October sailed by, and it always seems to be the month made for horror stories, what with Halloween and all. Much as I like the idea of curling up on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn and a scary movie, I have never been into horror. Not because I have a problem with gore or violence or even harsh language. It’s because I don’t find standard horror stories to be horrifying. The ‘scary’ problems are things that I don’t see myself falling for of failing to solve. Monster or bad guy in the closet? Kill it! Ghost in the attic? Not real, ignore what you’re imagining! Creepy stalker in your driveway? Rent a thug! The problems that crop up in horror stories strike me as utterly unbelievable (ghosts, demons, etc.) or as problems with super-straightforward solutions (apply violence).
I did, however, try to sneak in a few scary movies during October and early November. I usually end up enjoying the setting most of all – the crumbling gothic manors, the eerie rural towns where the sky is always gray, the chillingly dysfunctional family where everyone is angry but no one says why. But in my quest for real horror I think the scariest movie I’ve ever seen was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” There were no ghosts, no devils or demons, no slimy creatures from any manner of lagoon. It was mostly a mystery, though partly a story about love and revenge. And, as it turned out, it was the perfect kind of horror for me. Toward the end there’s a scene that I found compelling to the point of hang-wringing. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist was caught sneaking away from the home he’d broken into and was invited back in by Martin Vanger. Blomkvist, hoping to appear less suspicious and having no real evidence that Vanger was a threat, accepted. Naturally, Blomkvist walked right into Vanger’s villainous clutches – to which the latter crowed “it’s funny how the fear of offending is greater than the fear of pain.”
It was, for me, terrifying. I could imagine myself being tricked in a similar fashion. I, who would not give ghosts the time of day nor waltz into Ye Olde Abandoned Murder Mansion, realized that my own desire to be polite could get me killed. And Vanger, no ghost or prop-fashioned monster, represented a real threat. Like Blomkvist, I’m the sort of person who could blunder my well-meaning way into a predator’s clutches precisely because good manners would insist I do so.