It’s the end of the week, and after a long day of hard work, you’re preparing for the weekend. You can finally put all your worries away and just relax for a moment. There’s so many things you could do to unwind, but you choose to watch a movie. And what movie do you put on? A horror movie. You turn off all the lights and close all the windows. You bundle up in your sheets and turn on the movie, and once it’s done you’re terrified. You’ll spend the next few nights jumping at shadows, waking up in cold sweats and sleeping with the hallway light on...and the best part is that you’ll do it all again at the end of next week. Being filled with fear, flinching every time the final girl makes a move and screaming when the killer finally reveals themself. It’s fun, right?
The only question is: why?
If horror was truly an obscure genre that had no appeal whatsoever, then it most definitely would not be as popular as it is today. Horror media is everywhere, and it shows no signs of slowing down its takeover of popular culture. Fans of horror continue to grow in numbers and filmmakers are finally starting to see the ways in which horror can be used as an artistic and self-reflective genre. However, to understand any of this we have to ask why anyone is interested in the genre at first.
From an outsider’s point of view, being scared senselessly doesn’t seem like a very valuable pastime. There’s no point in it. The same can be said about someone (take me for example) who doesn’t like eating spicy food. ‘Why would I want to eat something that’s burning my tongue?’ you might say. Well, for starters, the more you eat spicy food, the less effective the burn becomes. This also applies to horror: the more you watch the films, the less terrifying they will become, and once that layer of fear is gone, you will be able to taste the real flavor that horror movies have to offer.
Personally, horror movies provide a sort of safety net for me. Most people are morbidly curious about the things going around them, life and death, criminals and crime, the supernatural and the beyond. It’s unlikely that many of us will experience any of these things in our day to day lives, and if they are experienced they most definitely won’t be an enjoyable one. So, as we do with most things, people turn to the media to satisfy their curiosity. Just as some people watch romances to feel love, or fantasies to escape the monotony of life, others turn to horror to answer their questions about death killers and madmen, from the safety of their homes (or theatres or whatever it might be).
In a sense, horror allows us to experience fear and monsters without ever being in danger. It gives us an adrenaline boost without having to be on the run, or get your heart racing, or to be truly scared. If it ever gets too real, you can always turn off the movie.
In addition to this, there could be other reasons for society’s love of horror. Society is obsessed with the concept of ‘more’. More explosions, more wild stunts, more gore, more of everything and out of all genres, horror can really push the limits on this ‘more’. There’s not much further you could go with romance or drama that hasn’t been seen before, but a lot of things in horror have been held back by censorship and restrictions over the years that are only now beginning to be lifted. With audiences craving (well) more than what they’re given every year, they often turn to horror to satisfy their growing needs.
Finally, horror is another form of fiction. It’s just another way of finding entertainment. It’s got its own tropes, conventions and aesthetic that people have come to love over the years. Some people like the scares and adrenaline boost it gives them, some like the mystery of the impossible killers or supernatural elements weaved into them, and some simply find comfort in watching someone overcome monsters, ghosts, slashers and even death itself to get a happy ending. It’s inspiring most of all, that despite everything one might go through, they can make it out alive in the end. And sometimes, that’s all we need to see.
Whatever your reasons are for liking it, the truth remains the same: horror has definitely got something to offer for everyone, and as it continues to appeal to audiences, it will surely continue to grow.
is a Canadian-Jamaican student, slowly making her way through the writing world. She aims to not only write, but be impactful and play her part in making the world a less judgemental and more accepting place for people everywhere.