It is almost Halloween and I saw a facebook post about lessons to be learned in horror novels. I would like to expand that concept to horror movies. I have certainly benefited from the education I received from both. I often comment that I have learned a great deal about parenting from the movie The Shining. Jack Torrance certainly made a  tremendous effort to “correct” his son’s bad behavior. Although, it might have been a bit over the top. However, it is nice to see a father willing to spend time with his son. Playing hide-go-seek with an axe and playing in a hedge maze (or with hedge animals in the book) can be fun. If left to his own devices Danny might have come to play with those twins girls, “…forever and ever and ever”. So it is nice to see a father take an interest in his son’s life.

Also I have learned from almost every horror movie that leaving the group for some pre-marital snuggling will result in being dismembered. It is a good moral lesson for teenagers. One should not engage in pre-marital sex and if you do please use protection. By protection I am referring to a Magnum. The gun not the condom.

Frankenstein certainly has many life lessons about scientists doing things to show they can rather than accomplish something. Genetic engineering has had an adverse effect on our ecosystem. Pesticides and genetically engineered corn may already have the un-anticipated effect of killing good insects such as bees. Not to mention the modifying of animal DNA should concern everyone. Is it wise to produce giant genetically modified salmon in fish farms? It is not a great stretch for movies like, Mimic and Black Sheep to go the step further of genetic engineering running amok.

The abuse of antibiotics, germ killing soaps and anti bacterial hand sanitizers have helped create more resistant diseases. They have also led to more movies. These diseases include the creation of zombies. 28 Days Later, I Am Legend and Resident Evil resonate with the public because they seem oddly possible. Messing with the environment can have unintended consequences.

A central theme in most horror movies  is that evil or bad behavior will be punished down the road. Poltergeist teaches us not only to move the bodies but the more general lesson to show respect of the dead. Steven King in Pet Cemetery and The Shining (although I can’t remember if it was in the movie or the book) warns of the need to respect old Native American Burial Grounds. Yet, revenge is about more then groups of dead people but individuals as well. If people were nicer to Carrie she might not have burned them alive. That creepy girl in The Ring might not have interrupted your late night movie if she was treated well as a child (although she may have just been evil). That little boy with the sack on his head in The Orphanage might have stayed in his grave. The man in Pumpkin Head might not have had to avenge his son’s death. We wouldn’t care what you did last summer. I could go on let’s face it the dead love to come back if they were killed unfairly. Even if the death is not completely unjustified as in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Which brings me to another lesson don’t take the law into your own hands. It is not just a catch phrase from The People’s Court but a lesson to live by.

Curiosity kills more than the cat in many horror movies. The lesson, “Don’t open the damn door!”, is a no brainer. Do you really have to open a tomb when the curse is chiseled in stone above the entrance? Do you have to read from the Book of the Dead in a language you couldn’t understand anyway? From Greek Myths (Pandora’s Box), to the bible (eating from the apple tree) to folktales (Bluebeard’s wives) we have been warned. In short, don’t open that box, don’t go into that tomb, don’t read from that book and don’t open the damn door. Curiosity kills.

Finally, don’t ever raise the dead. Yeah, this seems like obvious advice. If I had a nickel for each time my folks left us kids alone, without a babysitter, with the sole advise not to raise the dead. What is the first thing we did? Duh, try and raise the dead. Yes, that old Monkey’s Paw (W.W. Jacobs; 1906) provided hours of entertainment. Not to mention the Ouija board and that old copy of the Book of the Dead. If only we had seen the Evil Dead and Witchboard first we could have avoided a lot of heartache. If I learned anything from Pet Cemetery it is that if you raise the dead they just don’t come back right.

There is a lot you can learn from the Horror Genre. If you can learn life lessons from television, Netflix  or a DVD rather than personal experience you can avoid a lot of hassle. So have a fun and safe Halloween and remember:

1.  Don’t play with dead things.

2.  Don’t open that tomb, box, book or door.

3.  Don’t leave the group for pre-marital snuggling.

4.  Don’t take the law into your own hands.

5.  Be kind and don’t bully.

6.  Leave nature alone.

7.  Don’t raise the dead.

8.  Skip the apple and only eat candy in wrappers.

9.  Share your candy with your father.




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