Sunday, 2 August 2020

Jump scares in horror movies

A mini-blog/reflective journal from a self-confessed air head

Jump scares in horror movies
Photo: Alex Munsell, Unsplash
I've been a fan of horror movies ever since I managed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street at age 13!  Not that I found that film particularly scary; even at that age I found if corny enough to be humorous (and I think I may even have laughed out loud at one scene of Freddy running down the street waving his clawed glove over his head -- or perhaps that was a later re-viewing).  Something about the genre just instantly appealed to me -- it helped that Channel 4 used to run a regular 'creature feature' on a Friday night back then, so it became my end-of-the-school-week treat to myself to stay up late and watch on the TV in my bedroom (or try to -- I frequently fell asleep before the end, especially the double features!)
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I don't recall finding any of those films particularly scary (Friday the 13th, Halloween, The FlyHellraiser, Carrie, Amityville, Poltergeist etc etc) but just fun escapism, somehow.  In fact, I recall the scariest film I watched in those formative years was an old black and white one about witches (sadly, I can't recall the title) -- of course, it might have been because I watched that one late night the first time my parents left me home alone in my teens, so there was the added fright of being all alone in the house with just our soppy, lovable spaniel.
Photo: David Dibert, Unsplash
Latterly, I confess, I've come to realise that my true fandom is for supernatural thrillers rather than modern horror.  I've zero interest in your Saws, your Hostels or your Human Centipedes.  Your Hills Have Eyes and your Wrong Turns have excessive gore and no real plot, if you ask me.  And they're still not at all scary.  So, for me, they just don't have anything going for them at all.
Photo: Leonardo Yip, Unsplash

Until recently my favourite 'horror' films were either the comedy horror ones such as Sean of the DeadIdle Hands and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Cabin in the Woods was also pretty fun), or well-made 'ghosty' ones such as The Skeleton Key, for its level of creepy atmosphere.  The Skeleton Key's recently been bumped to number two on my list and I've a new favourite: Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.  And it's one of only very few films to have ever given me a jump scare, so it gave me the inspiration for this blog post for 'J'.

Photo: Laura Chouette, Unsplash

Bad Ben  ๐Ÿ‘ป
I'm not sure what made me put this film on my watch list, but I'm really glad I did; it was really fun and much to my surprise it made this very short list of movies which actually managed to give me a jump scare.

It was surprisingly spooky (not at all gory) and well put together, if perhaps a little slow in places.  The acting was certainly good enough for me, dialogue was overall okay with cinematography which was quite nicely done, especially given the slightly unusual format of this film.  It didn't try too hard and, again despite the format, it actually didn't go in for over-exposition.

I haven't really got a huge number of cons to list (from my own personal perspective - I can imagine the format and the very small cast may be somewhat offputting for some viewers).

I've yet to watch all the Bad Ben sequels, but I'm intending to, and I'm hoping they'll be almost as enjoyable as the first.

Overall I feel I can recommend this movie.

Drag Me to Hell  ๐Ÿ˜ˆ
It's been a while since I watched this one, and the jump scare it gave me was, funnily enough, upon my second viewing not my first.  I can't recall the exact point in the film which resulted in the jump scare, but I do remember I almost flung a plate of fries across the room!

I felt the plot of this film was in some ways familiar and predictable & yet in other ways not so much (certainly it was original enough to keep you wanting to watch).  I recall the cinematography and acting were both good and the atmosphere was immersive.

The only note in the con side is that I know of some people who felt one scene, which was clearly meant to be chilling and otherworldly, just came across really comical and not at all scary or in keeping with the spooky atmosphere.

I feel I can recommend this movie, and in fact if you call yourself a horror fan I feel you ought to watch it at least the once.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark  ๐Ÿ•ฎ
I selected this film to view from my watch list recently, and I'm so glad I did because, as mentioned, it's become my new favourite.

There's lots of familiar tropes, but with enough originality not to be excessively predictable (although I've got to admit my predicting skills are not necessarily the best).  There are some visually distinctive elements, and I like that it's set in the late 60s.  It doesn't overuse the gore factor, for the most part, though there are a few moments where you realise that it doesn't shy away from a certain amount of gore, either.

