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How Watching Horror Movies Prepared Me for the Coronavirus

Advice from a Horror Movie Fanatic

I am fourteen-ish (if memory serves me right). I’ve just moved to a new city where I know no one, and the neighborhood 7-Eleven has become my favorite spot. They are willing to sell me a pack of smokes, and they carry a large selection of horror movies for rent on VHS: everything I need to survive being an adolescent in a new town.

After picking my preferred flick for the night and sucking down two cigarettes on the walk home, I pop my movie into the VCR and settle in for a satisfyingly terrifying show.

Less than a half hour into the horror movie–during a particularly gruesome scene–I hear my father, who had quietly joined me at some point, call to my mother, “Sue! Suzie! What’s wrong with her. Why is she watching this. She needs some help!”

My love for horror movies started when I was fairly young. “The Shining” was one of the first ones I watched all of the way through. I spent that night sleeping on my older sister’s bedroom floor certain that my father was going to kill me.

Along with horror movies, I became a Stephen King fan. I’d spend hours and hours in my room reading horror novels written by King, and Dean Koontz (who kinda creepily looks like King). This all increased my family’s concern.

Today, I am happy to say that while for the most part the Coronavirus pandemic is a nightmare, it is also good for one thing: proving that being a horror movie fanatic is finally paying off.

That’s right folks, I’ve recently realized that watching horror movies and TV shows for more than 35 years has prepared me for this very moment in time. Pandemic, come at me! Here’s the truth: horror movies aren’t just gore-filled inappropriate entertainment, they are training videos for the worst that can befall humanity–aka: pandemics.

So you don’t like to watch horror movies (or TV shows)? Can’t stomach the terror and violence? I get it. Not to worry…I’ve done the hard work for you, and the following is simply the cliff notes for those preparing for end of days (EOD).

horror movies, pandemic, coronavirus

What I Learned About How to Survive the Coronavirus Pandemic from 35 Years of Watching Horror Movies.

If there is one thing that I have learned from every type of horror movie I have watched over the years, it’s that the single most important thing one needs to remember in a horror-like (pandemic) situation, is to stay calm and focused.

From zombie apocalypse flicks to vampire stories to possession movies, the main thing that every character who dies does wrong is freak out. The minute a character gets hysterical, guaranteed they are doomed to die in some horrific way.

So, lesson number one: Don’t freak out!

Judging by the hoarding of toilet paper, food, pet supplies, and guns and ammo; ya’ll are failing at this lesson already. But it’s not too late for corrective measures. Get that stress under control! Do a little self care, and refocus.

For the next horror flick pearls of wisdom, I’ve decided the best way to share what I’ve learned, is to break the lessons down by the type of horror film they were taken from.

Yes, the horror genre has sub genres. So let the lessons begin.

zombies, pandemic, coronavirus

Zombie/Apocalypse Flicks

Come together: Anyone who’ s watched any number of zombie apocalypse movies or TV Shows (“Walking Dead”) knows that the infected aren’t the biggest threat to civilization. It’s everyone else. People go mad real quick when society as they’ve always known it falls apart. And the first thing we do is turn against each other.

Early signs of this? Hoarding, arguing and arming to the teeth. Yes, this has already begun to happen across the states, but here’s the good news: we still have time to turn things around…and plenty of people are innovating new ways for us to come together. For instance, artists and musicians are live streaming concerts and offering classes–and friends and family are organizing virtual gathering. Additionally, it’s uplifting to see businesses and individuals going out of their way to help those in need. Let’s lean into this and save our own asses!

Get in shape: You know that workout you’ve been meaning to start for the last five years? Now is a good time to start it. According to the zombie, apocalyptic, and even the actual pandemic horror flicks I watch, you are bound to be on the move sooner or later. Get ready for a whole lot of walking and running folks. And you’ll want to run faster and longer than the guy next to you when you are being chased. It’s survival of the fittest in zombie land. Put that extra quarantine time and good weather to use. If you are bored, you aren’t doing it right.

Stay fat friends: Right now is NOT the time to lose weight. Skinny and fit folks are going to suffer when food runs out. Be nice to your fat friends. Seriously, fat shaming anytime makes you and asshole, but it makes you downright stupid in a pandemic or apocalyptic situation.

When you’ve burned through your food supply, you’ll depend on your fat supply to fuel you while you find sustenance. When you’ve burned through your fat supply, you’ll depend on your friends who are now fat turned fit to save you. Don’t believe me, watch “Naked and Afraid”. Fatten up Buttercups.

Find your role: If you want to survive in an apocalyptic situation, you need to join a crew. If you want to be welcomed in any group of survivors, you need to have worth. Are you a doctor? A soldier? A mechanic? Figure out what skills you have to offer your new community. Me? I’m a runner, apretty good shot with a bow, and I write.

Oh, you think my writing skills are worthless? You’ll need someone to rewrite all the important stories and document history after the pages of all the books have been torn out and use in place of toilet paper!

