crazy / depression / Pop Culture

Horror Movies Reminding Me I’m Not Dead Yet

(WARNING: Significant plot spoilers for A Cure for Wellness & Get Out)


The pop culture gods are fucking with me right now.

They often do anyway, but I’m not laughing at their message anymore.

I’m watching; I’m paying close attention. I’m panicking.

Lately, I’ve been questioning my own health, my own midlife crisis, desperate for a redo on everything that I’ve experienced thus far, halfway through. Every time I experience a shutdown – what I think is a heart attack or loss of breath when I physically feel as if my body is attacking me from the inside out – my mind screams that things aren’t finished yet. I’m not ready to leave. Two weeks ago, right when the 10:30 class was wrapping up, I was giving my students instructions when the heat of my headache just spread into my chest, and I went numb all over. Signs of a heart attack, right? Not me, no, because it happened months before at my sister’s house, and an in-patient examination and an $1880 tab later, it was fucking NOTHING. Again. I sat down at the desk, drank some more water, and told my students not to worry. I was fine. It’s been happening out of the blue more often.

It happened again this past Wednesday night around 10pm while I was trying to fall asleep. Numbness. Breathlessness. Palpitations. I got up and wandered the house with my baffled cat trailing my every move, softly meowing behind me. I’d broken our routine. He didn’t like it.

It worked though. I felt calmer after walking around and reciting over and over, “I’m fine. It’s nothing. Go to bed. I’m fine. It’s nothing. Go to bed.” It was midnight though. It took that long for me to settle down.

I’m scared of dying. That’s just it. I’m not ready. Over the past week, I’ve seen two horror movies that touch upon on our very human fear of the end, the sense of our own mortality, and while they did little to comfort me (knowing that I clearly wasn’t alone in those reminders), each one’s individual take on the theme was impressive to me…



Gore Verbinski’s weirdly gorgeous A Cure For Wellness pays dark homage to Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg. The film’s story enters around young executive Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) and his quest to discover what happened to his company’s CEO when he didn’t return from his break at a “wellness” spa retreat in the Alps. The center’s dark secrets unravel to Lockhart once he’s admitted as a patient after he survives a car accident.

The film has garnered mixed reviews with those in disagreement about its climax and resolution. What seemed like a schlocky gimmick to some was more of a morbid Dr. Phibes tribute to viewers like me, granting us a much more fantastical ending, one that involves the theme of searching for immortality. The film’s villain, spa director Dr. Volmer (Jason Issacs, who seems comfortably typecast in the role of evil doctor/scientist), as it turns out, is the living embodiment of a centuries-old, mad baron who’d not only desired a pure bloodline and had impregnated his sister, he had also discovered that distilling water from humans was the key to immortality, the “cure,” the solution to longevity.

(That was slap number one for me.)



Jordan Peele’s Stepford-like Get Out, provided me slap number two. Peele’s film, however, approaches the mortality theme through a timelier lens, one that sharply hones in on race and class inequities, stereotypes, and injustices. The protagonist, photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), is hesitant about visiting his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family for a weekend getaway. After all, she hasn’t told her parents that her boyfriend is black, and that has him righteously on edge from the very beginning of the excursion. Like Wellness, the troubles for Chris begin with a car wreck. The policeman who then comes to their aid is the grinding epitome of racial injustice – he’s white, brash, and immediately suspicious of Chris, demanding to see his ID even though Chris wasn’t the one driving. Upon the couple’s arrival at the house, Rose’s awfully ingratiating parents, self-professed progressives Dr(s) Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener), don’t make matters any more comfortable for Chris. Everything from their forcefully cheerful black hired help to their creepy gathering of family friends, all of whom are immediately drawn to aspects of Chris’ body, sets Chris’ nerves on high alert.

There is, of course, a reason for the forced politeness and claim over Chris. It is a film, in its horror undercurrent, about body ownership…about slavery. Missy’s witchlike hypnotherapy sessions, Dean’s neuroscience background and Frankenstein-like experiments, and Rose’s uncanny acting skills, together, all make for a formidable familial antagonist, trapping Chris in their insidious scheme to prolong life, much like in A Cure For Wellness. Although, instead of draining water from their victims, the Armitages transfer consciousness from an aging person, declining in health to a healthy, youthful person, preferably one who’s black (“black is hip,” as one of the party guests gushes).