I felt it was well put together, and the story worked well overall.  The acting was overall pretty good and the pacing was spot on, not too slow to get going but with sufficient build up to create a bit of suspense.

Cons: maybe a con for some folks is that there's a little bit of social commentary (but I don't feel that it's rammed down your throat, at all).

I guess it could be considered a bit on the corny side by some (although for me that just makes it better).  Oh, and if you're an arachnophobe then there's a scene approximately in the middle of the film that you're gonna find beyond scary! ๐Ÿ•ท๐Ÿ•ธ

If you're a fan of this genre of movie (and especially if, like me, you're fond of the whole teen protagonist trope), I can't recommend this highly enough.  I've put the DVD, the books and the Diary of Sarah Bellows on my wishlist.

The Vvitch  ๐Ÿงน
I usually really enjoy a period horror movie for maximum atmosphere, so when someone recommended this one to me I obviously went for it first opportunity I got.  And it sure is atmospheric, and despite being based on folklore tales I felt it was original too.  It's also rather intense in many places.  The ending was at the same time surprising and yet also what I was expecting (towards the conclusion, anyway), in an inexplicable way.

This took some concentration to follow the dialogue early on as it was so authentically 'olde worlde'.  And I felt that, although suspenseful, this did take a little while to get going.  But once it did it was definitely gripping.

I recommend this one to anyone who's into period horror movies of the more 'serious' variety.

The Skeleton Key  ๐Ÿ—
I wanted to give honourable mention to this one as it was my top favourite for such a long time; I can't really give a full review, though, as it's been a while since I saw it -- so evidently, it's time for a re-watch.  If, like me, you enjoy a spooky non-gory mystery type of story then I feel sure you'll like this one.

Do you have a favourite horror movie, or one that gave you an unexpected jump scare?  Let me know in the comments.

Photo: Georgia Vagim, Unsplash
Photo: Jeremy Yap, Unsplash

Film cover images above are the copyright property of the relevant film companies; I do not own the copyrights for that content. 

Tree photo credits, left to right: Brandon Green; veeterzy; Jeremy Bishop; Annie Spratt and Lahiru Supunchandra (all from Unsplash).


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Sunday, 26 July 2020


A mini-blog/reflective journal, from a self-confessed air-head.

Photo: Rhema Kallianpur

[Content note: I briefly talk about menstruation in this post]

I've been an insomnia sufferer all my adult life.  I'd love to make some reflections about how I've had some really insightful ideas occur to me in the middle
Photo: Aaron Burden
of sleepless nights, but that's nothing more than some wishful thinking right there.  The most profound thing that's ever occurred to me in the middle of the night was to wonder whether it's possible to die from insomnia!

My insomnia pattern used to be a cyclic one, whereby I'd be wakeful every night for a fortnight then just when I was feeling like a total walking zombie it'd resolve itself and I'd be able to sleep for a couple of weeks before the pattern would repeat itself.  For ages I'd meant to record whether the cycle coincided with my menstrual cycle, but I never got around to it.

If you've read some of my previous blog posts you'll also know that I've a chronic health condition, too, and consequently suffer with continual fatigue.  So when my insomnia became an almost permanent fixture I returned to my doctor (not for the first time) and was finally given some medication which helps
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez
me sleep some of the time (amitriptyline).  So, for the moment, I've missed my opportunity to track any patterns in my insomnia, other than I know I sleep worse when I forget to take my dose on a given day. 

Don't get me wrong, here, too; I'd tried all the recommended 'sleep hygiene' things and some non-prescription sleep aids (both off the shelf and over the counter) for the insomnia prior to turning to prescription medication.

I'm not really sure where to go from here with my physical and mental health.  I recently watched a TED talk about the importance of sleep for the immune system (among other things - pretty much everything, it seems).  And it mentioned how sleep induced via soporific medication is not the right kind of sleep for this beneficial and rejuvenating effect.

So in view of the above, I should be looking to come off those tablets.  But recently I had to increase my dosage because the insomnia had returned despite my original dose.  So there's no way I can face coming off these meds, at least not now.

On top of this, another thing I suffer with is restless legs syndrome.  This tends to mean that when I'm wakeful (for whatever reason), my RLS will usually kick in and then there's no getting to sleep, regardless of whether I can think of a way to combat the initial wakefulness-causing thing.

