Sensory Overload at the Movies

A Night at the Movies (film)

I went to see The Conjuring with my roommate. She’d been really wanting to see it, but since it’s scary, she didn’t want to see it alone. After being subject to some bribery in the form of a Salted Caramel Pretzel milkshake from Steak n Shake, I was persuaded to see it with her. After reading some reviews, I thought it might not be too terrible, high praise from someone so finicky and critical of horror films, particularly recent stuff.

And I do think it was pretty good. I’m looking forward to watching it again on TV so I can really appreciate all of the elements at work.

Why TV? Why not see it in the theater again?

Simple.

Seeing movies in the theater has a tendency to be a downright painful experience for me.

I’ve found as I’ve gotten older that I have a certain sensitivity to sounds. Theaters are almost always too loud for me. Now that’s not too big of a deal most of the time, unless I’m seeing a film like The Conjuring that contains a lot of jump scares. A component of the jump scare, of course, is the sudden crash of sound that accompanies the visual shock. Yeah, those crashes hurt.

My roommate noticed that I was cringing at things I was hearing long before anyone else heard anything. There’s a moment in the film when a mix of voices are heard on a recording. I had to plug my ears. It was too much noise. I’ve been known to do this during action sequences, too, with a lot of gun shots and explosions. Too loud.

I’ve also found in my old age that the visual experience of movies is hard for me to deal with. Hi-def is great, I’m sure. But for me, in the theater, everything is too big, too close, too  much and it’s hard for my brain to adjust. I’ve never been good with point of view shots, but put them up on the big screen and my eyes can’t handle it. Same with anything that has too much shaking. It makes my eyes cross. There’s no way I could have watched Open Water, Cloverfield, or The Blair Witch Project on the big screen. My brain wouldn’t have been able to take it.

As it was there were a few times during The Conjuring that I had to close my eyes, not because it was scary, but because I couldn’t take the shaking and/or point of view angles. The sudden swing of the camera made my eyes cross. There’s a whole swath of movie that took place in the cellar that I couldn’t see because it was all done from the POV of a handheld camera.

Some days are better than others when it comes to the visuals, but the noises are always brutal. My roommate suggested that the next time I go to the movies I wear ear plugs. It might help and I’m willing to try it.

Anything to tone down the overwhelming theater experience to bearable so I can at least enjoy a film based on the film and not how painful the sensory overload is.

Just another reason I’m a pain in the ass when it comes to going to the movies.

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Bad Movie Bliss

If someone invites me to the theater or over to their house to watch the latest critically acclaimed masterpiece that doesn’t feature dwarves, elves, and Andy Serkis, I’m probably going to take a pass to watch a cable chopped version of Alien:Resurrection. Why? Because bad movies are where I live.

I’m not a big movie person to begin with. I like movie trivia, but I was voted least likely to sit through one (if such a vote ever took place). I’m no end of frustration to my friends because when they ask if I’ve seen a movie, nine times out of ten I haven’t. That tenth time, the movie is probably horrible and I’ve seen it a dozen times. The only reason I’ve seen some of the more popular/critically acclaimed/so-cool-I-can’t-believe-you-haven’t-seen-it movies in the past couple of decades (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, American Beauty, Clerks, Fight Club, the list goes one) is because somebody MADE me.

This isn’t a recent phenomenon. I can remember being little and my beloved Papa making me watch The Princess Bride. I had absolutely no interest in seeing it. My attitude was not unlike Fred Savage’s in the film. By the end, I was hooked and wanted to watch it again. And again.

While most people’s guilty pleasures are the crappy movies I live on, mine are the opposite. Two of my favorite films are Delicatessen and My Dinner With Andre. At first glance, Delicatessen is right up my alley. It’s a black comedy. Why is it a guilty pleasure? It’s French. It’s a foreign film. I have to read subtitles. Just the fact that it’s from another country should automatically put it out of my league.

And My Dinner With Andre? It’s two guys sitting and talking for pretty much the whole film. That’s it. It contains nothing the movies on my shelves have going for them.

But this isn’t about the good. It’s about the bad.

Horror movies are my favorite. Naturally, I love the greats like Halloween, Psycho, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Jaws, Alien, Friday the 13th, and so forth. But I also love their sequels. I’ve been known to waste afternoons watching Friday the 13th movies that I even I think are crap just because I’m still watching Jason Voorhees and that beats anything else playing at the moment.

The SyFy channel was made for me. Those B-movie concepts are my cup of tea. I’ve been known to cancel plans for Pterodactyl, Sharktopus, and Mega Piranha. I can put those on and enjoy without being expected to think. If it’s possible to less than think, then that’s what I do watching those movies.

With Halloween approaching, my TV should soon be glutted with horrible delights, if I’ve got any luck at all. Between SyFy and AMC, I should get more than my fill of both the good and the bad. It’s something I look forward to all year.

And am always disappointed when they put the best stuff on at 3AM so they can show Constantine and Return to the House on Haunted Hill.

Some bad even I won’t touch.