Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bringing On The Fear: Part 6: The Deep Blue Sea & Me

Carnival of Souls, 1962
Lately I've been feeling like I'm drowning.  I've been overwhelmed with some things in my "real life" (yes, I do have one) and have been saddled down with a lot of heavy shit.

Speaking of drowning, it's high time I admit one of my greatest fears.
Yep.  I'm scared to death of dying underwater.  In particular, large bodies of water, such as the ocean or a large lake.

I'm a huge fan of the deep blue sea nonetheless, and make it a point to venture there every May if possible. 
As you are reading this, I am probably lying on the beach soaking in some prohibitively nasty rays of damaging sun while keeping an eye on the surf rolling onto the shore.  At night I will sit and watch the waves, then listen as they lull me to sleep. 

That said, even on holiday I can't for a moment escape my great fear of being swept out to sea in some bizarre accident or twist of fate, such as falling off the Ocracoke ferry into strong seas, a hurricane the likes of which no one has ever seen ravaging the small village we stay in, or perhaps just a rogue wave knocking me down and dragging me into some rip current to my imminent demise.  I don't think it's a strange fear, and imagine a lot of people are of the same mindset, but I do find it incredibly ironic that my favorite place in the world also scares me to death.

Ghost Story, 1981
It is not just on vacation that my fear manifests itself.  I've even thought of something as simple as falling asleep in my own bathtub - and hence having a lovely soak turns into front page headlines:  Woman Drowns In Her Own Bathtub; with a quote from my husband stating "She always was afraid of drowning..."
 
Carnival of Souls
Over the years I have also been menaced in my dreams by having nightmares of drowning, mostly while in a car.  You know, the old "car drives off the bridge and sinks to the depths below" debacle?

Now, I'm not really one of those people so paranoid about bridges that I have to put my window down so I can be able to jump through the opening at the first splash of water.  But I'm not entirely fond of scary metal and/or concrete structures dangling precariously over large bodies of water.  Or even little creeks, really.  It's not really the bridge.  It's the water.

Bonner Bridge, Bodie to Hatteras Islands, NC
When we go to the Outer Banks each year, we cross several bridges to get to that little tampon string of land jutting off the coast of NC, the scariest bridge of which is in the pic at left.  To me, the guard rails just ain't high enough.  But I'm not entirely gun-shy.  After all, we rode across that on a Harley Davidson and I lived to tell the tale. 
But the water.  The ominous sea.  Always tends to make me cringe when I'm traveling over it. 

Sometimes the dreams even have my lungs filling with water.  Now that is really frightening and I have actually woke myself up with those ones.  Yeah, from the screaming.  (Or the best scream you can muster when your head's underwater.)

The Haunting of Molly Hartley
In horror films, there seems to be a heckuva lot of drownings.  Seriously. Seems like no matter how it happens - your dad drowns you, you fall off a cliff into the awaiting sea, someone pushes your car underwater with you in it - you're pissed and vengeful.  Nothing short of death for the greater population will do.
Many of these films are bizarrely some of my favorites, such as Carnival of Souls (as seen in pics above), Ghost Story, and The Ring.
Perhaps that is what makes them so damn scary to me.  The fact that people are drowning.  Some of which are dying horrific deaths which makes them vengeful and desperate to hurt others.  Such as that crazy gal Samara.

Samara in The Ring
In The Ring, Samara was dumped unceremoniously into a well when it was discovered she was just a little south of normal.  She sought her revenge by way of an evil video tape that kills you off in seven days.  Sounds pretty ridiculous until you see her coming out of that damned well and walking in that zombie-stop-motion way that was so popular about ten years ago. Even scarier?  When she climbs out of the television set and her soaking wet body slaps water on the floor as her hands crawl across it.  The water pools on the floor at her feet.  Now that's how you do a drowned ghost.  *shudder*

Friday the 13th
Ahh, Jason Voorhees.  Did he or didn't he drown in the still waters of Crystal Lake?  That is the question.  Is he a vengeful spirit?  An innocent victim?  Who the hell knows.  Either way, he's made a name for himself.  The jump-scare ending in part one of the Friday the 13th series never fails to affect even the most casual victim.  Just how long was he down there in that lake?

The Changeling, 1980
In The Changeling, a young boy is drowned by his father to make way for an adopted child better suited for the lifestyle of his wealthy parents.  He subsequently haunts the house in fine fashion, scaring the pants off even tough-guy George C. Scott.   Simply one of the best ghost stories out there, ask anyone.  When they finally get to the ending and you find out just what happened, it's a chilling yet satisfying resolution.

Creepshow
In Creepshow's 'Something to Tide You Over', we are subjected to a water-logged Ted Danson and Gaylen Ross coming back from the sea to take care of their murderer: the jovial, sarcastic Leslie Nielsen.  I'll admit readily that the first time I saw this it freaked me out.  It was too scary- seeing the two lovers being buried in the sand up to their heads with the waiting tide ready to drown them. And that goddamned blue crab getting thisclose to pinching Danson's nose off.
So...how long can you hold your breath?

