The Horror! (longer post)
As a child, I was allowed access to just about any book I wanted to read (with a very few with held because "I think you will appreciate this when you are older"; Jitterbug Perfume and the likes) but what I was allowed to watch was a whole different story. My mom took the PG13 ratings to heart, and R was right out until I was 18. As such, I skipped phase at which most of my friends were scaring themselves silly watching The Ring, Skeleton key and Saw1 through 15 (or whatever). I resented this censoring at the time, but was a good little kid, and listened to my mother.
I grew up. I started recreating in the woods and mountains, I didn't have the time to bother with horror movies. Then I got a job surveying for owls...at night...in the middle of nowhere...bushwhacking.
There is a light breeze, just enough to rustle the dead leaves on the dense vine maple, just enough to obscure other subtle sounds. I sit in the dirt and dead grass of late summer listening intently, straining for any hint of my quarry. I turned off my headlamp when I got to the station (a misleading word here, implying development, safety, people...in reality, it was a weedy patch of hillside, marked only by a strip of candycane striped flagging and a set of GPS coordinates It really is better, with the light off. With it on you are in in a cage; a limited world world ending 25 feet away in a wall of black. Anything could be beyond. It is a necessary handicap while hiking across the steep and rough terrain. There is more risk, after all, of falling and being impaled by a staub in the dark than being attacked by anything. Even knowing this, as a hard cold fact, I still strain my ears for more than the owls I am searching for, was that little rustle behind me just a gust of breeze or a mouse...yes, definitely a small noise, hell, it was probably just a fricking bug. In the heavy dark of 2 AM deep in the rocky coniferous forest the soft rustling of mice in the brush, or cicadas flight, triggers a warning ringing deep in the lizard brain. A quick wave of adrenaline every time, quickening pulse, flush of heat, a holding of breath because even that is too loud. Every fiber of my body listening; with eagerness for that endangered species that was my target, and with a un-admitted dread for everything else that was certainly NOT a cougar...no way.
And it never was for me, although several folks I worked with had encountered them, thankfully with no ill consequences. Black Bears were more frequent but less worrysome being far more likely to run from you rather than at. Now, had my mother not been so...mothering...you can damn well guarantee it would have been far uglier apparitions invading brain on those quiet dark summer nights. Focusing on the real, the cougars, the bears, the wasps and the sharp stabby sticks (by far and away the most commonly encountered hazard, I have a deep scar on my arm from one) kept my overactive imagination from running amok with horrors.
When I put of a movie these days I find my self reaching for Pixar, Dreamworks, epic fantasy, and kooky sci-fi. I want a hopeful escape from the world, not something that will make my brain add (even more) un-necessary dread and horrors.