Medical investigation wise, I imagine the next step would probably be a sleep clinic but I can't imagine suffering through that - I can't sleep with anything (sleep mask, pyjamas, my wedding ring - anything) on my body other than bed clothes, so there's no way I'd sleep with all electrodes strapped to me.

I guess my plan of action will be to perfect that sleep hygiene and my 'bed time routine', get it down to a really fine art and then give it a period of time to really bed in (haha).  Then when my unconscious mind really comes to associate all those actions with getting a good night's sleep, maybe I can taper my dosage.  Perhaps then I'll be able to sleep like a normal person.

I feel like it's going to be easier said than done though.

There's not really any point to this blog post this time; except, perhaps, putting my plan of action 'out there' in hopes it'll maybe hold me --in some way-- to it.

Photo: Dex Ezekiel

Photo: Damian Patkowski

Bonus tree photos:

Photo by Nick (Unsplash)
Photo: kilarov zaneit

Photo: Josh Felise
Photo: Nathan Anderson

Photo credits: all photos from Unsplash

European Union laws require that EU visitors be given information about cookies used and data collected on this blog.  Google/Blogger 
have added a notice on this blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.  If this notice does not display and you are in the EU, please will you notify me in the comments section.  Many thanks.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Home and hauntings

A mini-blog/reflective journal from a self-confessed air head

Home, and hauntings

Photo: Toa Heftiba
Photo: Jaye Haych


Following a little splash of inspiration recently, I'd wanted to write about 'home' for this blog post; however I don't think I've enough material for an entire post on this topic.  Therefore I'm instead combining the two topics of 'home', and of 'hauntings'.  It makes a sort of sense, given that I previously lived in a haunted house!

I've been into ghosties and things that go bump in the night since I was a fairly small child (somewhere around 7 - 9 years of age).

Photo: Leonardo Yip
My first (possible) ghost sighting was, I think, somewhere around age 10 - 12, ish.  As a kid I used to love to go on day trips to ruined castles, among other historic places.  Here in England a good number of these are little more than partial castle walls, with no surviving upper storeys.  It was while exploring one of these one day (I can't recall where we were, unfortunately, except that I believe it was Wales) that I had this possible ghost sighting.

I'd seen a guy with long dark hair and wearing a long dark coat walk around the side of a ruined spiral staircase, which would have once been in a corner turret of this particular castle.  I followed, but the guy was nowhere to be seen.  There was nowhere he could have gone, since no second storey existed any longer.  If he'd gone part way up the stair case I'd have seen him there, and if he'd gone anywhere else I'd have seen him too as there was no other cover he could have been behind.

Photo: Mike Cassidy
Now, I'm prepared to admit that this man was very solid looking if he were indeed a ghost, and this was broad daylight.  Plus, I wasn't very old and therefore had a child's imagination.  But I've never been able to explain where he could have gone that day.

Other than the above (if it was indeed a ghost sighting), I'm not generally especially sensitive to the paranormal.  In fact I suspect I'm fairly un-sensitive.  I've just two other 'ghost' stories, despite having gone on several ghost hunts, including one which took place at a reputedly haunted historic local farm.

But I did live in a haunted house before we moved to our current address, and this is obviously my favourite personal ghost story to tell.

Photo: Tierra Mallorca
The house was an old Victorian terraced one, which had been converted by the landlord into a number of flats.  I lived on the upper storey, initially by myself and then later together with my then boyfriend (now my husband).

Photo: Library of Congress
I'd been aware of a presence in the hallway of this property, centred around the stairway.  I never saw or heard anything, but at night I could often sense that someone else was there besides just me, even when I was travelling the hallway completely alone.  The only thing I could sense about this presence was that it seemed to me to be female.

The cool bit came after my other half started staying the night, as he actually saw the ghost (despite me never having told him about this presence which I felt existed in our hallway)!  He says he was coming to my door one night when he encountered an older woman on the stairs in the dark - he motioned for her to go first, but she didn't react so he spoke to her and yet she still didn't react.  When he told me about it, I knew that he must have seen the ghost!  You see, all my neighbours at the time were male (and while it could have been a visitor of one of theirs', knowing their demographics I didn't think it at all likely - and besides, a visitor would have responded in some way when my husband interacted with them, even if non-verbally).