Horror Movies, the grudge

Curse & Possession Horror Movies

Keep it clean: Think “The Grudge”. Now is the time to do some serious spring cleaning. Lucky for you, you’ve got plenty of time to kill! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from curse horror movies, it’s that if you see lots of flies or bathtubs filled with murky water, it’s best to run.

Whatever you do, do not approach a backed up tub or sink while alone. And call pest control if you encounter a swarm of flies…or any kind of pests. Ironically, a day into quarantine, my plumbing went south and ants moved in, I wasted no time at all calling for help.

Turn off the TV: Think: “The Ring”, “Annabelle Comes Home”, and “Poltergeist”. Bad things happen around TVs. Undoubtedly, you are going to be getting extra TV time while under quarantine…especially if you are faced with a Shelter in Place order. My suggestion is that you make sure to take a sufficient break from the old boob tube each day (especially if you are watching then news 24/7) And turn your TV all of the way off at night. If it comes back on by it’s own. Leave the house. Yes, I’m saying you’ll need to break quarantine.

Please note: While watching FOX news or Trump’s addresses may make it seem like your TV is possessed by Satan, that’s just reality TV for you. Do yourself a favor and turn it off.

Social distancing really helps!: Almost every curse and possession movie reinforces the belief that social distancing saves lives. Characters start out as normal, healthy, happy people like you and I. Then they go into a cursed or possessed house or hang out with a cursed individual and before you know it, they are also cursed. Many of these unfortunate individuals die. Curses, like Covid-19, are contagious. So, practice social distancing.

vampire, horror movie

Vampire Movies

Eat healthy: Vampires hate garlic. Garlic is good for you. Sure, it repels the blood suckers, but more importantly (at this point in time) it also combats illnesses, including the common cold. Staying healthy is more important than ever. I suggest putting garlic on everything. It will flavor your food, fight sicknesses, and keep you from becoming a vampires next meal.

Get some sun: Being quarantined and using social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay inside folks! Vampire movies have taught me exactly how good sun is for you. If you are being attacked by a vampire, the sun will mess them up good, if not kill them all together. When it comes to surviving the coronavirus pandemic, getting out to soak up some sun and fresh air will help combat anxiety and keep you from freaking the fuck out (See lesson one above). Even in a shelter in place scenario, getting out for some exercise and a little vitamin D is allowed.

Find a priest: Don’t yell at me yet! OK, priests are pretty important in both vampire and curse/possession scenarios. It’s also fair to point out that priests often die in these types of horror movies.

I’m not suggesting that everyone become religious. I’m just saying that now is a good time to nurture your own spirituality…whatever that may be. This goes back to lessons one and two. Anything that helps you stay calm and focused and free of freak outs is good. If you are a christian, call your local priest, minister…or whatever they call themselves. They are there to support you. Some churches may even stream services.

This advice doesn’t just apply to Christians. Whatever your spiritual practice is, lean into it and connect with your spiritual leaders/mentors. Well, unless they are cultish. In that case, it may be time to deprogram yourself. Cult leaders are always the worst in apocalypse scenarios.

Aliens, Movie, scary, covid-19
Serial Killer/ Alien/ Monster Movies

Don’t separate: Many of the lessons above apply to these movies as well. But one that I’d like to point out, especially for those who aren’t quarantined alone, is the need to stay and work together at all times. I’m telling you, the minute characters in these movies decide to go their separate ways, for any amount of time at all, they are dead. So be nice to your quarantined house mates. Treat each other well. And never separate in an emergency.

General Lessons from Most Types of Horror Movies

While some of the lessons I’ve learned from horror movies about how to deal with being alive during a pandemic are worth breaking down into sub horror genres, there are plenty that are found in most all horror flicks.

The following are some general tips that can be gleaned from almost every kind of horror movie:

Make a go-bag: Put together a back pack filled with survival essentials. In the case of an emergency, you can just grab it and run.

Dress right: Forget fashion and ditch the daisy dukes and heals. Your daily dress code should include clothing that allows you to run hard and move easily. So many horror movies begin with a scantily clad woman in heals being chased and killed. Don’t be like her.

Emergency lighting: Flashlights. You don’t want to be caught in the dark in a horror movie or during a pandemic without one.

Stay brave and have faith: Fear leaves you vulnerable to evil spirits, monsters and murderers. Fortify your emotions and your belief that everything is gonna be alright.

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the many tips, tricks and lessons I’ve learned from a lifetime of watching horror movies. Being a horror movie fanatic has prepared me to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and any post-apocalyptic future we may be facing.

I am quite certain that the New World will be a matriarchy and I am preparing to run for Queen…or president if we decide to give democracy another go. Until then, I’m taking applications for those who want to join my motley crew of survivors. Feel free to DM me with details that include why you think you’d make a good member of my team. And, be prepared to take a test that goes over the lessons above.

And yes, horror movies will be mandatory school material in the new world.

Until then, stay safe and be kind friends.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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