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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

We Have Nothing To Fear But Things That Are Downright Scary

When I was growing up, No Fear apparel was all the rage. Girls, boys it didn't matter. No Fear was an equal opportunity motto worn by the fat and thin, young and old. I'm sure that wasn't the intentional target market of No Fear designers in the beginning, but once the money started rolling in, who were they to complain?

But while No Fear clothing is a trend, the credo itself is not. In fact, the concept of having "No Fear" has actually caught on fire over the years. Now we have shows like Survivor, The Amazing Race, and even the aptly dubbed, Fear Factor that attempt to put people in fear based situations and see how well they meausre up.

On shows like these though, the environments are controlled, the outcomes almost certain. Can someone starve to death on Survivor? Sure. But is it likely? Not really. Can a mysterious force really come back to haunt you a la The Ring? Are you going to have to save the world from unscrupulous aliens as in Mars Attacks? If you answered yes to any of the above, please join me for an ongoing panel discussion I'm having with my third graders on fact vs. fiction.

Still, every once and awhile, a movie is made that takes a real life scenario that could really, truly happen and, in the process, succeeds in scaring the hell out of you.

Take for example the movie, 28 Days Later.... Now this movie my friends, is scary.First of all the ... alone just screams OMINOUS! This movie is about a powerful viral outbreak that spreads quickly and kills nearly the entire human population in a matter of days. 28 days to be exact. Left are only a few, scattered survivors who have the insurmountable task of trying to continue to live, despite knowing what exactly to live for. If you've seen this one, try Stephen King's The Stand or Outbreak on for size.

These movies are scary for one reason and one reason only, this could totally happen. Think about epidemics such as flu outbreaks and pneumonic plague. In fact, ponder for a second the AIDS virus, which is really, when you think about it, just 28 Days Later... in more significant multiples. All it takes is one mixup, one uncontrollable variable and POW!, this blog would mean even less than it does now.

Along the same lines is another natural disaster flick, Alive. Now Alive succeeds in being very scary for the simple fact that it already happened. Some based-on-a-true story stories are lameass, Lifetimeesque tear shedding, Valerie Bertinelli starring, excuses for entertainment. Alive is not one of these movies. And before you say it, I know what you are thinking. Why watch Alive when you could watch ABC's Lost for one hour every week? While Lost is a healthy substitute it is no match for the real life terror that the crash survivors of Alive endured. The next time you think Lost is depicting something real, you better check your lip gloss wearing, no armpit shaving, cannibalistic tactics nowhere to be found at the door, ok?

A movie that picked up what Alive put down is Open Water. Forget Jaws, Open Water is where it's at. Sure in Jaws had killer sharks that were reeking havoc everywhere they went, but for every stray shark, there was some dumb ass pansy who decided to swim out in the water despite warnings of otherwise. I'm sorry, but I have a hard time feeling bad for these people. No, in Open Water these folks are just on vacation, minding their own business, taking a snorkeling tour and are left behind due to incompetence. Have you ever put your life in someone else's hands? I'll bet you have. I'm also willing to bet you've put yourself in the hands of a pimply faced teenager who controls rides like the Log Flume at Six Flags once or twice. In other words, this could have been you. Or even you or you.

But movies like these really have one common denominator: they all succeed in making us bigger hypochondriacs than we already are. If you thought you were afraid to fly before, wait till you see Alive. If you were OCD about washing your hands, avoid pressure cooker films like Outbreak, The Stand and 28 Days Later... If you were a bit squeamish about the ocean, you'll be thankful for the pee in the kiddie pool after Open Water.

In summary, real life is scary enough without the real life "depictions". And yet, I find I'm mysteriously drawn to the what if's.

All I can hope is that watching films like these will come in handy should I ever be in a natural disaster scenario. And if not, at least I'll have good, relatable stories to tell.



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