Growing up in the suburbs, most of my summers were spent running around my neighborhood with my childhood best friend. We’d ride our bikes, eat honeysuckle out of our neighbor’s yard, and pretend to be Power Rangers. However, I’d have to find my own fun if my friend wasn’t available. But there’s only so much TV a kid can watch before getting bored, and only so many times I could dress up our elderly family poodle without him getting pissed at me.
One particular summer, I remember reading a book I had picked up from that school year’s scholastic book fair. This book was The Ghost’s Grave by Peg Kehret. It featured Josh, a kid spending the summer at his Aunt’s house in a small mining town where he had no friends (a relatable premise for a little young, bored me). Things get spooky when he discovers a treehouse in the woods, and a one-legged miner’s ghost appears to him, asking the boy to reunite his leg with the rest of his body. Once Josh gets up the courage to dig up the grave, he discovers a box of money buried along with the leg. A conspiracy unravels, and Josh finds that the money was meant for an animal shelter and was stolen by the manager of the town’s bank.
I think the intrigue of the conspiracy was very new and enticing to little Sebastian. As an avid true crime fanatic, I can see the threads of my obsession in The Ghost’s Grave. A decades-old crime solved by an unlikely hero, what could be more captivating for someone who went on to listen to every Buzzfeed Unsolved video ever to be released? The book also sets up the conflict in an easy way for a kid to understand: stealing from cute, defenseless animals is bad.
My memories of reading The Ghost’s Grave are also special because it was an excuse to snuggle with our old poodle. Most days, he slept in the warm sunbeam from our glass front door. I would bring most of the contents of my bed – my comforter, as many blankets as I could find, several pillows, and my favorite stuffed animal – and put them on the tile next to Napoleon to make a little nest to lay in while we hung out together. This was one of the few activities we did together that he tolerated because he was old and crotchety, and I was very annoying.
There is something special about a book you can’t put down, and The Ghost’s Grave is the one that stands out from my childhood. It was probably one of the first horror books I read on my own. I think I appreciated the freedom to read the book at my own pace and imagine what I might do if I had a friendly ghost friend. When I reflect on my younger self, I’m surprised at how much I loved horror books because I was also vehemently afraid of the dark and the concept of monsters in my closet or under my bed. Admittedly, I slept with a nightlight until halfway through high school.
The Ghost’s Grave was undoubtedly a step in turning me into the horror freak I am today. Some other steppingstones for me were R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, and Neal Shusterman’s Unwind series. As a teenager, some of the first movies I tested my courage with were One Missed Call (yes, it was the shitty American version, and yes, I was still scared by it), Insidious, and whatever Paranormal Activity movie was currently showing at my local theater. As an adult, it’s much harder to find the time to read, and I spend much more time watching horror films than reading. But I envy the summers little Sebastian spent curled up in a nest in a sunbeam.
Follow Us For a Chance to Win our ‘It Follows’ Giveaway!
I don’t know about you, but this is one of my favorite horror movies ever (regardless of questionable footwear), and this box set delivers the goods. So, if you’re a fan of the movie (who isn’t?), you’ll want to read on to find out how to enter our giveaway.
HOW TO ENTER:
Entering our giveaway is a breeze, and we promise there’ll be no need to make a mad dash onto a beach in the middle of the night while wearing heels!
Step 1. Make sure to FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM!
Step 2. LIKE the giveaway post!
Step 3. Tag a friend who loves horror!
Step 4. Make sure you’re signed up for our NEWSLETTER on the website.
The winner will be selected on September 22nd and notified via direct message. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, we will randomly select another winner.
WHAT YOU’LL WIN:
The winner of our giveaway will receive a brand new Limited Edition 4K UHD and Blu-Ray copy of It Follows from Second Sight Films.
This version is region-unlocked and comes jam-packed with cool extras.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to our Instagram, make sure you’re following our account, like our giveaway post, and tag a friend for your chance to win your limited edition copy of It Follows.
Good luck, and stay spooky!
**Giveaway entries are limited to addresses in the United States.**
A Beginner’s Guide to Jump Scares
Jump scares get a bad rap. In the horror discourse, they’re often dismissed as cheap and tawdry ways to get audiences on the edge of their seats, like a bargain basement replacement for the psychological thrills of more “important” horror movies. But the fact is, jump scares are a vital ingredient in the horror pantry, and they can be used to propel artful masterpieces just as much as popcorn-munching chillers.
