The Twenty Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen
In looking for what she’s lost, she hung the film rolls up like wallpaper around the walls of her bedroom and when she was done, the strips shone heavy with the past’s accusatory light. She took that shoebox out from under her bed and sliced into those disposable cameras with scissors, and she pulled the film from their rolls, and the strips lay like snake tongues on the carpet of her bedroom floor, creeping toward her. Twenty of those rolls, filled with everything she’d lived through but never seen, and even in the negatives of these film rolls, even though they’re undeveloped, indecipherable, and black, she finds herself and traces herself with her fingernail and looks for everything she lost along the way.
The twenty best horror movies you’ve never seen sat in that shoebox of undeveloped Kodak film rolls for three years because she never liked to take pictures she could see. And now the twenty best horror movies you’ve never seen have been set free. She’s taken them out and unrolled them and gotten real-life ghosts of moments where she made him pause and smile, but she’ll never develop these because she’s scared, because the shadows are bad enough, because once you see something you can’t unsee it, like that time she watched “The Taking of Dorothy Logan” with him in her parents’ basement after the fireworks on July fourth, which is a movie about a lady with Alzheimer’s who was actually just possessed. And he said he had nightmares for weeks after– and they talked about that for weeks after– only so they wouldn’t have to talk about how scared they were of one another. Of all the things in the world to be scared of, of the twenty best horror movies they’d never seen played out in film rolls coiled tight and collecting in a shoebox under her bed, they chose Dorothy Logan because even demons were easier to confront, easier to fight, than his temper.
In this strip strung across her window, she remembers how his silences tuned up and checked her into the wall, grabbed her with thorn-covered fingers, handcuffed and fisticuffed and bustacapped and pinned her for the count. She knows she was happy then, but she cannot find that in the blackness of the negative. She remembers how his silences gripped the throats of hers and told her she could never leave. They held a meat hammer between her temples, rocked it back and forth, said,
I’ll snap my fingers &
you’ll wake up &
you’ll never leave &
Right there, in that frame, she sees what no one else can see in the undeveloped negative: she sits, stays. And in the next: she mistakes his mother’s cremains for crack, gets high all the same. The next: she asks,
have I taken too many aspirin,
or is this is true love
and he says he doesn’t believe in true love, he says who and how we love changes all the time and she wonders what that’s supposed to mean in the next one hundred frames until right now when she doesn’t have to wonder anymore. In that frame, the moon hangs in her rearview mirror till it doesn’t. The next: he kisses her till he doesn’t. Across the walls, their love grows in the flowers blossoming on the trellis of her cheekbone and the lattice of veins down her arms and legs. There he is, leaving her for a woman he can love because she does not know him. But in that final frame, in the kitchen, their faces flickering by the refrigerator light, she tells him she knows him and still loves him, and isn’t she strong for that?
That flashing radio tower is more beautiful than the stars.
Those rusted rafters are stripes on the American flag.
She’ll leave now and now and now and now.
The thumbnail wisps of memory run together on her walls like a nightmarish flipbook; they connect like strings of Christmas lights strung around her bedroom so she can’t tell anymore which way is out because all the ways she can see are back and back and back. The negatives of his eyes and her eyes flicker and cast ghosts: shadows and shadows advancing and flying under a director’s calls. Or maybe it’s just the sunlight streaming through a window she can no longer see that breathes ghosts into the room; maybe his and her filmy eyes are alive in a way she can no longer recall. Because in this room, all her todays have become yesterdays, and she is not sure of herself in the way her blood runs, only in what she has been told of the way her blood should run.
Now those twenty best horror movies you’ve never seen are on the surface of everything. They reel before her in outtakes and deleted scenes, and I watch them with her as she sits on her bedroom floor: her old self and his old self from the shining film rolls stretched like stretch marks, stretched like scars, stretched like the Cheshire Cat smile across the walls of her room.
There is nowhere for her to hide, not now. She can hear me pounding from outside her room but she cannot see the way out. She can hear me telling her to just leave, but she does not know how. Production light finds her, a watery breath of a light that draws up shadows in all the right places. Each negative gleams beneath that life-giving light so that there is nowhere in this prison that we are not seen, nowhere that we are not known by the way we cower in front of those flashing filmy eyes saying,