Last night Eric and I watched The Gift. I did not sleep well. It wasn't a horror film per se, but it was a slow, tense build to what made it truly horrific. I would recommend it, but with many reservations. I often struggle with the intersection of art and violence, particularly sexual violence. Should a topic be taboo in film because it is awful in real life? How do you watch a scene that arouses a visceral reaction, intense disgust, in a critical, objective way? How do you stop short your empathy to make room for entertainment?
I have empathy in droves, although I often have trouble showing it. I lay awake in bed last night, watching-not-watching the hallway, lit by the hall light that we both forgot to turn off. I wasn't wearing my glasses, so my vision was blurred. If a man walked past our door, I would be able to make out a hulking outline, a shadowed, featureless face. I probably wouldn't hear his footsteps over the incessant pound of my heart. But why should a man be in our apartment? Wake up. I was awake. I was not dreaming. This danger existed in the movie, in the movie, not in our home. I shuffled closer to Eric, wiping my damp forehead, sticky neck. It was so hot. The radiator whistled, and I turned over, presented my back to the open door, that gaping yellow mouth, with all of the phantoms it concealed.
I had a baby a few months ago, so maybe that accounts for the incandescent terror this film spurred within me. I felt sick with dread during the final few minutes, as Jason Bateman comes to the slow, churning realization that his entire world has just been rocked, eternally, and he cannot tell a soul about it. His wife watches him, angry, disdainful, and has no idea of the scope of his deviance, the repugnant web he ensnared her in without her knowledge. And that baby, staring, staring. I can't fathom that level of deception, of violation, of theft. I turned my back before I could catch a glimpse of my hallway, a manifestation of the creeping shadow the images burned into my mind. There are but so many doors. What lock cannot be picked? Even now, in my bright, hot kitchen, 6:48 pm - the night not yet a grim threat - I shudder.