Horror is such a wide open genre that has been existence for as long as people have been telling stories. There's a reason people tell ghost stories around a campfire; people get a thrill from being scared. As a movie genre, it has developed into several side genres: horror fantasy, gothic romance (no, I haven’t seen Crimson Peak yet – but I’m getting there), horror comedy, torture porn (no thank you, Eli Roth)…etc. For the sake of this particular article, let’s stick with straight up horror movies. You know, the old-fashioned low-budget kind that you see on SyFy Saturday nights. I’m not a huge horror movie fan, but I have seen several of these, and they do all seem to have several themes in common. These themes and common details were expertly spoofed both by Scream and by the Cabin in the Woods.
In the most basic of horror movies, you get a handful of folks (usually teens) trapped in a ‘place’, attempting to avoid a ‘thing’. Depending on the movie, that ‘thing’ can be anything from an Alien to a Zombie - see what I did there? It can include vampires, werewolves, plague victims, inbred rednecks, evil witches, demons, sasquatches/yetis (depending on where you are), giant snakes, giant crocodiles, giant spiders, giant you-name-its, swamp creatures, shape-shifters, psycho killers, mummies, and almost anything else you can think of.
I was approached by the folks over at Man Crates for their Scary Movie Survival Kit campaign. They are a new gifting company who deliver cool gifts for men in custom crates that you can only open with a crowbar (a crowbar!). And I would add that they are cool gifts for all people who like wooden boxes full of nifty stuff, not just men! Their question is, “If you were in a horror movie, what would you want or need in a crate to survive through to the end credits?” A great question, but perhaps I would first ask, “Just how big is this crate? How much stuff can I cram in it?” I decided to limit myself to 10 items – otherwise I could just keep adding really helpful things!
Item 1: Machete
We’ll start with a weapon, and honestly, a machete is a pretty great weapon for a horror movie protagonist. It’s never going to run out of ammo, and requires fairly little expertise to wield it. It’s effective against 90% of horror movie bad ‘things’, the exception being ghosts and other spectral beings. The bad news is that you would have to be very close to whoever/whatever you are battling to get in a few good hits. That’s a problem if you’re fighting a swarm, herd, or mass of anything. But, good news - you’re rarely going to miss! Provided you’re not battling a thing with any type of ranged weapon (horror movie villains are usually up close fighters, so they can jump-scare you) you should be all good! Not to mention, it’s also pretty useful for hacking your way through the wilderness if necessary, butchering whatever you’re skilled enough to hunt (wild vegetables in my case), cutting through locked doors, or intimidating other survivors into following you and letting you be the leader. Speak softly, carry a big knife.
An axe will also suffice instead if you prefer the leverage an axe gives you. And I do like the idea of a big stick, or an aluminum baseball bat with spikes on the end, but you get the idea – a powerful weapon that will not run out of ammo on you is a safe bet.
Item 2: A personal water filter
Who knows how long you’re going to be trapped in this nightmare being chased by a whatever, and you can exist without food for longer than you can exist without water. You may come across a water source, but if you’re stuck in a horror movie with any kind of plague-y villain, you’ll need to get that water clean before drinking it. Even if you’re stuck in a haunted mansion, you wouldn’t want to drink whatever is coming out of the faucets. Chances are it will be blood, or muddy, or something worse – whatever the haunted mansion decides to spit at you to try to get you to leave. You’ll want an easy, breezy, portable water purifier. Then you’re good to go. I mean, you can scavenge for food. Hell – you can eat grass if you have to.
Item 3: Hardcore backpack
There’s no point in having survival stuff if you have to carry all that stuff by hand – then how would you battle any enemies? You’d be constantly dropping all your gear! It would be great to have a trusty knapsack to keep all your survival goodies in. Even better would be Hermione’s magical bag from the Harry Potter universe. She could pull anything she needed out of that thing. But – I’d settle for one of those awesome bags that has all kinds of multiple pockets for random helpful items – and we’ll cheat the rules here by hoping that bag would come with a few smaller survival items: compass, flint or lighter, Swiss army knife, water bottle to fill with your filtered water, tiny flashlight, probably some camping-style bedding, and a tarp. Also – if it’s on your back, this will provide some protection as you are running away from anything with claws, like a werewolf, because they’ll claw the backpack first. And of course, you can use this to carry all the cans of food that you will scavenge from random places, so let’s hope there’s a can opener in there too – although a machete will open a can if you need. Just don’t keep photos or maps of your camp/hiding spot/base/town in there. You wouldn’t want to accidentally lead the wolves to the door.
