Why Horror?

Nosferatu - (1922)

Nosferatu - (1922)

People ask me on a regular basis, “Why horror?”

It’s so gory!”
“But, women just get attacked and the characters are so stupid.”
“How many times can I watch a guy in a mask run after someone?

 

These are just some of the phrases I have heard over the years of being a horror fan, then a horror writer and now, a horror filmmaker.

But, when I think about horror, I think of Halloween and it’s coming up, kids!

Halloween’s an interesting time of the year. It’s a holiday that in its modern form is dedicated to people being scared. People finding ways to be scared, seeking out fear – almost being in control of it, inviting it, rather than having it thrust upon you.

And the horror genre of writing and filmmaking, I think, strives for the same goal. It’s a form of storytelling meant to instill fear, meant to create shudders and shivers in a person’s psyche – no easy feat. I know the horror genre shaped my childhood (I was a weird child). Before I hit puberty...or maybe it was on the cusp of it...but, at any rate, when I was 11 years old, I would watch Halloween and Scream on repeat.

There was a week during a summer vacation when I rented Scream (on VHS!) from Blockbuster Video and I kept the video way past the 48-hour rental period. My mother, bless her heart, received a call from Blockbuster saying that they needed the video back or she would be charged. She told me a day later, after I had watched the movie about 7 seven times already. The next day, she bought me the movie, that way I could watch it as much as I wanted. Best thing she could have done. Then, I discovered Halloween. I was fascinated by the masked-visage of Michael Myers. So much so that still, to this day, I have nightmares with Michael Myers, that he’s following me, strolling with a kitchen knife after me.

I love those movies and I’m not the only one. There’s a teeming subculture dedicated to the love of horror movies – so, what’s the reason for this collective worship of being afraid? I’m not the only one simultaneously terrified and obsessed with the horror genre. I don’t know the answer to this question, but maybe it is a desire to be in control of our own fear. I’m putting in this DVD to be scared and I’m in control of that. I’m going to the theater to watch this movie and I will surely be frightened, but I welcome it.

And to be honest, to be in control and choose the moments for our own fear is a luxury in life. (Don’t get me started on the fear that is perennial in women’s lives; it’s the subject for another blog). We are so rarely able to choose when we can be scared. Fear is a reflex, not a choice. But, with horror and a love of horror movies/ stories, we can choose.

Perhaps that is the allure with horror. You can choose when to be scared. When you choose to watch the movie, you are choosing to be afraid. Fear is no longer something that waits in the dark and grabs you when you least expect it. You can expect fear and it becomes smaller, more manageable. There’s power in that.

Or maybe my theory is reductive and I was just a creepy kid who loved Scream and Halloween. That’s always a possibility.

Happy Month of Halloween – be safe! Embrace your inner creepiness and dive into a horror story. 

Thanks for reading!