A Step By Step Guide to Overcoming Jump Scares
However, even if you agree with that assessment, some people just aren’t built for jump scares. If you or someone you love is interested in seeing certain jump scare-focused movies but can’t control a viscerally negative reaction to those roller coaster thrills, I have prepared a three-step program to help teach you how to watch them and wean you onto the really gnarly nerve-janglers. (Full disclosure: I’m on step 3 with someone very close to me right now, and so far it’s doing the trick).
For the purposes of the following examples, I’m going to assume you are the horror fan who wants to eventually show a particularly scary movie to someone else, so we’ll refer to that person as the Scaredy Cat.
Step 1: Hop
Depending on where your friend/partner/family member/dark passenger is in their horror fandom, you may have to start them at the very beginning to build up some jump scare stamina.
First, we should start with true gateway movies, titles that are aimed specifically at children. There are quite a few scary moments in iconic children’s classics, so maybe they’ve already been exposed to some of them. Think Large Marge in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Fizzgig popping out of the tree stump in The Dark Crystal, or the screaming book in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (I don’t recommend giving J.K. Rowling any more money by paying to watch this, but if you’re a millennial or younger, you probably have a copy lying around or know somebody who does).
If they haven’t experienced any of these delectable kindertrauma offerings as a child, then sit them down for some essential viewing. The filmmakers behind these kinds of movies intend to scare the audience, but only a little, couching these moments in off-kilter but more family-friendly aesthetics that will allow viewers to process their fear in a safe environment.
Step 2: Skip
Once that step is done, I recommend viewing some iconic horror shorts like David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out, Andy Muschietti’s Mamá, or Parker Finn’s Laura Hasn’t Slept. While these can be mighty scary, and in my opinion, frequently scarier than the feature films they inspired, they all tend to follow a certain rhythm. Make sure your Scaredy Cat is very prepared going in. Don’t try to have fun at their expense.
Have your Scaredy Cat try to focus on the way the short film is trying to scare them, how it builds tension continuously into one quick release. With shorts like this, there is usually just one jump scare at the very end, so they can rest assured that they will have as much recovery time as they need afterward. Also, knowing the run time of the short ahead of watching it can help them keep an eye on exactly when the scare is coming.
Watching a few shorts in a row can be an excellent guide to how filmmakers craft the scares that are dotted throughout their features, but in a bite-size package that’s slightly easier to swallow.
Step 3: Jump
If your Scaredy Cat has proven themselves willing and able to pass steps 1 and 2, it’s time for the final showdown. This is where you dip their toe into feature-length horror for adults. While this step will look slightly different for everyone, there are two routes you can take depending on what type of movie fan they are.
Route 1: The Franchise
This is the route I’m using with my personal Scaredy Cat. If they are a completist who likes exploring the full breadth of a franchise, they might not be able to resist a horror series with slightly stronger continuity or more built-out lore, like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and Scream. They might be scared by the movies, but it may also be difficult for them to resist the urge to find out what happens next. These franchises also usually have an escalation of scares as they go along, naturally weaning your Scaredy Cat onto scarier and scarier movies.
Now these franchises will inevitably have entries that are worse than others, but having the conversation about which are your favorites and why is also a useful tool for having them engage with the franchise in a way that isn’t solely about jump scares. Also, if Insidious is the franchise you choose, it’ll clue them into the James Wan style of jump scare, which is very common in modern horror and could come in handy for future movies.
Route 2: The Familiar Face
Another route would be to find a movie that stars or features an actor they love from something else. If they love Daniel Radcliffe, for instance, The Woman in Black is a very good place to start. Are they a Buffy fan? Maybe The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Well… maybe. Don’t @ me if that one doesn’t go well, this all depends on who they like. But seeing a star they enjoy might be the carrot that helps them get over the stick of jump scares.
If you’ve completed all these steps and your Scaredy Cat’s heart hasn’t exploded, then they might just be ready to approach the big guns like The Conjuring, It: Chapter One, The Descent, and [REC]. Jump scares still may never be their cup of tea. But at least they will have the tools to recognize when one is coming and the experience under their belt to know they can handle it when it does.