None Of The Above
the motive-hunting of motiveless malignity
Monday, October 27, 2003

Last night, I watched Channel 4's 100 Greatest Scary Moments. All programmes of this format work by having a really idiotic selection, and counting on the fact that people like me won't be able to stop screaming "No, you idiots!" and throwing things at the TV long enough to turn off, and this was no exception. First, they couldn't narrow the selection down to one format and therefore called it '100 Greatest Scary Moments' instead of '100 Greatest Scary Moments Of Film, TV, Adverts And Music Videos', implying that they were really going to describe the hundred most scary things that had ever happened anywhere. (You can imagine my disappointment when 'The Time I Was Convinced A Vampire Was Trying To Break Into My House' didn't make it.)

Second, it was a public-vote idea, and most of the public are idiots. This problem could have been neatly addressed by renaming it '100 Greatest Scary Moments Of Film And TV - No, You Morons, Actually Scary Moments. Don't Suggest Things That Weren't Actually Scary Just Because You Want Everyone To Know How Tough You Are, Because We Don't Care. Yes, That Includes The League Of Gentlemen. In Fact, Just Shut Up About The League Of Gentlemen Now, Because It Gets A Mention In Every Clips/List/Nostalgia Show And Even The People Who Liked It Are Getting A Bit Fed Up. And Don't Suggest Music Videos Either, Because Quite Frankly, Anything That Scared You After Coming Back Drunk From The Pub Is Not Something That Will Affect The Rest Of Us. And Please Show Some Goddamn Originality And Don't Suggest The 'Here's Johnny' Scene From The Shining Just Because You Couldn't Think Of Anything Else.' But then again, I don't work for Channel Four.

There were a few moments I'd agree were genuinely scary - or at least, unsettling. Donald Sutherland finding his 'daughter' in Don't Look Now was number 20, and Edward Woodward seeing the wicker man for the first time was number 34. But fear is elusive and difficult to explain, and the scene which chilled you to the bone the first time you saw it might have no effect the second time round. The X-Files used to routinely terrify me in a way that nothing else on Channel 4's list ever did, but it's impossible to describe why when it no longer does that. Fear is private, and that's why so many of the top ten selections on the list were the ones that have been replayed and replayed so often that they lose all power to frighten - Jack Nicholson crashing through the door in The Shining, Linda Blair vomiting pea soup in The Exorcist, the chest-burster eating its way out of John Hurt in Alien. We don't mind sharing things we know are supposed to scare us, but we're reluctant to describe the things that actually did, in the knowledge that whatever caused them to connect with our brains in such a terrifying way probably wouldn't have had quite the same effect on anyone else.

For the record, then: the scariest things I have ever seen on TV were an Outer Limits episode named Under the Bed, in which a troll was eating children, and a moment from the opening credits of the children's Dungeons and Dragons cartoon in which a small boy is gradually sucked under his bed, screaming for help. The scariest thing I have ever seen in film was the scene in Stand By Me when the boys are chased by the train. There's no deep psychoanalytic explanation behind any of these, and there's no shared fear which could be exchanged with the nation in jocular manner by that supercilious prat who was presenting the Channel 4 programme. They scared me, though.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

I to my perils
Of cheat and charmer,
Came clad in armour
By stars benign,
Hope lies to mortals,
And most believe her
But man's deceiver
Was never mine.

The thoughts of others
Were light and fleeting,
Of lovers meeting
Or luck or fame.
Mine were of trouble,
And mine were steady,
So I was ready
When trouble came.