Ghost Story
Ghost Story is, to me, the most frightening depiction of drowning in horror.  It's well documented that I have a huge crush on this film, and was terrified the first time I saw Eva pop up in the backseat of that car, gasping for air and screaming for help.  Oh shit. She wasn't dead when they sent the car into the lake.  And talk about vengeful ghosts coming back? She takes the cake.  Throughout the course of the film, she makes it so blatantly obvious that she doesn't like water, but for some reason she keeps getting soaked in thunderstorms, taking long weekends at the ocean, and nearly drowning in the bathtub.  People just can't take a hint.

Haunted
In the little-seen Haunted, Aidan Quinn plays a man who is struggling with the long-ago drowning death of his twin sister Juliet.  It appears to have more or less been his fault, but Juliet never blames him.  In the case of this movie, the ghost is a good one.  Juliet tries again and again to help her brother escape the horror he has been thrust into.  In the end things are resolved quite nicely.  But she still drowned in the family pond, remember?  Scary.

Lake Mungo
A few years ago I watched a film that scared the ever-loving hell out of me.  Lake Mungo can easily be added to a list of my favorite horror films, as I'm sure many will agree.  It is more or less a mockumentary about a young woman who drowns in the aforementioned lake.  The majority of the film investigates whether or not she has come back from the dead to tell her family something, or whether she is actually even dead at all.  The disturbing pictures of her apparent body being drug up from beneath the lake are burned in my brain.  Gah!

The Dark
Another little seen film, The Dark, tells a tale with Celtic roots about a girl who is given up to the ocean by her father, who fears she is evil.  She comes back after an exchange of souls with a present day young girl.  It sounds complicated and it can be, but the creepiness of the story far outweighs the confusion.  Glimpses of people jumping off a cliff to their death on the rocks below is unnerving to say the least.  And when the young girl slips into the ocean, it brings it all right back to my biggest fear.

The Fog
The Fog is one of my favorite films.  NO, not the remake.  The original.  It's full of oceany good stuff - like creepy-leper-fishermen-ghosts coming back from the sea as spirits dead-set on revenge, an ominous fog rolling onto shore like an envelope of fear, and let's face it:  Adrienne Barbeau.   Always good, right?  But the sopping wet, long-ago drowned sailors knocking on doors three times with their huge meat hooks and glowing red eyes?  Love that shit.

The Woman in Black
The Woman In Black:  A ghastly accident on a fog-covered causeway causes a horse and carriage to topple over into the awaiting marsh waters, killing all on board including a young child.  The title character seeks revenge for the death of her son and if she is seen, the death of a child is forthcoming.
 Soon to be remade into a new film starring none other than Harry Potter himself, The Woman in Black is a chilling example of an accidental drowning and its fearsome consequences.

Let's Scare Jessica to Death
Ghost, vampire, or both?  That is the question one must ask after witnessing the marvel that is Let's Scare Jessica to Death.  The stillness of the lake water where Jessica sits in her canoe pondering her life is disconcerting and has a sense of dread that most films have no hope of producing.  When the specter/vampire/vixen rises from the water, looking not dissimilar to a scene from Carnival of Souls, it gives me a shiver.  People that don't like this movie, don't get it.  Simple as that.

What Lies Beneath
In What Lies Beneath,  - SPOILER ALERT! - Harrison Ford is the bad guy!  What did he do to gain that notoriety?  Well, he joined the 'send the victim to their death in a car into a lake' club.  Our victim didn't care much for that, and started haunting his house and family.  You get double your pleasure (or fear) when Michelle Pfeiffer nearly drowns in her bathtub. In the end it's Indiana Jones who succumbs to the cold lake waters of death after his dead mistress holds him under, preventing his escape.

Don't Look Now
In Don't Look Now, water plays a recurring role in the thriller.  After their daughter drowns, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie's lives are turned upside down and thrown into turmoil.  The Venice location is conducive to many thoughts of drowning, and has given me no desire to travel there. With a tagline such as"Nothing is what it seems...", it's bound to be creepy.
Oh, but the sex scene with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.... hot.


LOST
Oh Charlie, how I boo-hooed when you died on LOST.  It was the cruelest of fates, and I was bummed for weeks.  Even though if he'd have sang that dumb ass Driveshaft song of his (♫ "You all everybody..."♫ -WTF?) one more blessed time I'd have jumped through the tv and drowned him myself.  Come to think of it, I lost a lot more sleep when they killed Boone off (and thank you Vampire Diaries, you know what for)!  I guess the old adage is true:  "Sorry, Charlie."  ANYWAY - It was a pretty shitty way to die, with the room flooding with water and Charlie looking out the porthole with goodbye eyes.  *tear*

Shutter Island
Shutter Island: In a balls-to-the-wall move, Scorsese throws three kids in a lake and calls it a day.  Well, it wasn't quite like that, but nonetheless it was pretty oogie to watch Leo DiCaprio discover his wacky wife drowned his three beautiful children in the lake by their house.  Then she pulls out a line about making them their living dolls and sitting them up at the table.... um, Ahhhhh!  But seeing that poor father grabbing up his kids out of the water, all for naught, it was heartwrenching.  It's bad enough to see anyone drown, but isn't it all the much worse when it is helpless children?  Always brings me back to those real-life loonies Susan Smith and Andrea Yates who drowned their kids in a lake (inside the family car) and their bathtub, respectively.

