According to Wikipedia, “Horror is a film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears.”
Why would anyone choose to spend their time viewing a genre that affects them in an emotionally negative way? What kind of masochism is being indulged in here? I’m usually too busy watching my favourite classic horror films to care why I enjoy them, but it’s something I’ve been thinking more about lately.
The fact is, some of us get a kick out of being scared. This is a universally accepted fact. The question is, why do we enjoy feeling threatened by imaginary monsters, vampires and ghosts?
We, the audience, know that what we are witnessing on screen is just that – imaginary. While we may wilfully suspend disbelief during the movie, we know that when the credits roll, we can walk out of the cinema in one piece. Horror films allow us to escape the banality of our (relatively) safe daily lives. We can experience thrilling situations that we would find horrific in daily life, safe in the knowledge that no matter how scared we get, it’s only a movie.
The horror genre comes in and out of fashion every few years, alternating between obscure, straight-to-video slashers to international blockbusters. For every Dolly Dearest, there’s an Insidious. Studios are releasing big-budget cinematic horror films again, with a slew of popular franchise sequels and remakes being released in recent years.
Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kruger mirror the real-life horror of the prowling serial killer, the psycho, the predator. We see stories of real-life murder in the news on a daily basis, and we are powerless to do anything about it. Horror films allow us to confront this in an entertaining manner.
Horror films allow the characters fortunate enough to survive until the closing credits to defeat the monster, at least temporarily. They are able to take the law into their own hands and get revenge on the killer of their friends and family members in a way that real life just doesn’t allow.
As an audience, we can take comfort in the fact that we are safe. We may not like to admit it, but it’s a case of “rather them than us.”
Highest grossing horror films of 2013:
The Conjuring – $316,700,141
Insidious Chapter 2 – $161,111,107
Mama – $147,894,153
Evil Dead – $97,402,049
Carrie – $80,297,909
Copyright © Steve Wilson and The Third Realm, 2014