Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why Do We Love Horror?

Lulu on Vegvisir by Dominique Allmon

With Halloween upon us and the recent release of "It" movie based on Steven King's novel by the same title, there is a little horror everywhere you look. Haunted mansions, spooky pumpkins, scary black cats, and kids running around in ghostly costumes. A gruesome horror movie at the end of the day or a dark story read from a well worn book at the end of the day will for sure give us the nightmare we are not quite sure we want to experience. And yet, so many people love the the thrill.

Monsters, witches, werewolves, zombies, homicidal dolls, vampires, ghosts, vicious clowns, unnamed supernatural evil, cruel people, violence, and bloody terror, all exert incredible fascination on the lovers and haters of the genre alike.

If you have watched the Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Shining, Omen, or the Frankenstein, you might have experienced genuine fear with all the physiological symptoms that we normally experience in fearful real life situations. The heartbeat changes, blood pressure goes up, body temperature drops, and the palms begin to sweat. The story we are reading or watching might be completely irrational, but the brain interprets the fear-inducing stimuli as real.

So, why do we love horror?

Already in Antiquity people seemed to have indulged in horror. Greek mythology is full of monsters, but Greek tragedies that translated human condition into an incomprehensible terror also provided emotional release, or catharsis. The modern reader or viewer is not much different in this regard. Horror movies give us the chance to release pent up aggression and suppressed negative emotions.

Many of the horror movies, especially the older ones, explore the unconscious. Postulated by Freud, this is a terrain of secret desires and suppressed emotions that are deeply hidden in our psyche, but drive our motivations.

The dark side is a part of our psyche, if you prefer the Jungian interpretation, and should be embraced. The ominous, the obscure, the morbid, witchcraft, black magic, and satanism, are very old phenomenon and our society is no different that societies in the past. This fascination becomes problematic only when it takes pathological dimensions.

Morbid fascination, adrenaline rush, curiosity and thrill of excitement, might be the reasons why some people love the horror. Sensitive viewers might be scarred for life with the visual imagery of horror movies. Young children, especially, might be deeply affected by the explicit violence of the genre. The effects are not benign and should not be treated lightly.

A little horror on Halloween is a completely different story. Enjoy and have fun!

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017