Following my post a while ago moaning about rush hour and commuter etiquette, the most common feedback I received was an almost exacerbated: “You’re afraid of zombies?!?’.
Sad but true, I have a vehement and unique distaste for decaying boogeymen, but not all monsters or the undead make me as skittish. I’m not attracted to horror films in general and other nasties like ghosts, werewolves and vampires (the ’30 Days of Night’ sort, definitely NOT the sparkly Twilight kind) do make me jump in what I conceive as a ‘normal’ way. The difference with zombies is a much more intense fear and I’m almost always convinced that one is just outside the door of the room I’m in. Any hint of zombie imagery out and about also convinces me one is following me home, especially when it’s dark. This is more likely if I suddenly realise I am alone in a street. This may be pathetic, but it’s the truth.
I don’t remember this being a lifelong problem, but I can trace it back to a ‘trigger’ incident. I went to see the first Resident Evil film at the cinema thinking I’d probably be scared by it and consider it a bit gross, but it’s just a film right? I remember this so vividly it’s almost making me sweat just reliving it. There’s a moment where Michelle Rodriguez’s character slowly turns to face the camera for her close up revealing she has indeed become one of them. This image absolutely terrified me and I can still see it quite clearly as I write.
Seared into my memory is the moment I arrived home afterwards and having to walk down the passage through my parents’ house that lead from the front door to where my bedroom was on the other end. Back in those days if I was out late my mum would leave the porch light on for me which I’d turn off as soon as I got in the door. That night I didn’t feel particularly scared, but as soon as I switched the light off and was in total darkness I remembered there were open door ways between me and the safety of my room and I had to immediately turn it back on again. Convinced there was a zombie beasty lurking in every patch of darkness, I had to leave the porch light on, run down the passage to turn on every available light on the other end before returning to switch it off. I also remember having nightmares that night.
|Literal worst nightmare|
Strangely, as a teen I was very much interested in literary horror as opposed to film – my own imagination was more thrilling than visually experiencing someone else’s idea of how these mythical creatures and situations should be depicted. My bookshelf was jammed full of Stephen King and Anne Rice novels. I even focussed a mini-thesis school essay project on the subject, comparing three ‘gothic horror’ novels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned written roughly a century apart. Frankenstein remains my favourite novel.
|Ground breaking tale of heart-breaking horror|
As a child I wasn’t exposed to much scary material, but I do remember feeling real fear for the Skesis characters in The Dark Crystal and the transformation of Anjelica Huston in The Witchesgiving me real bowel churning hot bellied kind of feelings. I wasn’t scarred for life though, I own a copy of both movies and I feel them important in my cultural education and helped foster my eternal love affair with film.
I basically managed to avoid zombie imagery after the Resident Evil incident, until The Walking Dead. I point blank refused to watch it until I was convinced to fight the phobia and give it a try. It was a struggle; with the close up gore and disgusting squelchy sound effects I could only watch one episode, maybe two, at a time and it had to be in daylight and hours before bedtime. Forcing myself through the first season it took months before I felt comfortable enough to continue. It was still tough, but I found myself enjoying the show more, and now I’m up to date within a day or two of an episode being released. I do however shy away from any other zombie imagery, which varies depending for each expression of these ghouls.
I can still get palpitations, literally, late at night if I’m awake and maybe hear something in the stairwell on the other side of my door or outside in the street. My mind can go from calm to irrational incredibly quickly and I imagine what I would do if the other occupants in my building had ‘turned’ or the street was populated by the shuffling undead. This kind of panic can genuinely and frustratingly keep me awake. There is a recognised phobia of zombies, which I think I can legitimately diagnose myself with. I’m a kinemortophobe, which might be a millennial snowflake kind of phobia, but I can be thankful we’ve yet to see a real manifestation of this great fear.