Photo: David Dibert
I lived in that property for four years before we moved to where we live now.  Moving here was a blessed relief for me, not because I was at all scared by the ghost at my former address but just because I was sick of those (living) neighbours.
Photo: Harmen Jelle van Mourik
This place (where we live now), the day we viewed it, was so serene and restful to me.  There was a glorious eucalyptus tree out the front providing magical dappled shade to the living room.  Large picture windows front and back meant that you could see right the way through the apartment from the eucalyptus at the front to the row of trees out the back.  The whole place was decorated in a calming shade of light sage green.  It was like a little private oasis.

Photo: Lea Bรถhm
But we've no ghosts here, unless you count the two kitcats we've sadly lost whilst living here who have perhaps visited on a few occasions.  So I missed my chance to carry out my own ghost hunts in the comfort of my own home.  I don't really know why it never occurred to me in the four years I was living
Photo: Oleksandra Bardash
there, except that I had other stuff going on at that time in my life.  Now, if I want to go  ghost seeking, I'll most likely have to splash out on further commercial ghost hunting tours (at such time as these resume post-Covid19).

That's okay, I guess - the one I went on with a friend a few years back was fun*, and I'm something of a believer in what I call "keeping the economy going around" by spending money with local (especially) businesses.  Particularly following this Covid-19 crisis, and given that you can't take it with you when you go over to the great beyond, wherever/whatever that is.


Photo credits: all photos from Unsplash

Bonus tree photos (spooky edition):

Photo: Zane Lee

Photo: Marco Marques

Photo: Zane Lee
Photo: Re Stacks

Photo: Terra Roro
Photo: Andy Watkins
Photo: Johannes Plenio

European Union laws require that EU visitors be given information about cookies used and data collected on this blog.  Google/Blogger 
have added a notice on this blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.  If this notice does not display and you are in the EU, please will you notify me in the comments section.  Many thanks.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Gizmos and Gadgetry (stuff I've tried, seeking to alleviate chronic health issues)

A mini-blog/reflective journal from a self-confessed air head

Gizmos and Gadgetry (stuff I've tried, seeking to alleviate chronic health issues).

Photo: Justin Chrn on Unsplash

Photo: Simon Harmer on Unsplash
Not having blogged in the end about energy management issues with a chronic health condition for the letter E means I've not talked specifically about my health condition yet, so I'll start there - if uninterested, please skip down to the product reviews below (also, if any of my real life friends are reading you'll have heard this story already, so skip ahead to just after paragraph 7)✱.

Over a decade ago now, I went from a healthy individual to one who was tired all the time.  I used to work full time, walk everywhere it was possible to walk, run 20-25 miles a week and enter half marathons at least twice a year (considered entering
Photo: Hipkicks on Unsplash
the London marathon, too), I swam 45 lengths on a Friday, did an hours Tai Chi on a Wednesday, volunteered (something I've always done since I was an adolescent) at least four hours a week and had a social life.  Oh and I used to get my household cleaning out of the way on a Saturday morning & have the rest of the weekend to myself each week.

Medical tests revealed I had an underactive thyroid.  I was prescribed thyroid medication for it
Photo: pina messina on Unsplash
and initially advised that I should be feeling better in about six months.  Six months on I'd had to give up all the exercises one activity at a time, and had taken a leave of absence from the volunteering.  I still wasn't feeling any better so I returned to the doctor and was told it can actually take up to a year to feel better, so I should give it another six months.

A year after my diagnosis I'd given up the volunteering fully, too, and life consisted only of work, household cleaning and endeavouring to have that social life, still.  This time at the doctor I was told that, oh no it can actually take up to two years to feel better.  So give it another year.

Photo: Manasvita S on Unsplash
Two years on from that diagnosis I was still struggling with managing just my work and my home lives (my place distinctly becoming the disaster area it's remained ever since), and the social life was definitely in decline.  Optimistically I consulted the doc once again only to be told that if I still wasn't feeling any better then it must be because I was depressed.

