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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why we like horror movies

Why do we like horror movies? Who in their right mind wants to be scared? Perhaps it is the mark of a decadent society that it is entertained by gore and death. Or, perhaps there is a simpler answer. I once took a psychology class or two, so therefore I must be an expert. I remember the professor putting up a chart that showed the physical responses a person displays when entertaining certain emotions. At the top of the list were two of my favorites: laughter and anger. If I recall, the chart specifically spoke to blood pressure, or adrenaline, or something of the like. I remember thinking that this is why some people choose to be angry so often. The simple truth is that it excites the body. Now, if I may speculate a little... Perhaps this is why we enjoy horror movies so much. The suspense, the gore, the anticipation that our heroes will survive, while secretly hoping for their demise. I have seen plenty of modern horror movies, most of them showing gratuitous gore, substituting innovative ways to kill and maim in the place of suspense and character development. And don't even get me started on the newest trend in Hollywood which my favorite movie reviewer has rightly deemed "torture porn." So many directors have no idea what makes a good horror film, one with the capacity to engender feelings for the protagonist without which, suspense is hopeless. To date, my favorite horror film is 28 Days Later. I end up caring about the group, hoping they will make it. The focus is not on the death and gore, but on the survivors. Like so much in Hollywood, they get often get it plumb wrong. They seem to forget that, deep down, people care about people. Appealing to morbid curiosity rather than humanity is the cheap way out. Thankfully 28 Days Later is not among the pointless horror endeavors that litter the shelves around it. This movie stands out as one of the few that creeps me out every time I watch it.

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