Horror Business: Juliet Escoria

Horror Business is a novel I that wrote. It’s coming out in February 2015. Horror movies play a huge role in the narrative.

“Horror Business” is a sporadic column where I ask influential/invaluable writers and people of interest the following question: What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

Just like everybody else this year, I fell in love with Juliet Escoria‘s Black Cloud

Being a horror guy, it’s easy to use the genre to make everyday darkness into something more palatable: anxiety, depression, anger, fear of the body, fear of strangers, abuse—give it a knife and dress it up in a mask and suddenly it’s a horror film.

Considering that, I’m of the opinion Black Cloud is a collection of horror stories without a mask. True horror. These stories are full of drugs, sex, smart people doing mean things to each other, lies, and mental illness.

What I find most riveting about her book is that there’s no outlet for moral rubbernecking. There are no lessons, no happy endings. And, just like Dr. Frankenstein’s admission of his own monstrosity, only the most perceptive of us will recognize ourselves reflected in Escoria’s stories.

What scene from a movie has scared/troubled/shaken you the most?

juliet escoriaJE: “Breaking Out” scene in Raising Arizona (1987)

My parents were big into this movie when it came out on VHS. We were, coincidentally, living in Arizona at the time.

My mom and dad had met each other through skydiving. My mom stopped for the most part after I was born, but still on most Saturdays the three of us would go out to the drop zone.

I’m not sure skydivers are the best people for a small child to be hanging out around. I remember them making a lot of jokes I didn’t understand. I remember crude drawings on chalkboards that were supposed to be there so people could diagram their jump formations. I remember a man getting naked once during a Halloween party where everyone got too drunk, and my mother grabbing me and shielding my eyes.

Raising Arizona seemed to fit in line with all the weird grown-up stuff that happened at the drop zone– things that were confusing and weird and a little bit dark and shrouded in that incomprehensible thing called sex. For some reason, this scene in particular encapsulated all of those things to me. I didn’t understand what was happening in the movie– that this scene depicted a jailbreak. I thought that, like the jokes at the drop zone, it was about more than it seemed and that it was about something dirty. The scene gave me recurring nightmares for a while. In them, I couldn’t breathe or see because everything was covered in mud, and I was screaming and clawing but I just couldn’t get the mud out of my mouth, my eyes, my nose, my ears.

When I finally saw this movie as an adult, I was really surprised to find out that it was more or less a comedy.  While I no longer find this scene as scary as I once did, there is something definitively birthlike in it, and birth is creepy as shit.

john goodman