I took the anti-depressants they prescribed me for at least eighteen months before concluding they weren't making any difference and tapering my dose gradually to come off them.

Image : marianne bos on Unsplash
Ever since then I've mostly been on my own with regard to trying to manage my symptoms (there's a little more to it than that, but the above account is sufficient as a summary of my journey).  So I've tried all sorts in hopes of alleviating my difficulties.  I thought some of my findings might just be useful to others, hence this blog post.


✱ In alphabetical order:

Earthing sheet

Some algorithm started advertising this item to me, and I went off to do a bit of research & ultimately went for it.  This one was pricey, and there are cheaper ones, but this one had good testimonials plus they had the organic version available (at a discounted price of £89, at the time).
Product description and testimonials both seemed to indicate this item's meant to be good for insomnia.  I can't really speak to that, because the sheet is not a fitted sheet and I'm a fidgeter in bed so the sheet came untucked and then wrinkled up & became uncomfortable (even when used under my
existing fitted sheet) so I can't sleep 

Photo: Masaaki Komori on Unsplash
while using it.  Instead I'm using it, for what it's worth, on the sofa in hopes I'll get some benefit from it that way.  So on the whole, I'm not sure I can recommend, unless you happen to be someone who sleeps really still. 

EMS foot 'massager'
I came across this item whilst shopping around for magnets (see below) and it wasn't too expensive (approximately £25) so I decided to go for it.  In use it reminds me of a TENS machine (of which I had small one, previously) - but without needing all the business with the sticky pads & gel, which is definitely a bonus.  The instructions say not to use it if you've certain conditions, such as DVTs, and this makes me nervous using it in case I've undiscovered DVTs!  But I feel I can recommend this item to those who are confident they're in otherwise good health (and providing you like the TENS-like sensation, which isn't really the same as an actual foot massage in all honestly).

Magnets, various - insoles, bracelet, earrings, stick on ones and toe rings

I started with the insoles, which were inexpensive (£5 - £10) but had no noticeable effect - as insoles they were comfortable, though, and I figured they weren't doing me any harm.

Next up was the bracelet which was given to me as a gift by a relative who's usually very good at their due diligence (and generally a pretty sceptical person).  This had no noticeable effect either, but then again I couldn't tighten it enough to have it directly next to my skin without it becoming too tight so that might be why.  It's a pretty bracelet, though, so I wear it daily when I'm going out anywhere, for what it's worth.

Finally I bought the earrings (approx £8), stick on magnets (approx £6) and toe rings (approx £6, including P&P).  The earrings (which are meant to aid weight-loss, but we'll see) are a work in progress as they're kind of tight on my ears, so I'm having to build up a tolerance to wearing them for progressively longer periods.  They look pretty, but if you put on a set of headphones after then they'll quite likely be attracted to the headphones (at least that was my experience.

The toe rings (also designed for weight-loss) are too loose on my toes and borderline
too tight on my husband's!  The stick on magnets are the ones which have the only noticeable effect on me, which is to make me feel as though I've consumed too much caffeine!
So the bottom line here is, I think the jury's still very much out on the magnets, currently.  I'll revisit sometime and add a comment, below, with the ultimate verdict on the magnets.

I bought this ridiculously named item after giving up trying to persuade my husband to massage my neck and shoulders - I love it!  It was inexpensive (under £20) and although it doesn't have multiple massage bits like many of the plastic versions, it meets my needs completely (and I'd wanted a wooden one as I'm trying to live as plastic-free as possible).  An added bonus is that use of this item can often help prevent my restless legs syndrome from kicking in whilst trying to relax and watch TV - not from specific use on my legs, but by simply keeping my hands busy and my mind distracted, I think.  I highly recommend this item.

Gadgets for allergies: light treatment gadget (for nostrils), tower fan with ionising function and an 'air purifier'/dust attract-er gadget and (oh, and then there's a Himalayan salt inhaler pipe)

The light treatment gadget was, I feel, costly for what it is (I seem to recall in the region of about £30, though it was a while ago now) but I guess it helped a bit as I'd reach for it when my allergies were being quite intense and I'd already taken antihistamines & tried everything else.  However, sometimes it made me sneeze while in use, and latterly I've mislaid it somewhere about the place and haven't really missed it, until coming to write this blog.  I'd probably advise anyone to save their money, unless they were really desperate (as I was, when I bought this).

