Horror. Some of us love the feeling of fear and shock while others may hate the idea of purposefully being spooked. But is horror good or bad for us?
As a horror fan myself, I believe horror has both pros and cons. Even if we’re perfectly safe and there’s not going to be a killer werewolf breaking into our houses, a scary movie can bring some of us real terror and fright, even after the film. This terror can make us lose sleep at night, as well as make us paranoid about our surroundings. These effects can also be more severe for people struggling with mental health, especially anxiety. According to Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Research Center, “chronic anxiety increases the sensitivity to startle-eliciting stimuli, thus making people who are already stressed and anxious more likely to respond negatively.” Horror can affect us in negative ways, but why does the genre still have such a strong following?
Although horror negatively affects some, it can give others a positive feeling. Like how some of us love rollercoasters, the feeling we get while watching a horror movie can be fun. A study by the University of Westminster showed that watching horror movies can actually help you burn calories. Watching fake people go through horrid things can also help us cope with the horrors of our real life.
Although some horror films lately have just been cheap scares, many horror movies or books also have deep messages. Dr. Steven Schlozman, a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, has said that “horror makes us ask questions that we are very uncomfortable asking in any other setting, except for the campy displacement that horror affords.” Many films, such as Hereditary (2018), Let the Right One In (2008) and Funny Games (1997, 2007) offer more meaningful messages and metaphors that many of us would rather consume in a scary, outrageous setting. A recent example is the new show The Last of Us, which was actually filmed here in Edmonton. I’ve been a fan of the game series for years, and if you’ve either played the game or watched the show, you’ll know it’s less about killing gross zombies and more about the relationships you form with people and how love, whether it be platonic, familial or romantic, can help us through hard times in our life—like a zombie apocalypse.
Horror also brings people together. Do you usually watch horror movies by yourself, or with some friends? I’m a bit of both myself, but I believe that the experience with friends is so much better. Horror fans are some of the most devoted people, with a strong and welcoming community. Coming back to The Last of Us, I watched the show with my family. They were interested because it was filmed here in Alberta and knew I was such a big fan of the game. Watching the show with them brought us really close every Sunday. We’d get popcorn and treats, excited for the next episode. I had so much fun watching with my family, and I hope we’re able to do that again for the next seasons.
At the end of the day, the horror genre is not for everyone, and that’s okay. While some of us love the stories that it brings us, scary movies aren’t everyone’s jam. But before giving horror movies a bad rap this Halloween, try one out first! If you’re scared, try watching with the lights on in the daytime, tag along with a friend or start out with something tame. Enjoy the spooky season!