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Sorrel’s Side Quests: Horror movies used to terrify me. Now they're comforting

I’ve picked up a few Halloween traditions over the years. Some are relevant to this column’s usual subject matter; most Octobers, I will replay “Spooky’s Jumpscare Mansion,” and I always like to start and complete a brand new horror game. However, my favorite tradition is the list.

I’m referring to my personally curated list of 31 creepy, crawly, spooky, scary and otherwise seasonally appropriate films. Every night in October, I watch one movie from the list, and I take the list extremely seriously. I completed what I think is my best list so far sometime in late July and held onto it until October. That wasn’t always the case, though.

This is a fairly new tradition, as I didn’t start crafting these lists until 2020. That first list was almost entirely made up of films I had never seen before. It was specifically crafted as a self-guided crash course in horror. 

As a kid, I was absolutely terrified by horror films, so I avoided them at all costs. As I turned the corner into adulthood, I felt kind of annoyed by that fact. I loved Halloween so much, and I loved movies so much, but I had no idea which Halloween movies were actually good. So, I composed a list of 31 films, mostly entries in canonical classic franchises like “Saw,” “Final Destination,” “Friday the 13th” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

If the idea was to get hooked on horror films, that first list was a decisive success. I enjoyed nearly everything I watched to some degree and caught myself poring over old production details for every film. The impact of this was twofold: I gained a greater appreciation for what was happening on the screen and why it was so effective, and I demystified the end product for myself. It’s hard to feel too horrified about R.J. MacReady’s fate when your viewing of “The Thing” is punctuated by interviews with Kurt Russell. These films went from unknowable and terrifying to simply impressive. The craft of it all was engrossing.

The next list was also full of films I’d never seen before, although this time, I wasn’t worried about expanding my horror education – I just wanted to watch some new movies. I was no longer trying to face my fears or acclimate myself to horror as a genre. I was simply enjoying the diverse array of films it encompassed.

Over the last two years, the list has changed from a forced horror gauntlet to a comforting tradition. This year’s list is my favorite, and it’s made up almost entirely of films I’ve already seen, either during previous Halloween seasons or during the other brief horror rabbit holes that I find myself wandering down throughout the year. 

I’ve also been hosting semi-regular watch parties with friends throughout the month, where I’ve given a brief speech before every film outlining some of the production history. I like to think that I’m demystifying the films for my more squeamish companions the same way I demystified them for myself. At least a few of my friends are known to be a little hesitant towards horror, and I want to lend them some of the appreciation I’ve slowly been gaining.

In that first year, I steeled myself every night for a film I hadn’t seen, anxious about how it would sit with me. This year, I’m not worried at all. There are only two films new to me on the list this year. I’m just excited that in between returning to some well-worn favorites, I might be able to fall in love with two more movies.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a junior studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelquest.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung

Opinion Writer

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