Archive for October, 2012

Beginning scene formula for almost any  80’s horror movie ~ A buxom young woman is spending the evening at home with her equally shapely, and questionably legal, girlfriends…challenging her intellectually challenged peers to pillow fights,  refusing to conform to society’s bra obsession, and contemplating the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  Oblivious to her fatefully awaiting date with the grim reaper, she flaunts her barely there t-shirt and peek-a-boo panties.  As she and her friends reenact every boy’s fantasized wet dream ideology of a girls’ sleepover, a crazed murderer lurks in the night, watching her every move, breathing heavily, and waiting patiently for her sexiest moment to slash her into pieces.  He watches as she departs from the herd, disrobes, and heads for the shower, where she arches her back, washes her hair, and cleans only her breasts with the obsessive precision of this guy.  Once she’s sure they can’t possibly get any cleaner and her back simply won’t arch any further, she deems her shower done.  As she slips into as little as possible, an ominous sound outside her window beckons to her.  Just when she’s convinced it was her imagination at play, she comes face to face with her serial killer Casanova.  He stares blankly at her as she screams frantically into the night.  As is the apparent norm for cinematic killers, he is locked in some psychotic trance.  She seizes the moment to scream louder and, of course ~ while clumsily looking back over her shoulder ~ run!  Squeaky clean ta-tas bouncing to the delight of every teenage boy and envy of every teenage girl glued to, ironically, the ‘boob tube.’  But the omnipresent slasher is two steps ahead of her, and no matter how fast she runs, how loud she screams, how much she begs…those impeccably clean knockers can’t help her now. She’s knocked her last knock.

Now for her friends.  ~ End scene

1, 2…Freddy came for you.  3, 4…Let’s watch some more!

Horror movie mania is never more rampant than on Halloween.  The need to scare and be scared always dwells within us.  Hence, the overwhelming popularity of rollercoasters, skydiving, bungee jumping, haunted houses, and People of Walmart perusal. 😉

We crave fear.  But why?  What is it about horror movies that keeps us revved up and brushed up on the infamous Zombie Survival Guide?

Theories on our fear flick fetish include our willingness to endure the terror in order to experience the euphoric relief when the credits roll.  As one fear enthusiast and haunted house artist put it, “It’s a complete journey from anticipation to anxiety to experiencing the fear and having the adrenaline rush to coming down afterward.”  In other words, it’s a drug…and we’re addicted.

Most recently, research on the root of our horror mania points to physiological and evolutionary causes.  We love horror movies for the same reason we love any other death defying act.  Adrenaline.  The hormonal reaction we get from facing and surviving a physical threat is a physiological ganja hit.  The ability to experience both negative (threat imposed by empathy for the victim) and positive (relief that we are physically detached from the threat) simultaneously is an emotional high for us.  We get high on the fear.  We come down on the relief.  A hair- raising, nightmare-inducing horror movie is a roller coaster ride of emotion that delivers us safely back to reality.

Once it’s over and we’re still in one piece, we feel victorious and untouchable.  We had the courage to come face to face with death, and we survived.  Predator survival speaks to our primal roots.  Our evolutionary predecessors  faced physical threat on a daily basis.  Competition for food, clothing, and shelter all required the occasional throwdown with nature’s superior food chain elite.  The ability to outwit badass predators was the only way to keep the species thriving and jiving.  So not only did we have to face it, we had to be good at it.  Adrenaline junkies, we’re biologically hardwired to be drawn to danger and to, hopefully, rock survival.

5, 6…Death’s ass gets kicked!

Of course, as we age, we lose our hunger for horror.  It’s no secret that the horror film industry relies mostly on young adults as an audience base.  Teenagers, in particular, love a good heaping of horror hangover.  Perhaps, as adolescents reach adulthood, they are subconsciously preparing themselves for challenges that lie ahead.  Many years ago, those challenges entailed physical threats to survival.  So, defense was a coming of age skill.  Some psychologists say we dream “in order to rehearse behaviors of self-defense in the safety of nighttime isolation.”  In other words, we practice our real life fight-or-flight what-if’s in our dreams…as a means of preparation.  Perhaps our love for horror movies is cloaked in the same mental subconscious.  Maybe we’re simply training ourselves just in case we ever end up staring down the hockey mask of a lunatic on an unfortunate Friday the 13th.  On the off chance that we do, horror movies provide us a play by play of what may get us killed, and what may not.  Once the movie is over, we feel more than just relief.  We feel properly trained and prepared for our own possible brush with the likes of Freddy Krueger.  And we know never to fall asleep.