Item 4: Equally Hardcore Shoes/Boots
Let’s be real, regardless of what is chasing you in a horror movie, you will need to run at some point...unless it’s one of the old-timey slow mummies. Then you can just swiftly walk away after pulling on one of his loose bandages to unwrap him. I’m not going to lie to you – I hate to run. However, if something is chasing me, I will take off – so, either some great running shoes if your horror movie is mostly indoors – or some really durable hardcore boots if you’re stuck in any kind of outdoor apocalypse nonsense. We all commented that the silliest thing in Jurassic World was that Claire was able to outrun a T-Rex in high heels. I love my high heels, but if I’m stuck in a horror movie, I want comfortable action-y shoes.
Item 5: Maglite ML125 LED Rechargeable Flashlight.
This is a top of the line Maglite with a rechargeable battery. If your particular horror movie is at night (and let’s be real, they’re all at night), this will brighten up any of the dark horror movie tropes – cave, hallway, passageway, basement, woods, crashed spaceship etc. Also – it’s really heavy, and will double as a blunt instrument-type weapon. And – rechargeable! So, if you still have power anywhere, you can plug it in and get a re-brightening. A bonus on this would be to add a UV filter to the front so that it becomes an effective anti-vampire weapon. They will be stalking you at night, since they can’t handle sunlight. Turn your MagLite into a tiny sunlight projector and poof goes your vampire.
Item 6: Holy items/Relics
Just in case you’re battling some sort of demon or witch or mummy or vampire or the really rare fallen angel – it wouldn’t hurt to have some sort of holy item to have on hand to ward off any generic evil: holy water, a rosary, a Star of David, a tiny Buddha, etc.
Even if it won’t stop them, it will surely cause them to pause in a perplexed fashion to stare at you – or to gloat about how “that won’t do you any good!” with an evil laugh, and during that pause you can swing your machete at their head, or arm, or legs, or antennae.
Item 7: Rope
Rope is all purpose and really helpful. Have to get up a cliff? Have to subdue a villain? Have to climb up an empty elevator shaft? In any of those situations, a rope would be really handy. You’ve just successfully battled a Sasquatch by evading it until it ran into a tree and knocked itself unconscious! You better tie that thing up before trying to find your friends (because by this time, you’ve gotten separated). Stuck in an office building and need to get to the grocery store across the street even though the street is filled with zombies? Use the rope to tie severed zombie limbs to your body so that they will not attack you as you slowly walk through them. One of your friends is going crazy due to the circumstances and starting to attack the other members in your group? Tie them up until they come to their senses.
Item 8: Walkie-Talkies
As previously stated, you’ve definitely become separated from your friends at this point. You totally need a way to stay in communication. Most walkie-talkies will run on batteries, and can help you keep in touch. The only issue you may run into is if a ghost or someone from the ‘other side’ will try to communicate to you through the static between the channels. But hey – on the flip side, you may be able to stumble into the frequency of some military evacuation teams who will help get you out! But, judging by most horror movies, they will just cause more problems, so – the walkie talkies will help you evade them too!
Item 9: Journal and pencils
A journal with a durable cover will provide the means for you to leave notes, draw maps, and otherwise label items. And, look, let’s stay as positive as possible, but there’s a very real chance you might not make it out of this alive. Keeping good notes and documenting everything you encounter will help those who come after you! That way, when they discover your notes, they’ll have a leg up on whatever horror you succumbed to – or, they’ll use it to stumble into a sequel because they’ll be cocky and think they could handle things better than you failed to handle it. And, pencils, not pens, because they will not run out of ink and you can sharpen them with your machete.
Item 10: First Aid Kit
I’m tempted to list a friend who is slower than you as the final item…or a lightsaber – because it could handle anything, or Blade. Yes, just Blade – I know he’s vampire specific, but chances are he could handle anything that you would encounter, plus, he’s handsome, and always has a quip ready for a tense situation. But I think that we’re better off listing something practical – which would be a top-notch first-aid kit. At some point you or someone you’re with is going to be wounded. They’re going to get sliced, shot, beaten, clawed, or they’ll break a bone. And, you get to choose to either leave them behind because they are slowing down the group, or patch them up and help them hobble along. Unless you are in a zombie apocalypse and they get bit – then leave them! If it’s not a bite, and you do help this poor unfortunate soul, you’ll get bonus ‘good-karma’ points that should help you through the movie. Also – there’s all kind of useful stuff in that kit that you can use for all types of situations: band aids, scissors, wraps, antibiotics, painkillers, needles and thread, etc. Everything you need to help you through the crazy until you make it out the end – if you make it out.
There you have it – The 10 items I would like in my Horror Movie Survival Guide Crate. I think these items would help me last all the way through to the credits of a horror movie along with some general common sense. I wouldn’t go to a haunted mansion, an abandoned building, some dark woods, or a desert camp. I would never wander off alone. I would never say, “I’ll be right back!” I would never give any speech about how “We’re going to pull together and get through this!” With these 10 items, some common sense, and my copy of “How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters”, I’d be all set to save myself and those with me.
Did I miss anything? Did I make the wrong call with one of these items? Let me know what your 10 items would be!