Are You Scared?

The strongest human emotion is fear. It’s the essence of any good thriller that, for a little while, you believe in the boogeyman.

John Carpenter

Here’s something I’ve never understood: some people don’t like to be scared. I think I figured this out at a pretty young age, sometime in elementary school, when I hid in a classmate’s cubby until she came to grab her things, then jumped out and yelled “BOO.” What I thought would be a moment of shock followed by laughter was tears, a serious talk with the teachers, and long, quiet ride home with my parents. So clearly some people don’t like to be scared. But my question has always remained: why the hell not?

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’m no adrenaline junkie. When I talk about enjoying being scared, I’m not talking about jumping out of an airplane, or swimming with sharks, or, depending on who you are, public speaking. So am I being a hypocrite? Maybe (probably), maybe not. As I’ve matured, what I’ve found out is that everyone likes to be scared in one way or another, but that they tend to pick a small set of circumstances in which it’s OK to be scared when it’s FUN.

So, acknowledging that I’ve self-serving picked a subcategory of fear that I find acceptable and then casting myself as brave for doing so, why the movies (or books, or games, or any other kind of horror content)? I mean, on the surface, it’s pretty silly and obvious. It’s a chance to pretend you’re actually face to face with something scary when in reality, you’re in probably the safest place you could be: a well-air conditioned room, in a comfy chair, with the fire-exits clearly marked. What possible harm is going to come to us there? Or, if I really want to play it safe, I’m in my own living room or lying in bed.

Suddenly I’m starting to question the bar for risk-taking that I’ve set for myself.

But it’s more than that, right? Because no matter how outlandish the characters’ decisions, no matter how ridiculous the monster, or over-the-top the special effects, I can still feel scared. My suspension of disbelief overcomes my basic survival instincts. The desire to be entertained is catching up on the desire to survive, even threatening to overtake it. To be blunt: it’s stupid. Very stupid. But wonderfully so.

Luckily I don’t have to be alone in this crazy journey towards pseudo-danger. The community that’s come up around horror films ranges from slasher and gore bros to film scholar wonks, all sharing the same attraction for the blood and guts, the absurd moralities, the monsters, the heroes, the weapons, the nausea, the intentionally-terrifying, the unintentionally-hilarious…

And truth be told, although I am a fan of films in general, it really is mainly horror films that keep me coming back to the medium. This isn’t to say that it’s consistently the most unique genre. Unfortunately, the cliches have found enough of a crowd that I can walk into a theater any time of year (that isn’t during a pandemic) for a remake or recasting of worn-out content.

Yet, I still feel that when it’s done right, it’s the genre that can actually surprise and engage me time and again. While I could cherry-pick any number of examples of films that stand out against the seemingly endless backdrop of mediocrity, my guess is that if you’re here right now, you probably have your own list and know what I’m talking about. Also, I just want to save those conversations for the posts where I can actually do a deep-dive on one film. Trust me, it’ll be fun.

To wrap things up, thanks for being here. If you feel anything above struck a chord with you, then I think you’re in the right place. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there in the world putting out the stuff that makes me squirm in the comfort of my own home. If it weren’t for them I’d have to actually go out and find some real danger.

So, to wrap things up, thanks for being here, if you feel anything above struck a chord with you then I think you’re in the right place. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there in the world putting out the stuff that makes me squirm in the comfort of my own home. If it weren’t for them I’d have to actually go out and find some real danger.

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