Scary, creepy, and downright disturbing images have existed in film as long as we have had the ability to invent them, perceive them, and construct them. People like to be scared, they crave it and seek it out. The need for fear is inherent within the human psyche. It’s our yin to the yang of feelings of security and acceptance. Fear has been part of our imagination since children, since we were scared to have the light turned off, or that something was under the bed. Horror can stem from our individual fears or the collective conscious, for example the fear of death. It is a fact that horror, and by extension horror movies, appeal to our most primitive state. Horror strips us down to our essence and takes us back to the caveman – the fight or flight.
Horror movies can, and have, helped many individuals through times of real horror within their own lives. Identifying with the protagonist who is trying to overcome the monster; a metaphor for the troubles we ourselves are trying to overcome in reality. Because horror is innate in the human mind, elements of horror are shown in every type of film genre. Horror movies cause us to ask the eternal question, “what if” and allow us to safely delve into our primal fears. A fear that has been there since childhood, a fear we are all born with in our body’s make-up.
Annoyingly and ignorantly, the horror genre, like other film genres such as comedy is often looked down upon by film critics and reviewers. It is rarely given the credit it so rightly deserves. At best, many film reviewers ignore the genre as throw away, and at worst, they treat the genre with contempt. One would think they would take into consideration the huge popularity of these films, and also certain films lasting popularity with audiences all over the world, but many do not. I recall watching ex BBC critic Barry Norman discredit the horror film ‘Scream’, ignoring all of its post modern intelligence and its satirical take on the slasher genre with a passing disregard. It had seemed he had only half watched the film with a prejudiced eye.
Horror is most popular with teenagers and twenty-something’s, and this seems to go against the genre with a lot of critics, as if these age groups aren’t capable of making an intelligent film choice. This, of course, can be true; if at any time in the horror genre, we are being shown it now, with the surge of the re-make, where teenagers are unaware of the far superior (in most cases) films that are being regurgitated. While some horror movies do target the unknowing teenage audience, most horror fans can spot these a mile away. Sequels and re-makes have unfortunately given the horror genre a bad name; but even some of these are extremely well made films. There are countless genuinely good horror movies being made every year. Well written, well-constructed, well-acted, and well-directed films that leave the audience terrified and enjoying the roller-coaster experience. These well-made horror movies explore the nature of relationships, whether the relationships are between humans or between the natural and the supernatural.
As this site will show, many attendees and devoted fans of the horror genre are women, the targeted audience of the “rom-com.” Horror has been discredited for being misogynistic, but ironically, women love horror. Possibly because of the many horror heroines but also because Horror movies cross gender-boundaries because they deal with the primal emotion, the basic instinct in all human beings—fear. They tap into locked fears, ideas and imagery that humans assiduously try to evade.
Horror films delve into a broad range of themes that scare us all; some creating fears we didn’t even know we were scared of; the fear of death, of the unknown, but also of everyday realities such as natural disasters or disease. Whatever humans can be and are afraid of, horror movies have been successfully tapping into these fears for years and continue to do so. By doing so, horror movies expose more about us to us and to the world as a whole.
Some may argue that horror movies are nothing more than sick entertainment for depraved individuals; but these people obviously have very little knowledge of the genre and how horror is involved in literally every other genre. Even the romantic comedy is touched by horror, the fear of being alone. Disney movies are filled with horrific images and ideas. Horror movies are the perfect reflection on society; if you look at any decade, the horror films will reflect society’s fears at that time. For example, David Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly’ is a perfect reflection on society’s fears of old age and disease. The many slasher films tap into our fear of mental illness, and our primal fears of sharp objects and just how fragile the human body actually is. The largest fear in all horror though is of course – death.
Horror movies are not just mindless entertainment—even gore-driven horror. While these appear to be on the surface, we can still question why so many of these types of film are so successful and make so much money and what that says about mainstream society’s attitude toward life, violence, and also women. Women are portrayed in so many different ways in the horror genre, as the heroine, the victim, the eye candy. Sure, there are plenty of horror movies being made simply for money and contain very little artistic integrity. However, even the re-makes of late are a commentary on us as a society. Hollywood is scared to take risks because of the recession and so they’re going with a safe bet.
The next time you sit before a horror film, think about what the horror movie is really saying to its audience. The fact that horror is such a lucrative and fan based genre says a lot. Hopefully, more people will come to stop disregarding the horror genre with disdain and give it the respect it deserves as yet another insight into the human condition, mind and society.