It’s strange how most things really just don’t creep me out that much. I mean, I was unable to eat and almost barfed up my lunch when I utilized my first responder skills at a major car accident in the early ought’s, but it wasn’t until after the ambulance carried the young lady away with her caved in forehead. Shakes and shudders and vomit was on my mind after she was gone.
Nor was I all to happy (at first) helping with fingerprinting a dead man who had blown his brains out helping out for the crime lab when I was training to be a CSI. His girlfriend’s prints were on the weapon too, and they needed to see if they could make sure her story held water when she said she just moved the gun after she found him (turns out she was telling the truth). It was strange, even in the controlled environment of the morgue, holding a guy’s hand to stretch out the skin to get a decent fingerprint, all the while trying not to look at the bag they had scooped everything into from above the neck, or the remains of the autopsy from the neck down. But, oddly, I got used to it after a few deep breaths. Just a body. Not even a person anymore. Sounds crass, but that’s how I processed the information at the time.
I get the willies with bugs. Man, I can go a long time without dealing with bugs. And I’m not a big fan of blood when it comes to the living and it leaking out of them. And you won’t catch me swimming in deep water (levitation-horrors, I suppose).
But not much else. Gross out is not creepy, just… gross.
So, that’s what came to mind as I rewatched the first season of Black Summer the past few days. Not even grossed out, really, although I still found the zombie’s persistence and mobility awe-inspiring after years of shambling horrors that are easily distracted. “Huh, I’m still not creeped out.”
I’ll watch the second season tonight (or part of it, rather). The impression I’ve gotten from social media is that the horror might come from me not having the engagement to finish the second season, rather than any horrors depicted in the show. Which is too bad — I like me some good jump-scares. Not that most films or shows can manage to elicit jumps out of me, but hope springs eternal.
What I really like are films/shows that create a sense of real dread. Unfortunately, I can’t think of the last time that threatened to happen. Too many shows rely on the gross out to create horror and, as the master himself describe the hierarchy of horror:
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion, and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find I cannot terrify him/her, I will try to horrify; and if I find I cannot horrify, I’ll go for the gross-out. I’m not proud.”Stephen King
Too many shows, movies and even books resort to cheap gross-out and call it horror. That was the problem with The Walking Dead, especially after a certain point — everything became “torture porn” and zombies slowly rending flesh or pulling out intestines. That’s not terrifying. It’s just gross and, frankly, mind-numbingly boring. That’s why I don’t “get” the splatterpunk novels out there. Anyone can ketchup-spray a room in a book or get deeply into describing the popping sound an eyeball makes as it gets exposed to a hot iron during a torture sequence. Not terrifying in the least.
What I liked about the first season of Black Summer was not so much the hint that something bad might happen at any moment (which they tried hard to cultivate, but by using old tricks), but that they didn’t resort to the typical gross-out effects. The most gross thing was a few chunks of coughed up mucus mixed with blood and the suggestion that chomping was occurring. But even the eating of formerly alive subjects was not the point — the point was for the infection to spread, so once the victim was dead, the show didn’t linger on the idea of someone slowly pulling out entrails to munch on them, but the zombie went off to spread the joy to another victim right away.
Was it the best show I’ve seen on zombies? Nah, that praise is still held onto by Return of the Living Dead, mostly because they didn’t even try to take themselves serious and just had a fun time. Not scary at all, pure campiness.
But kinda gross in places.