Starring – Michael Madsen, Tatum O’Neal, Luke Mcfarlane, Maureen McCormick, Jennifer Titus, Anna Margaret
Directed by Tom Holland
So, I have officially resigned to the fact that I’m supposed to start watching scary movies now, because ever since late last year when I mentioned in a review that I don’t usually watch scary movies; scary movies have been coming into my life since then, which is typical of me. I never really watched scary movies before because I grew up living in a scary movie and so I didn’t want nightmare scenarios on my TV since I always turned on the TV to escape my scary life, not to be reminded of it. But that meant there has always been a slew of movies out there that I have either never seen or only watched a few minutes of before being reminded that I grew up being frightened every day of my life, so no thanks to movies frightening me as well. But scary movies keep coming at me lately from all directions. I even turned a review down recently because I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and watch a slasher film about gay fraternity boys getting killed off. I watched AIDS kill gay boys when I was growing up, so no thanks to living through that nightmare again. But then a few days later, here came another scary movie review request in my email and that’s when I realized I just needed to start allowing scary movies into my life already because I haven’t lived in that nightmare situation I grew up in for well over 20 years now. In fact, my home life is quite idyllic, even the kind of life most people dream of, and the person who caused my early life to be so terrifying is now long out of my life and I got a lot of people protecting me from her, so I think it is safe now for me to watch scary movies. But just try convincing the part of my brain that is still a scared little kid that it’s okay and I’m perfectly safe now. No easy task, so in a way, I’m looking at scary movies as a good reminder that I can watch them now because I’m not a horribly frightened kid living in a scary movie anymore.
And after watching ROCK PAPER DEAD, I now know why this particular scary movie was sent my way, because it actually helped me start to deal with a certain terrifying aspect from my nightmare childhood that I have been struggling for years to deal with, because unfortunately, I have way too much in common with the reason why the serial killer in this film became a serial killer in the first place. I just didn’t become a serial killer myself.
ROCK PAPER DEAD is about Peter “The Doll Maker” Harris, a serial killer who gets caught and ends up getting sentenced to a mental hospital, only to be released a few years later as completely “cured” thanks to an extremely incompetent psychiatrist. Well, except for the serial killer part, I too have been in mental hospitals under the care of extremely incompetent psychiatrists, so the movie right away was looking a little too much like a mirror to my own life, except, of course, the serial killer part. Back living in the house Peter spent his nightmare childhood in, he begins to remember the nightmare scenarios that caused a frightened little kid to turn into a murderer. Without giving away too much of the plot, this is the part of the movie that has an LGBT character, if you can see this monster as part of the LGBT family, but like I said in my review about the classic film Rope, sometimes our people do horrible, atrocious things, and this guy is most definitely a monster, who in my eyes is worse than Peter.
Much, much worse.
And when this thought first hit me as I watched the film, it quite shocked me. How could I see this awful, gross, cruel man who did unspeakable things to a child as worse than the killer he helped to create?
A killer who tortures and then murders women.
But I did.
I saw this gross, cruel, awful man as the real monster, because I had the same monster in my childhood too. Not any easy thing to admit to myself while watching a movie, much less writing it here, but I am anyway, because this particular aspect of my nightmare childhood has also been coming at me from all directions lately, just like scary movies have, so it made sense that it and scary movies came to me all wrapped up in one package last week.
My eyes had been opened anew to horror movies just before I watched this film thanks to a very impassioned email I got from one of the producers of ROCK PAPER DEAD about the horror genre, and the way she described her love of horror films (as she was trying to reassure me that it was okay I have a hard time watching scary movies) made me realize that these films really touch people. They don’t just scare the shit out of people. These films actually reach out and touch people, just like films have always done for me, but I always assumed horror movies could never do more than scare the shit out of me, so who has time to be touched by a movie when all I ever wanted to do with horror movies before was turn them off for fear of being right back in my own childhood nightmare??! But this producer showed me that you can love horror movies as much as you can be scared by them, and in fact, I think that is kind of the fun in them too, that they can be both. So I kept the producer’s email in my thoughts as I watched ROCK PAPER DEAD, and in a sense, watched my own nightmare childhood situation unfold in front of me, and I was shown over and over she was right. This movie did reach out and touch me. It still also scared the shit out of me, but when it wasn’t doing that, it was telling me that what happened to me wasn’t my fault, I survived and I’m safe now and I didn’t even turn into a serial killer because of it. And so for the first time in my life, I began to actually breathe when I thought about these particular horrible, atrocious things that happened to me as a child, instead of freezing instantly, unable to move, unable to breathe, unable to process what happened to me and therefore, forever haunted by it. And all from a movie that I assumed would haunt me, but instead ended up helping to set me free.
Years and years of therapy and extremely incompetent psychiatrists couldn’t help me deal with the horrible, atrocious things that this particular adult in my life had done to me as a child, instead of loving me and caring for me and providing me with a safe environment like every parent should do, but this parent most definitely did not. This horror movie showed me what my childhood looked like, and I finally saw that I was just a scared kid under this person’s power and there wasn’t anything I could have done to prevent it or stop it other than to escape her and eventually I did, but not before the damage was more than done. Typical of me, I turn on a movie and it all makes perfect sense suddenly. Not that I’m cured or anything. I’m still pretty fucked-up, but not so fucked-up about my nightmare childhood anymore.
And that’s the power of movies for you, Charlie Brown. Movies, no matter what genre, no matter how much Oscar winning talent is or isn’t behind them; any movie at any time can reach into your soul, into your heart and touch you, and so, Amy, you were right when you told me that horror films are a true art form. To me art has always been something that reaches in and touches my soul and helps me to understand my life, and who knew that would include a movie from the creators of the Friday the 13th and Child’s Play movies who could do that for used-to-always-avoid-horror-movies me, especially those particular scary movies that came out during my nightmare childhood, but that’s life for you. Or as Forest Gump’s mom would say, you just never know what you’re going to get. And what I got to go get doing now is watch some more scary movies.
ROCK PAPER DEAD will be released in 2018 and is the first film in a planned trilogy, so I guess that means I definitely got some scary movie watching in my future. 🙂