Friday, July 3, 2009

Why I don't like horror movies

Despite the title of this entry, I love horror movies. I always have. These days, what with all of the adapting and such going on, and of course with the children around, I don't get to indulge too often. But I've been a horror film fan for probably far longer than is really healthy. I remember watching the Saturday Night Shockers (on KTVI Channel 11--St. Louis!) when I was only 6 years old. Certainly not healthy.

So anyway, I love horror films. Real ones, too. Sure, the dippy "high school horror" flicks that were all the rage at the end of the 90's are fun (think Scream), but I love the atmospheric mind-f*cks. Jacob's Ladder, Blair Witch Project, Paperhouse and so on. Movies that make you question your grip on reality. I seem to particularly enjoy Japanese horror, and in fact my favorite video game series of all time is Silent Hill (man, that game will seriously mess with you).

Okay, so why am I discussing my apparent love/hate relationship with horror films on a blog about adapting to a low-power future? Bear with me, I'm getting there.

So for the past week, my parents have had the kids at their family farm. This has left my husband and I with more free time, and more ways of using it, than we are really used to. So, we decided that we'd have a horror-movie night! Yes! Great idea. All kinds of awesome horror flicks have come out in the past few years that we'd missed, now is our chance, right? So we rent The Ring and Sweeney Todd (okay, ST isn't really a horror, but you have to admit, it fits with the atmosphere).

The Ring is everything I love, or maybe "loved", in a horror film. Relatively little overt blood & guts, most of the real horror is left to the imagination. Surreal use of graphic effects, disjoint atmosphere, just general downright creepiness. Compelling villain. Interesting backstory. Actual plot. Real evil. Perfect. The adrenaline pumped. Gasps were had. Brief moments of pure fear, tempered by the fact that this is all happening on a TV screen. The film resolved in a fairly straighforward fashion, not answering all questions (by a long shot), but letting you off the hook for worrying about the protagonists, for the time being at least. When the movie was over, I had that classic, slightly strung-out, pleasantly jumpy feeling endemic to me watching decent horror flicks.

I hated it.

What went wrong? The movie was great, and right up my alley. I reacted to it in, more or less, the same way I always react to that sort of movie. Despite the movie's best efforts to break the fourth wall and make you confuse reality with the film, I had no delusions that what had happened in the movie had even a vague chance of happening in the real world. That is--I wasn't still scared, the scared part was done. So why hadn't I enjoyed this experience which, in my past life, I'd always loved?

At some point in the discussion of the film (as my husband and I are oft want to do--we are philosophers, after all), I realized what had gone wrong. It's true that I wasn't scared of what happened in the film happening in the real world. But rather, my physiological reaction to the fear in the film (the adrenaline, heart pumping, etc.) is the same physiological reaction I have to many horrors in my now-everyday life. Contemplating an end to cheap oil--and what that means to our society--inspires the same heart-pumping adrenaline shot. Thinking about how I will feed my children when the shelves are bare and the zombies are coming inspires a level of fear that even Paperhouse cannot attain. Thinking about my community, unprepared, breaking down at every level, leaving people with no net, no hope, brings nausea. These feelings pass; it's not like I'm constantly walking around in a state of perpetual fear. But when I take a moment to really think about these things, the fear is paralyzing, and the physiological reaction is predictable.

It's the same physiological effect I get when I watch horror films. Or, to put it in a more salient way, I can no longer disambiguate my physiological reaction to horror movies from my reaction to real life. Sure, I get that the movies are fiction, but they inspire the same sickening, clammy-skinned reaction I have now when contemplating my children's starvation. That's not fun. That's just no kind of fun.

I'm a little annoyed by this. I would really like to have my horror movies back, unmolested by associations with real-world poverty, real-world pain, real-world horror. I want to go back to my previous innocence, so that I can enjoy horror movies again. But I guess my life has become too horrific for me to be able to enjoy horror. Perhaps I'll go through a middle-aged goth period (similar to my early-20's one), where I sort of go straight through horror and came out the other side, able to enjoy it again, but in a cynical, cold, detached way. Not really the same thing.

Maybe someday I'll get my horror films back. But for now, I think that Sweeney Todd will have to be the farthest I travel down that road.


  1. I used to like horror films - sort of, but I don't anymore, and I hated The Ring. I used to like to read horror, too, and Stephen King, for a very, very long time, was my favorite author.

    But too much has happened over the past ten years or so that is horrific, real stuff, and I'm no longer entertained by the macabre, because it's just too close to real.

  2. I understand what you're saying, but the fear of no longer enjoying the fear of horror movies will go away again because you will no longer remember to vividly the feeling that you SHOULD be getting more out of this, and you will suspend reality to enjoy it in a new way.

    Have you read Life After God? This is similar to the last post I put in my LJ...don't know if you agree.

  3. If you liked "Sweeny todd" i think you will like "Repo the generic opera" it's also a musical it's wearied and a little gorry but Sweeny was the same.


    PS: Also if your interested in getting back into horror movies got to:

    it's a horror movie website my favorite one

  4. Huh, that's funny. I've never liked horror movies, or even scary movies much. I am willing to tolerate horror as a plot element when it's a means to an end, but only just. And I've been that way forever. I actually walked out of the opening sequence of The Dark Crystal and the Sarlacc scene in Returno fhte Jedi, both of which I saw when my age was at least double digits.

    But...I have always lived with a sort of sense of impending doom. When I was a kid, there were always the bullies, or much worse, the feeling that I had forgotten to do something critical that would soon come crashing down on my head.

    So I can see how today's times might kill the fun for you...and I'd never before connected my dislike of the horror genre with the fact that I spent most of my childhood and adolescence already in that state of poised anxiety, waiting for the monster to leap out from the closet.

  5. I hate horror films,I use to LOVE them but now I just hate them.Saw 5 was my breaking point,and I saw a movie called "Abandonded" and when I saw that? I just STOPPED watching them I STILL dream of Freddy Kruger to this day.. I HATE THAT MAN.. (the character) and I HATE my mom allowed me to watch them as a little girl (3 and over) wtf was she thinking? I should have not had to see that crap! I thought I "had" to like them I DON'T as an adult!

  6. I don't understand what kind of mind dreams up these scenarios where people do nothing but scream, beg for their lives and then die mercilessly one by one in gory horrible ways. There's no heroism, no adventure, not even genuine suspense. You know the victim is only a victim and his/her burning alive, decapitation, dismemberment or disembowelment is inevitable. The whole point of these movies is to SIMPLY WATCH PEOPLE DIE A HORRIBLE DEATH. It's pornography for sadists.

    My roommate seems to like them and it only makes me think less of him. Why would anyone think sadism and human agony is entertaining?

  7. I agree as a 34 yr father of a 2 yr old girl I cant watch movies with horrific situations anymore I myself have came close to death twice, the last time I decided to keep these movies and anything related out of my life. My mother had been right all these years telling me there is something else at work in these movies and I used to pride myself in not jumping during movies like a pussy and predicting nearly every scene. Funny how life really makes you snap out of it. Alot of my friends still love horror films and I notice their personalities seem a bit odd to me now. Its just an invitation of evil into your life especialy wen you make an event out of it (horror movie night).