So, like it or not, our love affair with scary movies is here to stay.  Due to evolutionary cravings beyond our control, we will continue to force ourselves through haunted houses, jump from horrifying heights to uncertain death, and gather around movie screens to face off with the latest Paranormal phenomenon or asylum escapee with a chainsaw and a chip on his shoulder.  Fear is a timeless fad.

Now to get some female writers for future horror flicks.  I mean men take sexy showers too, right?

7,8…Fear is your fate.

9,10…It’s Fright Night again!

Happy Halloween 🙂

Chick Hughes

“I love horror movies because they’re really fun. They tap into those wonderful primal emotions.” ~  Margot Kidder

Top 10 FEAR Pics of the Week (Oct 2012: Week 2)




It’s been just over a month since the day my sister passed away…August 28th.  “Time of death… 6:37.”  The doctor’s face as she announced this single solitary moment in time will be burned into my memory for each and every future moment hereafter.  Before losing her, I was rarely at a loss for words, ever ready with sarcastic commentary and not easily shaken.  Since that day, however, I’ve tried to write.  Many times.  But each attempt left me overwhelmed with emotion and fumbling for literary dignity … seemingly bound by some invisible force that mocked every word, every thought as undeserving and insignificant.  I could barely think, let alone write.  Perhaps avoiding a mental confrontation with her death.  Perhaps existing in an emotional tailspin void of inspiration.  Perhaps paralyzed by this all-encompassing monster called grief, with which I’m becoming far too familiar.  Whatever the binding excuses were, they now take their rightful and inferior place behind my infinitely stubborn need for analytical dissection.

And dissect, I have.  Having tirelessly studied and analyzed the cutting edge medical treatments she endured and why they couldn’t save her, the agonizing days leading up to her death, how she may or may not have felt, what she may or may not have been thinking, what she may or may not have been aware of, and the excruciatingly final moment in which she slipped away…I am completely lost trying to comprehend an incomprehensible world without her in it.  A world without her won’t-back-down bulldog in-your-face protection of those she loved, a world without her impossibly stubborn know-it-all attitude, a world without the sister I’ve known, loved, hated, fought with, cried with, and turned to my entire life.  A world with no stubborn baby sister with whom to butt heads.

A stubborn streak was one of the few things I had in common with her.  Aside from that, we were different in every way, shape, and form.  And regarding areas we may not have been so different, we were both too damn stubborn to fess up to.

As children, we learned, we played, we experienced, we dealt with life together.  Side by side. Good times and bad.  Triumphs and failures.  Birthdays and fall-outs.  Love and hate.  Protection and rivalry.  Stories and secrets.  These are the things that define sisterhood.  I knew her inside and out, as she did me.  As adults, we just never got along. And if, in some rare weak moment, we found ourselves succumbing to the evils of sisterly amiability, we were quick to rectify it.  But, family is family.  And as two sisters in an incredibly small family circle, she was my constant…and I hers.

So, whether we saw eye to eye or not, whether we laughed together or declared war on the other, whether we stuck together or stuck it to each other, whether we liked it or not…we were a team in this world.

I only wish I’d known that.  Death has this backhanded way of teaching its spectators life lessons while simultaneously revoking any opportunity to act on their newfound knowledge.

After fighting a losing health battle for most of a year, she was, at last, able to receive a surgery that we hoped would change her life.  The adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.   Her surgery proved unsuccessful and resulted in two subsequent surgeries.  Each brought with it more and more challenges for her to overcome as she slowly deteriorated before our eyes.  After the 3rd surgery, she could no longer go on without life support.  Two weeks on the ventilator were met with little success as her lungs progressively worsened and she was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome).  The deterioration of her lungs got the best of the ventilator, and that too began to fail.  So, in addition to the ventilator, she was placed on a machine called ECMO.  A machine we had never before heard of and one that only 6 adult patients had been placed on in the history of the hospital where she was receiving treatment, it was essentially an artificial lung.  A beast of a machine, it removed her blood from her body, filtered out carbon dioxide, oxygenated it, and sent it back into her body.  The doctors referred to it as a medical “last ditch”effort.

