If I have three hours free, I sometimes sneak off to the local movie theatre. And I've discovered that the movies I see on my own always make a lasting impression. When you see a film with a group of people or even with just one friend or partner, a certain democracy rules the selection process. It needs to be something everyone will enjoy which, as far as I'm concerned, rules out the most interesting ones. Looking back at those I've viewed alone, they comprise an unsettling mix of holocaust themes, sci-fi and horror.
My taste in movies has always trended towards the more gruesome end of the spectrum. My husband, on the other hand, prefers lighter entertainment; he can't see the point of paying good money to be sickened, frightened or downright repulsed. He still hasn't forgiven me for telling him we were about to see a comedy as we settled in to watch The Silence of the Lambs back in the early nineties.
I've never understood why a movie's success is gauged by its box-office takings. Surely that's just a sign of either great marketing and PR or a bankable star not a true reflection of the quality of the movie. I find rottentomatoes.com which collects reviews from many critics to be a fairly reliable guide to a movie's worthiness.
One of my earliest lone viewings, Cube (with a 61 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating) taught me the downside of not having a viewing companion: there's no one to explain the bits I don't understand. It was a 1997 sci-fi movie about people trapped in a network of cubes. When it was over I held the door open and waited for the only other theatre-goer and shared my ignorance by asking: "You know at the end? Did they all die?"
I was flying solo when I saw the much-hyped The Blair Witch Project (84 per cent Rotten Tomatoes score) in 1999. Amateur film-makers had made a low-budget movie that went viral and became bigger than the sum of its parts. It was memorable for me because I had a mild hangover. The dark of the theatre was a comfort to my head but the hand-held camera-work took me right to the edge of barfing.
It was a quirk of the online booking system that led me to see The Bridge (2006, 67 percent rating) on my own. I tried to book two tickets but was informed that only single tickets were available. I duly purchased one then went back through the system to buy the other only to be advised they were now sold out. So I toddled along to a documentary incorporating live footage of people jumping off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. There were helpful flyers and counselling on offer for any audience members with suicidal tendencies, and I felt like an A-grade loser being at this particular movie on my own.
In 2008 I saw The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (64 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes) and The Reader (62 per cent rating) alone. I think I prefer contemplating the holocaust in solitude. Any words or shared reflections are likely to be so trite and inadequate that unremitting silence somehow seems the most appropriate response.
My taste in lone movies hit an all-time low last year when I saw The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (49 per cent rating). I couldn't shake its gruesome premise from my head for weeks. Let's just say it's about a mad doctor who experiments on humans, and leave it at that. I've never been more thankful not to inflict my choice of movie on an unsuspecting companion.
My husband would have hated it.