The Herald Bulletin

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Movies

October 11, 2012

Heather Bremer: Give me Halloween; not the horror films

I eagerly anticipate the arrival of October each fall. Not just for the cooling temperatures, falling leaves and the weekends packed with football. I love Halloween.

Once September has fallen away, I pull tubs worth of decorations from storage, each full of spiderwebs, witches, ghosts and vampires. I decorate the front of our home with specters and monsters swinging in the trees and a graveyard presided over by Death himself. I even stick a scary mask on our otherwise friendly scarecrow.

On the Sunday closest to Halloween, I host an annual football/Halloween party. And on the big day, I sit on my porch, in full costume, with buckets of candy for the young (and old) trick-or-treaters that make it past the Grim Reaper guarding my door.

I am all in when it comes to Halloween.

But I absolutely hate horror films, haunted houses, zombies or anything else meant to scare the pants off you.

I’ve always had a hard time dealing with fright. As a kid, I hid behind the couch when the wolf-embodied herald of the Nothing in “The Neverending Story” appeared. As a teen, I didn’t sleep for three straight days after seeing “The Blair Witch Project.” (In my defense, my bedroom was in a basement. The basement-centric ending of that movie overrode the rational parts of my brain.) Even as an adult, I shy away from things like “The Walking Dead,” which should be right up my alley.

Seriously, folks, “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure” is about as scary as I get.

Yet, when I was a kid, I could not get enough of Alvin Schwartz’s books.

For those of you familiar with the author, no doubt a ghastly, ghostly image of a creature with hollow eyes was conjured in your mind the minute you read his name. Fifteen years later, I still can’t shake visions of some of those ghouls. Thank you, illustrator Stephen Gammell, for many of my nightmares.

Schwartz is the author of more than 50 books, most focusing on folkore. He is most famous for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” which eventually became a three-book series full of spine-tingling tales.

According to the American Library Association, it was the most challenged book or book series for library inclusion from 1990 to 1999.

Take a quick read of any of the stories and it’s not hard to see why. Most would terrify any adult of sound mind. And many of the tales seem so plausible, gruesome truths disguised as fiction. Like the one about the woman who thinks it is her dog licking her hand under the bed and later finds her dog had been dead for hours. Even now that creeps me out.

But if you’ve got a skittish pre-teen who likes to read, you might seek out Schwartz’s books so they can share in the fun of the scary parts of Halloween. Just ignore the book’s advice to read it in the dark.

And check under the bed for hand-licking killers before you go to sleep.

Heather Bremer, a former Herald Bulletin reporter/designer, writes a weekly column on movies, television and pop culture. Contact her at heathere bremer@yahoo.com.

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