Action movies are great for getting the adrenaline pumping. Drama and Romance are great for the tear ducts. Comedy is perfect if you want laughs. But what genre combines all of these traits? Horror.
Whether we’re cheering for the psycho with the axe, or screaming with the leading lady, horror movies bring out the emotional cheerleader in all of us. So why do we love those Friday nights curled up on the couch, viewing the insanity that has become the modern horror movie? Having your date snuggle in close can certainly be a valid reason, but is that all? What is it in our make up as humans that long to view horror movies?
Throughout our lives, we face many challenges and many obstacles. Most of us won’t face a serial killer, or an unstoppable force of nature. Most of us won’t see a 50 foot anaconda nor will we have the chance to see a 5,000 year old mummy come back to life. Demons, ghosts and supernatural beings are brought to life, and thanks to the magic that is the movies, we get to experience these encounters from the safety of our local cinema or living room.
So why do we enjoy the horror genre so much? Simple. We get to experience our fears in safety and we find it fun to make the unreal, real. Great movies know how to evoke our emotions and no genre does it better, or easier, then horror. Fear is the quickest, and possibly, most dependable emotion that movie makers can bring out in us. Who didn’t jump ten feet in the air when Jaws popped up for a close encounter? Who didn’t pee their pants when Freddy Krueger slashed Tina around the bedroom? Who didn’t chew their nails when Michael Myers began his riveting chase sequence in Halloween? Who didn’t cling to their partner’s arm when Drew Barrymore was being taunted by Ghostface in Scream?
When watching a horror film, we evidently become an adrenaline junkie. We’re waiting with baited breath and anticipation for the next scare. We want to be scared. We crave it. We want to be thrust into an unexplainable, demented, warped and sometimes, idiotic, situation where there often seems like there is no hope.
The point is, we are all moved by fear. We are not all moved by drama, or comedy, or sadness. There are certainly exceptions to the rule. Beaches comes to mind, as does Schindler’s List. It’s almost impossible to escape the sadness and the drama that comes with those two titles. But overall, it is the horror genre that plays on our easiest emotion: Fear.
I want you to do a little test for me. Think back to when you were last truly scared while watching a horror movie. Got it? I bet you remember everything about that scene, don’t you? I bet you remember what the character was doing. I bet you remember what they were afraid of. I bet you even remember what you were wearing at the time. Every detail, regardless of how small, is forever embedded in your mind. Because that’s what fear does. It remembers. If you were to come face to face with a shark, I can guarantee that you will remember everything about the experience. If you witnessed a shooting of a loved one, or even a complete stranger, I bet that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
They say memories can ‘haunt’ us. Appropriate choice of words, don’t you think?
Fear is a rush. You leave the theater or your couch feeling as though every inch of your skin is tingling, and your senses are razor sharp. You’re certain that Jason or Freddy will jump out at you at any given moment. You’re even more convinced that you could take them. You’re so ‘high’ on adrenaline that it’s hard to shake the sense of paranoia that seems to follow you. Hey, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that the whole world isn’t out to get you. It’s that natural high that is at the center of why we love horror movies so much. It is a quick, natural, senses shattering piece of film that will invigorate your senses and make you feel. After all, isn’t that the point of a great movie?