Reader Tink in Cali posted a simple, but thought-provoking question here yesterday.
Why do I like horror movies?
Sounds simple, right? But why do I spend so much time watching nice people get stabbed, tortured, beheaded … or worse?
The reasons are complicated, and I can’t set myself down on the couch and draw out the answers. Instead, here are my best guesses:
- Shock value: Watch an earnest drama and the biggest revelation might be that the hero had an affair and kept it secret from his wife. Watch even a lousy horror movie and the hero could be a homicidal maniac in his spare time. Surprise!
- Losing control: Our lives tend to be bland, or at least uneventful. And that’s a very good thing. But horror movies offer an alternative reality that play upon our worst fears. In most cases, the hero lives to tell the tale. On some level we hope we’d react with the same heroism if we were fleeing a knife-wielding maniac.
- An inept drama or comedy can be painful to endure. An inept horror can pack one moment, one scene, which can prove unforgettable.
- Horror is communal. I’d never encourage people talking in a theater … but once in a while the crowd noise can elevate a standard horror viewing into an event.
- Hidden messages: Horror movies often pack a political or social punch that would otherwise come off as trite or heavy handed. George A. Romero has led the way with his “Dead” features, commenting on racism and consumerism courtesy of his flesh-chomping zombies.
- The scare factor: There’s something about being scared, period. It’s why people pack haunted houses. We all know the guy wielding the chainsaw is just a college dropout or teen trying to make his car payments. But we scream all the same.
I’m sure I’ve just scratched the surface, so let me know why you can’t get enough of horror movies.
(Photo: Horror fans can’t get enough of zombies like the ones attacking here in “George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead.”)