The tower fan with ioniser, Bionaire brand - this I do recommend; I'd wanted a small fan at the time anyway, so it made sense to spend perhaps a bit more on this one (almost £35 - though I now note it's almost twice this much, at least on Amazon it is).  And I do feel that this does help to keep the allergens in my environment at bay.  It's no longer as quiet running as it was for the first few months after purchase, but I think that's going to be true of most fans (I've noted that I feel tower fans are noisier than desk fans, in general).  It's apparently an A for energy efficiency.  My only criticism is the power cable could do with being a little longer (though it's the standard length for most fans).  Oh, and I had to stick something over the lights on the control panel else the blue light was quite bright in the dark of the bedroom at night.

The 'air purifier' was cheaper than most such items and with bloody good reason - it's actually a small (6in high) object, which as far as I can tell (though I'm admittedly not an electrical engineer) just attracts dust to it in the same way as all electrical items do, via static electricity.  No, that's actually not fair because it did attract more dust than even the TV does, so I guess it worked at keeping allergens for a part of the room isolated to its immediate area, rather than floating about.  It claims to emit ionised particles too, which (I'm also not a scientist) are meant to help with allergens.  I don't think I'd really recommend it too highly though, as it was quite costly for what it is - about £20 or so, I seem to recall.  And due to a lack of electrical sockets I packed it away a couple of years ago and I haven't missed it.  I think overall I'd say, save up your money a bit longer and buy a proper air purifier with HEPA filters in it.

The Himalayan salt inhaler pipe - it may just be the placebo effect (which I'm a great believer in), but I do feel that this item does work at reducing my allergic reactions to dust.  It was pretty cheap, at £10, and I haven't had to refill it yet.  The only thing is, I was basically desperate when I purchased this and I didn't do any due diligence regards the ethics and sustainability (or otherwise) of Himalayan salt mining.

SAD lamp, 'Mini Sun' brand

I'd wanted a SAD lamp for years and years, but they're mostly expensive and bulky.  This one was cheaper (around £40) and is much smaller.  I bought two, ultimately, so I could keep one at work for use there.  I'm pleased with it for my purposes, though it does bug my husband and work colleagues when I use it!  The disadvantage with it is that, being small, I feel I need to use it close to, which obviously necessitates being right beside it and means I can't be getting on with jobs around the place whilst benefiting from the lamp light.  I recommend this item (though as I write it appears to be no longer available on Amazon).  If you suffer with SAD, though, and can afford it I feel it would be worth trying to get a 'higher end' one.

There have been other gadgets besides the above for trying to manage my daily living activities, such as a 'lumie' dawn-simulation lamp/alarm clock, a teasmade, an electric can opener and a shockingly loud wheeled alarm clock.  (And then 
there have been time saving gadgets for managing our home, such as a GTech cordless vacuum and a powerful handheld dustbuster.)  But the list above covers the ones which I specifically hoped would help my symptoms. 

I don't know whether I'll bother posting about those other gadgets mentioned in the previous paragraph (unless I get any requests).  But I feel certain there'll be a future post entitled Snake Oil, because I've also tried many, many supplements and complementary therapies in hopes of finding a miracle cure!  (Spoiler: there's no miracle cure that I've found to date!)

Let me know in the comments if you've any gadgets which you recommend for helping with chronic health issues.

Photo: Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

PS In my last post I included some bonus tree photos, having mentioned that apparently looking at even pictures of these can help one's mental health, and I think I'm going to make this a regular feature of all my future blog posts:

Photo: Simon Wilkes
Photo: Billy Huynh

Photo: Vinicius "amnx" Amano

Image credits: unless otherwise specified images are from retailer website(s), screen-snipped using Windows 10 Snipping Tool, or my own work

European Union laws require that EU visitors be given information about cookies used and data collected on this blog.  Google/Blogger 
have added a notice on this blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.  If this notice does not display and you are in the EU, please will you notify me in the comments section.  Many thanks.

Jump scares in horror movies

A mini-blog/reflective journal from a self-confessed air head Jump scares in horror movies Photo: Alex Munsell, Unsplash I've b...