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Thursday, May 10, 2007

I hate suspense.

So I want to know if it's odd that I like mystery novels - and detective stories and the occasional spy movie - but I hate suspense. Ever notice that every single suspenseful movie has a scene of somebody's drawers being rifled and we're afraid the bad guys are going to catch the rifler? Oy, this is more than enough suspense for me. Going through somebody else's drawers: the very thought gives me chills.

I watched Arlington Road with the kids a few years back and jumped about three feet in the air when - eek, Joan Cusack unexpectedly appeared outside a phone booth!!

Is it odd that after I've read the first chapter or two of a suspenseful book, I flip immediately to the last chapter? I need to know who is going to survive (I don't want to get attached to a goner) and who the villain is (so I can have the pleasure of noticing the clues that get salted through the exposition).

My opinion: real life is scary enough - and you can't flip to the end to see how it's going to turn out.

On my telenovela blog we have a "NO SPOILERS" rule because a lot of people are infuriated if any future happenings are revealed - myself, I read ahead whenever possible. I don't even understand what's good or fun about surprises!

Every day I go on the elliptical trainer and watch old movies and TV shows. Usually I'm seeing shows that aired years ago; everybody else has already enjoyed the suspense, so most of the time I can find a site online (like where I can recaps of every episode all the way to the end of the series.

But currently I'm in the middle of MI-5 (Spooks) Season Three and guess what, I can't find any good spoilers on the net! How can this be? I want to know what's going to happen! Otherwise how do I know if I want to watch or not?

Anybody who knows me has heard the story of how my mother forbade me to watch horror movies when I was a kid - they gave me terrible nightmares or gibbering insomnia.

But one famous babysitter couldn't believe I was that sensitive and let me watch "Attack of the Crab Monsters" with my younger brothers.

So all my life I have recounted the story of my hanging in there, on the edge of my seat, until a single giant crab claw was seen tap, tap, tapping in the doorway.

At that point, overwhelmed by terror, I ran sobbing to my room and caused such a ruckus the babysitter called my parents and they came home and my mother, all dressed up, in perfume and dangling earrings, knelt by my bed and tried to calm me down.

It didn't work, partly because I was inconsolably terrified by the tap, tap, tap of the crab claw but also because I knew she actually wanted to strangle me for disobeying and cutting her party-time short.

Anyway, a couple years ago I rented "Attack of the Crab Monsters" and watched it with my son. I was ostensibly doing it to show him how ridiculous horror movies of the 50s were, but secretly I wanted to know if I would still be terrified.

When we got to the famous tap, tap, tap scene I'd remembered all those years - I was indeed a little bit scared - but I didn't run away - and so I discovered the infamous giant crab claw was in fact a chimera! The tap, tap, tap had been a FALSE ALARM! The tap, tap, tap was just an electric wire in the next room, being thwapped against the ceiling by a fan.

I had run away screaming without having seen the crab monster at all! The crab didn't appear for another few scenes! It seems my overactive imagination had INVENTED the giant crab claw memory which horrified me for years.

As you can see from these movie posters, the crab monster was nothing to write home about. It was as flat as a huge dinner plate and made of papier maché or the like. It was probably maneuvered with strings and rods and it moved very, very slowly, with much flapping and clacking of its unconvincing body parts.

"Slow down, slow down, let me catch you!" was my son's unimpressed comment. He has a soft spot for kitschy retro stuff but this movie was too lousy for even him to enjoy.

My conclusion: it's the things you conjure up in your mind that are really terrifying. As soon as you see the papier maché crab, the mood is blown.

This Roz Chast cartoon, one of my favorite cartoons of all time, was one of the first pictures I posted on this blog.

Why not a movie where nice people treat each other well and do fun things and then say "See you tomorrow" and go home and get a good night's sleep?

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At 10:14 AM, Blogger Jean said...

Well, it's nice to find a kindred spirit, Melinama. I do exactly the same thing. I check the ending of novels so I don't get surprised. I find out the end of movies for the same reason and never, ever go to any horror movies. You had the claw. When I was a little girl, I couldn't watch 'Lassie' because I was afraid that Lassie wouldn't rescue Timmie from the abandoned well or whatever in time.

A couple of years ago, my sister and brother shamed me into going on a wooden roller-coaster. At the first drop, I closed my eyes and held on tight with both hands until the ride was over.

I'm with you. Life is too short and too scary already to intentionally add more fear and uncertainty. But I think we are in the minority.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger melinama said...

Ah Jean, I'm so happy to hear this! I didn't want to be the only wussie one... thanks for writing.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Julie said...

I don't like to be spoiled, but I also don't like too much suspense. Usually I like to know the important stuff - whether or not what's-her-name ends up with Mr. Darcy or that other guy - but I do NOT want to know ahead of time how it actually happens.

Most of what I enjoy in a story is the details, not the ending. The ending is only a teeny tiny part of the story, and if I know how a story ends, that gives me a clue as to whether I am likely to find the in-between part worthwhile.

You don't want to slog through 1000 pages, only to find out that something stupid is going to happen.

I know that's not the same kind of suspense that you were talking about, but it's why I like mystery without too much suspense. A mystery makes me guess. Suspense makes me paranoid!

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha Ha! What a great story this is. I watched this same movie as a kid and it scared the heck out of me. My parents forbade me to watch horror films but I used to get up in the middle of the night and do it anyway. Then I would lay awake terrorized by what I'd seen. I knew it would be a big mistake but I just couldn't help myself.

Thanks for the no-spoiler policy on Caray, Caray. I'm one of those who prefers not to know what's going to happen.


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