Open Water
Okay, so this would be a big fuck up, to be sure.  In Open Water, a scuba diving tour group leaves a couple behind in the ocean after an incorrect head count.  They float in the ocean for hours until the sharks arrive and eat them. End of story.  This film actually scared the crap out of me because it was just a little too real.  Maybe that's because this incident actually happened.  Combine that with the tale of the Indianapolis that Quint tells during Jaws, and by god I don't ever want to go into the deep ocean again.  Ever.  I mean, at first, this couple doesn't even realize the sharks are nipping them because their wet suits fit so tight.  By the time they realize it and get bit to the extent that it actually hurts, it's too late.  We've got blood in the water and sharks circling. One of my worst fears.  Good thing I can't scuba dive.  At the end of Open Water, our lone survivor (i.e. shark bait) decides to drown herself in lieu of getting eaten alive.  Either way, it bites.

The Gift
In the oft overlooked Sam Raimi feature The Gift,  Katie Holmes plays a PYT who is the fiance of Greg Kinnear's high school principal character.  She disappears one evening and sets the town ablaze with rumors and hunches on her whereabouts.  Cate Blanchett plays a psychic/fortune teller who has visions and is contacted by police to see if she can conjure up a theory on just what happened to our sexy debutante. 
Unfortunately, her vision shows the victim has been chained up and thrown into the depths of the local pond. What a way to go.  Nasty.  Not just water, but grimy water with lots of icky weeds and bugs and snakes and sludge and slime.... Gah!

Ghost Story
 So all in all, what I'm saying here is that there are a lot of drownings in horror movies, and you know what? They all scare the shit out of me because of my inherent fear of water filling my lungs.

Even though I've only touched on a few of the hundreds of drowning deaths in this genre, they certainly tend to be some of the ghastliest looking corpses imaginable. If I had my druthers, that would be my least favorite way to die.

I'm still hoping for something less dramatic to take me, like cholera or perhaps leprosy.  God help me if my death turns out something like the picture above.  Because I will haunt someone...
Somebody  would have to pay.

8 comments:

James said...

Great article, Christine. Drowning, for me, is up there with plane crashes, sharks and being buried alive. Even the thought of it petrifies me and sends me reeling. When characters drown in films I think it can be one of the most unsettling things to watch – that scene in Lost with poor Charlie and the scene in The Abyss when Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mascarpone are in the little sub as it fills with water - are two of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. I guess because it is something most people can relate to – the panic that sets in when you get into difficulty swimming etc - it is a very REAL danger.

On a lighter note – hope you’re enjoying your well deserved holiday! ;)

Christine Hadden said...

Oh man, I totally forgot that scene from The Abyss, yikes! Good call.
And plane crashes, hm...yes. I have never flown in my life, and between watching all those old 'Airport' movies and the reality of 9/11, I may never fly.

And thanks, I'm quite enjoying myself, even though the deep blue sea is surrounding me on all sides... ahhh!

K. A. Cozy said...

Excellent post! I myself have big aversion/compulsion when it comes to drowning scenes in books or movies, so this resonated with me.

They're not horror films but the two most horrific drowning scenes I've seen are from Lars Von Trier's Europa (aka Zentropa) and the otherwise completely unmemorable Poseidon. Both are extremely prolonged and realistic, though the von Trier one has a certain weird beauty to it (the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography helps) whereas the Poseidon one is too realistic for its own good.

Anyway, have fun at the beach!

Christine Hadden said...

Cozy: Ah yes, Poseidon. Not much to write home about. I recall the original Poseidon Adventure fondly, and should have included it in this post. Haven't seen the other film you mentioned but it sounds like I should.
Thanks!~

The Mike said...

This is freakin' fantastic, ma'am. That scene from Haunted has stuck out to me for years - I barely remember the rest of the movie, however - and is a great pick. And Ghost Story....so creepy. Good work!

Christine Hadden said...

Thanks, Mike! I actually had no idea anyone else even saw 'Haunted', it seems obscure. More guys would see it if they knew Kate Beckinsale is naked as a jay bird in it, several times. Well, now it's out there, hehe.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I think it was your review for The Dark that got me to watch it, I ended it loving it, very moody piece, and great themes! Those scenes of the people hurling themselves into the sea were pretty haunting in deed. Thanks for that recommendation, I need to finally review it at some point!

Christine Hadden said...

So glad you watched The Dark and liked it! I always recommend it thinking SOMEONE, somewhere will appreciate it as much as I do. It's just creepy, no other word for it. And I love the film score, had to buy it - use it to write by quite often. Very moody. :o)