmares for years. And the phrase, “The owls are not what they seem” still makes me shudder. Thank you, David Lynch.

Stephen Spielberg can scare me witless. Jaws made me scream (the book didn’t). Last summer’s War of the Worlds wasn’t bad, either…but I knew the ending going into it.

The Balrog and Shelob have scared me since I first read The Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson’s version of them was just as effective as Professor Tolkien’s. And the movie version of the Ring Wraiths scared me more than Tolkien’s. I’ve seen The Fellowship of the Ring more times than I can count – and I still flinch when the wraiths appear.

Robert Harris’s Red Dragon had an interesting effect on my homelife. Once upon a time my housemate went off to a party at her sister’s house. I stayed home to read Red Dragon. I put the book down long enough to do the dishes. While I’m in the kitchen with my hands in hot water the front door opened and footsteps ran up the stairs to the second floor. By the time my housemate came back down I was standing by the stairs wielding the heaviest frying pan in the house as a weapon. Almost beaned her. If I hadn’t been reading that book, I might have logically assumed she’d come back to get something she’d forgotten.

I’ve scared myself a couple of times. As a writer, I mean. The first time was when I was writing a book called A Stirring of Dust. This book is a media tie-in to the syndicated vampire television series Forever Knight. I got the gig because I was a huge fan of the show. It’s the first vampire novel I ever wrote. There’s a mean ol’ vampire patriarch in the series named LaCroix. LaCroix has a job as a radio talk show host, and I had to write some monologues from his point of view. Having LaCroix in my head freaked me out something awful. The up side of writing LaCroix was that Nigel Bennett, the actor who played LaCroix in the series, wrote me a lovely letter complimenting me on getting his character right. And I’ve heard that student actors have used the monologues as acting exercises.

Currently I’m being creeped out by a new show on ABC called Invasion. I think it might be the best written new show of the season. It’s a take Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it’s full of all sorts of creepy ambiguity. Also, William Fitchner, who looks really great in a white shirt.

So, what scares you?

Connie Brockway, 11:02 AM