Amok Mama: Needing horror

Do men need horror? Do women need horror? Where does the need come from? Jacinta Nandi sorts it out.

So the other day I woke up from one of those feverish nightmares where you find out you’re pregnant with a killer-zombie-vampire-werewolf-monkey-type-thing, and then you’re just so glad to be alive and not actually pregnant with a killer-zombie-vampire-werewolf-monkey-type-thing that you just lie in bed, coated in cold sweat, listening to your teeth tremble. You know what I mean? I really hate it when that happens. But it got me thinking about feverish nightmares, horror films, and horror in general.

Sometimes I think women don’t need horror the same way men do. Oh, we can do it, alright, if we have to – I’m thinking Emily Bronte and that ghost child’s wrists and the window – we can do it. But we don’t need it like men do. We don’t need it in our lives.

There’s this Irish writer I love, called Anne Enright – she won the Booker a few years back and she found out she was pregnant when she was in Berlin. No, that’s not true, actually – but she kind of knew she was pregnant in Berlin and she found out for sure when she got home. And this is what she said about pregnancy:

“If Kafka had been a woman, then Gregor Samsa would not have turned into an insect, he would not have had to. Gregor would be Gretel and she would wake up one morning pregnant. She would try to roll over and discover she was stuck on her back. She would wave her little hands uselessly in the air.”

And I think the mind-numbingly depressing fact is that this is patently true. Back in the 1980s, my mum was studying Cultural Studies at North East London Polytechnic. There was graffiti in the toilets that said: “War is menstrual envy”. Well, if war is menstrual envy, then so is Friday the 13th. So is Reservoir fucking Dogs. The bit when that copper gets his ear shorn off. And you know that bit in Trainspotting when Renton swims through shite to find the drugs he’s crapped down the toilet? Okay, that’s not menstrual envy. It’s just crapping-yourself-while-giving-birth envy.

This is what I think: I think Zelda Fitzgerald was wrong. She said women only existed because otherwise men would get bored with each other. To give men something to do – something different to do. But that’s not true. Well, I don’t believe it. It’s not that women only exist to give men something to do when they get bored between writing stories or stealing cars: no, Zelda, that’s not it. The truth is equally depressing, actually. It’s that men only create all that guts and gore because they suspect that their bodies just aren’t leaky enough. Men need to create horror. Women don’t. Our bodies are so fascinatingly grotesque that we don’t actually need horror. Fascinatingly grotesque – and a little bit leaky. We have all this vaginal discharge and goo and stuff leaking out of us.

Women don’t need horror. We don’t need all those bouncy foetuses coming out of the ceiling or blood trickling down the bathroom window. We don’t even need aliens infesting our bodies. We leak vaginal discharge, and sometimes we shit ourselves while giving birth. (A friend of a friend was so high on birth drugs she thought the poo was her baby. The midwife was like: “No, that’s not the baby, you’ve just shat yourself.”) We watch horror films sometimes, for sure. But we don’t need them. We don’t need to make them. Not like boys do. It’s a bit depressing. At least Zelda Fitzgerald was pretty, before she went mental, I mean.

I didn’t watch a horror film for a whole year after my son was born. It wasn’t a conscious decision – I didn’t actually sit there and say: “My body is leaky and grotesque enough now, I don’t need horror in my life anymore.” I just never watched one. I mean, that first year I didn’t have much time for films anyway. And if I ever did watch one, it was always Jim Carrey and a light-hearted comedy. I was addicted to Jim Carrey, that year. The first horror film I watched after giving birth was back in England, my son was almost a year old. It was The Ring. After my son had gone to bed, my little brother put on the DVD player. Fuck, I had forgotten how terrifying horror films can be. It was fucking horrific. I was almost crying with pain and fear and terror and unbearably petrifying emotions like that. I was gasping with shock every 10 seconds. It was awful. It was exhausting. It wasn’t even remotely enjoyable. It was horrific.

I whispered to my little brother in a quiet, hard voice: “How much more of this is there? I don’t think I can take much more of this.”

He grinned at me: “It’s only a film, Jacinta. It’s not real.”

I stared at him bleakly.

“Thank God,” I whispered. “If this was real I’d fucking kill myself.”

It’s a very scary film, to be perfectly honest. Still. At least Naomi Watts doesn’t get impregnated by a killer-zombie-vampire-werewolf-monkey-type-thing. That would be a right nightmare.

Come to Ä-Bar on Thursday night to see Jacinta Nandi and her Lesebühne Rakete 2000 with their flesh-eating zombie special, yep, it’s the Night of the Living Lesebühne. For more info: http://rakete2000.blogspot.de/