Freaky Films and the Nature of Fear

something wicked

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Darkness falls as daylight shrinks, a strange chill hangs in the air, and the witching hour swirls ever closer . . . are you ready? It’s coming, ready or not. This season of wandering spirits invites you to step into another realm, an unprotected place where the familiar safety of your everyday life cannot save you. That’s right. I’m talking about the world of horror films. This is a world I seldom visit, but when I do, I only creep around the edges, getting a little dusting of fear and unease on my shoes but not enough to bury me there, as it were. Just a taste. I prefer my dark musings to linger over haunted places, ghostly visits, and unexplained phenomena but in small, easily controlled doses—not full-on terror.

Why do people love scary movies? What is it that compels these brave souls to step into those stories, to want to experience that fear? As you might imagine, there are several theories behind this powerful lure.

"The Shining" featuring the unforgettable Jack Nicholson

“The Shining” featuring the unforgettable Jack Nicholson

Feel the Rush

Some say moviegoers love the “experience transference,” and the rush of adrenaline that goes with it. They crave the intensity of the experience only extreme events can deliver (not too far removed from roller coasters and extreme sports). Three common emotions unearthed in horror films are risk, fear, and even disgust. These emotions are visceral and deep, part of our wiring as humans. They cause us to both look at and turn away from gory accidents and frightening things.

You Know What They Say About Curiosity

No matter how messed up a story is or how unbearable the “monster,” we cannot deny our inherent curiosity. We have to know—just like our poor, dumb, ill-fated hero—what that noise was upstairs, outside in the boathouse, coming from behind us (eeek!). Throughout the millennia, curiosity has not only illuminated our lives but has kept us safe and alive from predators of all kinds. We enjoy watching characters in our scary movies try to survive by using, or in spite of using, their own curiosity.

No Limits

Horror movies give us a set of circumstances that may not be plausible in our everyday lives, but with the magic of film, we can let go of our expectations and indulge our fantasies, our most inappropriate imaginings, or watch the characters make the kind of bad choices we’d never make in life and see how they play out. Things always end very badly for at least one person and usually some innocent animals (this is cheap, unimaginative pathos, you lazy screenwriters and directors!), and at the end of the journey, you can walk away unscathed physically. Psychologically, that’s another story.

My favorite!

My favorite!

My Favorites: Ok, here’s my personal list of beloved stories of the mysterious and macabre. As you can see, I like my scares with quite of a lot of beauty, atmosphere, freakiness, and (when I can get it) some serious romance:

1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula

2. The Skeleton Key

3. The Blair Witch Project

4. The Shining

5. The Others

 

Possibly one of the scariest scenes in my memory (from "Paranormal Activity")

Possibly one of the scariest scenes in my memory (from “Paranormal Activity”)

Traumatized By but Seen Anyway

1. Paranormal Activity (all of them—freaky!!)

2. The Grudge (Japanese version)

3. The Ring

4. Witchboard

5. Nightmare on Elm Street

6. The Omen

 

What Scares You?

I love knowing what makes people tick, so what scares you and why? Let me know what your favorite horror film is and why it gets under your skin. You never know . . . this time next year, we could have a Healthy Housewives Fright Fest going on. Fun!!

*****************************

Wishing you bright days and spooky dreams,

Brooke

 

 

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