The other day while Dory was working at her computer I snuck up on her and put my face really close to hers and waited for her to notice. When she did, she jumped and moaned with fright. I thought that was a rather rude and uncalled for reaction to my new look.
Me: Then why are you smiling?
Dory: Because it was good.
Me: You should be flattered that I tried to look like you.
Then she left and came back and I pointed out that there was something on her water bottle. She looked at it and then just rolled her eyes at me, which I felt was unfair because I saw someone else scare her with a considerably smaller spider. But apparently I'm a "bad actor" or something.
Even at my ripe old age I still periodically become aware of disgusting or disturbing things that make me wish I didn't live on this planet. And then I often feel compelled to keep looking at them or researching them until I get all the facts and/or become desensitized. For example, I once learned in a roundabout way that a 1995 computer game called "Harvester" has a scene of children eating their mother. I felt compelled to actually look up the scene on YouTube, and I was glad I did because it was far less disturbing than in my imagination. I had imagined the children sitting around a dinner table with their mother's corpse sprawled across it. In the actual scene, however, the mother is very much alive and too tired to pay attention to the children taking bites out of her limbs. She matter-of-factly explains to the player that this is a metaphor for parenthood. So I could rest easy with that.
"Look, tell you what, we'll eat her, if you feel a bit guilty about it afterwards, we can dig a grave and you can throw up in it." (Name that reference)
"Harvester" is still gratuitously disturbing, but another game released that same year makes it look like a church picnic. "Phantasmagoria" was very controversial upon its release and is extremely violent even by today's standards. The backstory is essentially this: a magician messes around with dark arts and gets possessed by a demon that makes him murder a succession of five wives in various horrific ways that I don't feel like describing. Local people just assume these deaths are all bizarre accidents, which is pretty stupid of them. I mean, I'm sure with all the billions of people who have ever lived that some guy has indeed been unlucky enough to have five wives die in bizarre accidents, but his neighbors should have been veeery suspicious. Certainly the fifth wife in this story would seem to have been a few fries short of a Happy Meal - perhaps she fell prey to the gambler's fallacy and wrongly assumed that because four wives had already died in bizarre accidents, it was less likely that she would - but to her credit she figures out what's going on and her lover manages to mortally wound the magician before he kills both of them.
A century or so later, a young couple moves into his mansion. Original, right? The woman goes exploring and accidentally unleashes the demon which, unknown to her, possesses her husband. Over the course of a week she learns the backstory and witnesses all the murders in magic flashbacks. Meanwhile, her husband is becoming more and more of a jerk. In the most controversial scene of the game, which the writer argued was necessary for some reason, he rapes her. And later on he chases her and tries to kill her. Oh, and also there's an old woman and her mentally handicapped son who get killed somewhere along the way. There are several gory death scenes for the protagonist throughout the game if the player fails, most famously getting her head ripped in half. But if the player succeeds, she kills him instead and then dispels the demon. And then she wanders away from the mansion in a daze. The end. I mean, I'm sure there were also years of therapy afterward but those aren't shown.
I haven't played the game or watched a walkthrough of the game and I'm never going to do either of those things, so my knowledge is incomplete, but I think that's about it. Oh, and all the characters are portrayed by live actors. Delightful.
I sort of get why this sort of thing is appealing. It's not meant to be pleasant. You're not supposed to "enjoy" the gore and the pain and the terror, per se. But it is cathartic somehow to experience fear and disgust in controlled environment at times. I think it's similar to the appeal of sad movies and songs. Sometimes I'm not in the mood for "Walking on Sunshine", you know? Which is a great song, don't get me wrong. But sometimes a guy singing about how he wants to die is more helpful because it's like someone is commiserating with you instead of invalidating your problems and telling you to just get over it. And I think this is similar. While most of us try to ignore the ugliness in the world most of the time for our happiness and sanity, there can be something refreshing in a sick kind of way about embracing it now and again. I don't know, maybe this is all crazy talk. But I think I get why people liked this game. It was Sierra's first title to sell over a million units and made their stock value skyrocket.
Myself, like I said, I have no desire to get any more into it than my web research already did. I did recently watch a legit horror movie for the first time (horror comedy musicals don't count and I found "Poltergeist" to be far more weird than scary) and while I don't intend to make a habit of that, I did appreciate the experience. Even though Christopher Lee's and Christopher Walken's acting talents were grossly underused and I'm not just saying that for the obvious reason. But at least the people in "Sleepy Hollow" died quickly. Swish, plop, dead. That reminds me, I wrote a comic script related to that topic.
Horseman: Oogedy boogedy! It is I, the headless man, the spookiest spook that ever spooked!
Tyler: Where's your horse?
Horseman: Oh, I'm not a horseman anymore. Feeding and cleaning up after him was such a hassle.
Tyler: Well, he was part of your trademark. You just aren't distinctive or spooky without him.
Horseman: So... this isn't cutting it?
Tyler: Use the horse, spook.
If it had been more like "Phantasmagoria", way over the top for my tastes, I would have been too squeamish and walked out. That's definitely not my speed. And the reason this sort of thing really bothers me is that while games and movies are fictional, pain is not. And they remind me of that and I hate it. Every type of suffering portrayed in "Phantasmagoria", and worse, has been experienced by someone somewhere. I hate to think about that. Physical pain is the worst in my book. I feel very blessed to just have this emotional crap. Give me depression over a hangnail any day of the week. Oh, and also I was forced to ponder the question of how, demon or no demon, you can be sure that your spouse will never murder you. And the answer is, you can't. Yay. Getting married is an enormous leap of faith. Of course, if their previous four spouses are dead, there's a very slight chance that just might be a teensy little red flag.