An Open Note to Horror Movie Screenwriters
Dear Horror Movie Screenwriters:
Listen, I am a big fan of the genre since hiding behind the sofa as a child to see Poltergeist and I have been waiting for a good Jewish horror movie since my earliest days of Hebrew school. I even suggested some in past open notes to horror movie screenwriters: Slasher Bat Mitzvah, Slasher Bat Mitzvah II, or Murder at Masada (where campers attempting a sunrise hike are met by the ghost of Elazar ben Yair and chaos ensues).
But please, for the love of G-d, do not mine the extensive emotional pain of stillbirth in order to sell movie tickets.
We were recently watching The Daily Show when a commercial made me jerk my head back towards the screen: "you would have had a twin brother, but he died when you were both back in the womb...By living, you denied it entry into our world...I'm being haunted by someone who's never even been born...He wants to be born now."
Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but this movie comes out at the same time of year while two friends are mourning twin losses. In one case, it was this very situation--a son who was born still and a daughter who is alive. In the other, it was the neonatal death of both twins, first the boy and much later, the girl. I think about the anguish their parents experienced and wonder how a loss of this nature can be mined for entertainment value. I'm not even going to address the Holocaust undercurrent in the film and that bit of offensiveness since it didn't make it into the commercial.
Movies are often used to educate just as cars are often used as a form of transportation. But no one would confuse modern-day horror movies with being on par with the illuminating possibilities of Milk or Schindler's List just as no one would confuse the cars used in a roller coaster as being an excellent source for getting between point A and point B. After all, what are we supposed to learn from Freddie? Insomnia? What about Jason? Don't send your kids to camp? While arguments can be made about the artistic vision and social commentary early in the genre, recent horror films have moved away from social examination towards simply freaking the shit out of the audience.
There are so many great story lines you can mine for material. The Birds was so utterly horrifying that I still can't see large avian groupings without cringing. Have you considered making something similar with squirrels? Or deer? Undead squirrels and deer? Psycho made it impossible for me to shower when I'm alone at home. Have you considered making a film where a ghost rises out of the toilet, ensuring that the next generation will not be able to defecate in peace?
Because The Unborn is currently smelling strong of emotional exploitation.
As penance, you can peruse the archives of Flotsam or Our Own Creation from last January. Awful But Functioning recounts the week she had with her daughter before her death and how those days repeat on the calendar. Building Heavenly Bridges explains how the grief changes you and how it emerges as fear. A Fifth Season explains how she feels on the outside around other mothers.
These posts tell the truthfulness of loss. This is education without exploitation. This is grief in its rawest form. And I can't think of anything scarier than that.
Please consider how those at home, watching The Daily Show, are going to be emotionally affected by your creation of entertainment when they're confronted by it during a commercial break. And also consider making Slasher Bat Mitzvah II with gratuitous undead squirrel and deer scene.
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of over 1600 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, Navigating the Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is the keeper of the IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week) list which is currently open for January.