(Its mortality theme aside, I especially liked Get Out for the little details, from its humor {Lil Rel Howery, who plays Kaluuya’s TSA agent friend, has some of the best lines} to its on-edge moments of overt cultural awareness. There’s a scene in the end, for example, that had our audience gasping at first – we were uncomfortably aware of the possibility – and then laughing and cheering out of relief, having been so deeply involved in the protagonist’s escape.)


While my own sense of mortality has me petrified, I think it may be good for me to consider that the end is inevitable for everyone, even if that particular reminder happens to be, coincidentally, embedded in a piece of pop culture that is right there, in the moment…right in front of me as well.








5 thoughts on “Horror Movies Reminding Me I’m Not Dead Yet

  1. Kenzie love, I’m so sorry to hear about your health concerns/symptoms (and so relieved it was a false alarm!). Is it like a panic attack? Have you thought about seeing someone to set your mind at ease? Meditation helps, apparently – I’m too neurotic to even try it.
    I hear you on the mid-life crisis thing, by the way. My way of tackling it in terms of pop culture has been much more head-in-the-sand-style: rather than question my own mortality, I watch the movie equivalent of pressing pause on my brain. It works (short term. Denial, baby!)
    Big hugs babe xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heyyyy, Lina. I was told by doctors at the various ER’s I’d “visited” that there’s nothing wrong with me, that it could be anxiety-related. I’ve an appointment with a cardiologist on Friday to see what he can do since paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) runs in my family. I’ve tried meditation, and it works somewhat, as did the mantra I’d recited the other night. The trouble is, that feeling I get when it happens comes completely out of nowhere (like a panic attack, I’m told) when I’m not expecting it. It’s not initially triggered by anything.

      Anyway, I hear ya on the denial front. Sometimes, it’s just easier to completely escape, away from the cold, hard truth staring at me, right there, reminding me it’ll be over not too far off from now.

      *Hugs back* Cheers, love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fingers crossed for your doctor’s appointment on Friday! From what you’re saying, my (very unprofessional) opinion is that it sounds more anxiety-related than anything – which is a good thing, since you already know what works to help you relax. I have zero experience with panic attacks but a close friend used to get them a lot and they were always work/stress related and, like your episodes, they would just come out of nowhere and that was what screwed him up the most. He hasn’t had one since he took steps to cut back on the crazy back to back appointments etc, so maybe something as simple as time management is the answer?
        Occupying myself with mundane things usually calms me down when I start freaking out over things I can’t control because I’m a weirdo who gets her kicks out of cleaning the A/C vent with an old toothbrush :/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I wish time management was easier. I think, right now though, that this is seriously a midlife crisis, not in the stereotypical American Beauty kind of way, but a sense of panic about having lived half my life, if I’m lucky, already. It’s not just a Hollywood or literary creation. It really does exist. Sometimes I wish I could exist the way my friends here do — the ones my age or older — and find some sense of fulfillment without worrying about coming to the end without making some sort of mark, achieving major goals and whatnot.

        Anyway, here’s hoping there’s no heart issue happening at the very least. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • I get it – I try not to think about it in those terms, mainly because at the moment I’m more concerned with my parents getting older than with my own mortality (I’m an only child and very attached to them and the idea of losing them is absolutely petrifying).
        I’ll spare you the corny platitudes about age being just a number and that time is a human construct that doesn’t really mean anything (my best friend keeps shoving this sort of thing down my throat, and I know he means well but he’s like your friends, he seems to have it all figured out and I really envy that)… At the end of the day, what usually keeps me grounded is trying not to compare myself to anyone else. We are who we are, we do the best we can, and just because we’re not 20 any more doesn’t mean we don’t have the potential for an exciting future ahead. If anything, the fact that we’ve already lived half our lives means we’re all more mature and experienced and know better than to repeat past mistakes etc. I know, easier said than done (much like time management), but as someone who tends to stress out over even the most minute details, I think that the more we worry about what he couldn’t/haven’t accomplished yet, the easier it is to get sucked into that vicious circle and the harder it becomes to use that drive and ambition towards something productive and meaningful.
        I’m sure your heart is fine – I already know it’s good and in the right place 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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