|What's So Great About Horror?|
By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
Why people consider scaring themselves to be entertained is a
question for psychologists or philosophers. But the fact that we do
is irrefutable. There were horror movies almost as soon as there
were movies. And before movies were scary plays and scary novels,
and before that scary stories told at the tribal campfire. The
shiver of monster movie is undeniably exciting, and people seek
There are types of scary movies for almost every taste. There are
the splatter-fests where an isolated group of teens is hunted down
one by one. There is suspense horror with more stalking than gore.
There are movies that are more comedy than horror, and even movies
(primarily movies about vampires) where the horror is dreamily
Villains come in all varieties. Some are just angry or crazy
humans. Some are animals - normal but violent animals, or weirdly
altered animals. Some are monsters of various types - vampires,
werewolves, zombies, ghosts, robots, space aliens and demons.
Heroes and heroines come in all varieties as well, and sometimes
the movie's hero is a monster himself.
In other genres of movies, the good guys almost always win. While
the good guys usually win in monster movies, the genre does have a
larger percentage of movies in which the good guys do not win. This
feature increases the tension for horror movie viewers; when they
sit down to watch the movie, they understand that it could well be
that everyone is dead by the final credits. Sheer survival then
becomes more of a triumph.
It's the rare viewer who likes all varieties of horror movies,
that's why there are so many varieties.
If you've ever been so scared by a movie that you have had
nightmares, you might wonder, "Why do people like horror movies?"
For some, being scared and jumpy isn't an appealing factor in a
movie. But for others, horror movies don't have as strong of an
effect. Still others enjoy the feeling of being scared by something
they know is fake.
Many don't know how to define what a horror movie truly is. It is
not just a movie that scares someone. The idea of fear is
subjective: one person may find Curious George frightening while the
next may not have flinched at Nightmare on Elm Street.
Factors that define a horror movie include:
- The Supernatural. Though not necessary, many horror movies
involve tales of supernatural beings such as aliens, zombies or
someone coming back from the dead. On a lesser level, these movies
may involve a certain air of science fiction.
Produced to elicit an emotion. While many horror movies are
considered lo-fi, most are produced in such a way as to create fear
or anticipation on the part of the viewer. A great example from
classic movie maker Alfred Hitchcock is the shower scene in Psycho.
One begins to anticipate what will happen before it does.
- Us vs. Them. Many horror movies are focused around the idea of an
individual or group that is 'out to get' someone else. This sense of
someone out there trying to 'get at' a main character in the film is
a popular mechanism of driving plot in horror films.
Many horror movies fan are looked at as a cult group. Fans tend to
group together and discuss films much in the way that a reading
group would discuss a book. As one might imagine, the feeling of
being a part of a larger group coupled with the intellectual
simulation of looking at a movie in a rational way can be almost as
much fun as watching the movie itself.
Some people do not get frightened by horror movies. Instead, seeing
violent killing scenes or driving plots is an exciting element that
appeals to the viewer on a deeper level. Viewers like this get
hooked easily into what is going on and find joy in trying to guess
If you've ever been relieved that a stressful situation has ended,
you know the feeling of relief that can come afterwards. To those
that are frightened half to death by a horror movie, the end result
can be similar to relief. When the film ends and there is some sense
of conclusion, viewers can enjoy the feeling that is left over.