This marked a turning point for my sister.  One that rendered her void of responsiveness…one in which she slowly slipped further and further away.

By her side as much as possible, I talked to her, sang to her, yelled at her, made promises to her, begged for her forgiveness, nursed her, cleaned her, treated her to mani-pedis, and learned everything I possibly could about the machines her life depended on.  Machines that never seemed to yield definite answers and only fueled my 101 questions to which doctors responded with evasive non-answers.

After 3 weeks of depending on not one, but two, forms of life support, brain scans revealed scattered bleeds and damage in her brain caused by the continuous pressure of the very thing keeping her with us.  Respiratory medical advances had kept her alive…defeated death…but the side effects of said advances would produce the same outcome.  Through the weeks of poking, prodding, tests, and unknown pain that we subjected her to, we thought we were saving her.  That we were prolonging her life.  As it turns out, what we were actually doing was prolonging her death…I suspect subconsciously we needed time to come to terms with what was happening.  Time to process the inevitable.  We each needed our own journey of acceptance before we could come together as a family and set her free.  Without meaning to, we were stripping her of her last wishes, her dignity, her right to pass on in peace.  She was facing hurdles impossible to climb.  Her body was worn down.  Her lungs had given up.  Her brain had paid the price.  The time to fight had come and gone.  It was time to give her what she needed most…peace.

Time to turn off the machines, to let her go.

Coming to this conclusion mentally is a vicious internal battle fought by each family member…one that precedes the actual war.  Giving up on hope.  Ending a life.

Heart-wrenching in theory.  Unimaginable in execution.

Being present for the death of someone you love is something one is never prepared for…and something that forever changes a person, I believe.  As a family, being forced into a decision to remove life support from one of its own grossly extends the limits of any manageable emotion, any possibility of soothing, or any realm of rationale.

As her last moments approached, I was by her side, as were my parents and brother.  We were circled around her as she left our family for whatever awaited her.  As a family who rarely (or, in fact, had never) gathered in one place at one time, there we were…sewn together at the hip by family ties, to see her through.  Through her battles with the life support that would eventually take her from us, through her last physical struggles, through her last moments of consciousness, through her last gasps of breath…we held her hand.  Or maybe she was the one holding our hands, easing us into acceptance of what she knew to be her fate.  Inches from her face, I sang to her, pledged my love to her, apologized for regrets I will never be able to undo, cried into her hand, and rubbed her face as the machines were turned off, as she took her last breath, as our tears drenched her lifeless body.  We were allowed more time with her after her passing…to hold her, to clean her, to look at her face one last time…before she was taken out of our lives forever.  Her struggle was over.  But ours was just beginning.

I still wonder what her thoughts were, if any.  What she could feel, if anything.  What she was aware of, if anything.  Did she know we were gathered around her?  Could she feel our love, our regret, our tears?  Hoping, hoping, hoping that she did.  Yet, hoping she felt nothing as she peacefully drifted off to sleep for the last time.  And wrestling with the knowledge that we couldn’t have it both ways.

Watching my baby sister leave this world was…

Truthfully, I don’t know how to end that sentence.  There just aren’t words that do the experience justice.  The love, the pain, the fear, the regret, the loss, the guilt, the realization that a piece of me which was never appreciated enough, never spoken to enough, never loved on enough,  is gone forever ~ no do-overs, no make-ups, no second chances.  Just gone.

Game over.  Nobody wins.

All that’s left is grief.

A monster whose reputation I have only heard horror stories about until recently.  A monster who comes with unthinkable force, obliterates its victims, and leaves quietly, only to plot its next debilitating bodily invasion.  A monster one can only straddle like a bucking horse gone mad, ride out its fury, climb down from, and wait…with one eye open, dreading its return.

A monster I have now gone toe to toe with…

As I mourn the loss of my sister, as I try to cherish her life, as I gather every precious, and previously unappreciated, memory of her I can scrape from the depths of my mind for my emotional consumption…as I struggle to make sense of her very short and difficult life…as I continue to straddle the monster that is grief ~ wild, terrifying, and unpredictable…

I hold on tight and hope the monster tires soon.

And to my sister, I say…You are forever a piece of my heart.

I love you.

I love you.

I love you.


~ Chick Hughes