Some of us seek out the spooky and scary
You have heard that scary background music before. In more ways than one, you have come to associate it with suspense, fear, or something about to happen. You seem to stop breathing for a moment, and your forehead becomes moist with sweat. You don’t blink, and your heart doesn’t beat until you see it emerge from the shadows, with a wicked devilish hungry smile of satisfaction. It waits until the character turns back and inevitably, he or she lets out a loud scream, as they can run no longer.
You wait for the bloopers of the scary movie, so you can convince your subconscious that what you have just seen at that hour of the night, is only fiction. That Dr. Hannibal Lecter and Annabelle are not coming for you, that you don’t have to look over your shoulders every now and then, or be afraid to stay home alone. It was just a horror movie.
We have all had these feelings after daring to see a scary movie alone. Some of us have probably experienced this at very young ages. This article explains what makes a scary movie really scary, because we can all agree that not all movies in the horror category are particularly so, no matter the number of good reviews a film might garner. Is it just the killing, or the screaming, that makes us fear what comes next? Is it the special effects, or much more?
According to associate professor of film and media in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, James Kendrick, “The best scary movies adapt to society’s current fears and turn current cultural, social, and political preoccupations into elements of horror.” Which basically means that many horror stories are based on what we fear today, yet are too afraid to talk about. Could that be true?
Popular horror author Stephen King, of IT (1986), Mr. Mercedes (2014), and more recently Later (2021), is once quoted as saying “Monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” His novels have been adapted into scary movies, and each of them scarier than the last. Movies like Pet Cemetery (2019), The Outsider (2020), a thriller series on Netflix and The Dark Tower (2017), have made him one of the scariest authors in our developing world of sit-coms, rom-coms and reality TV, yet he claims his monsters are inspired by us.
How possible could that be? You might wonder. You might enjoy a regular screaming, mind-blowing story but a dancer, a professor, a nun, a cop, certainly none of these everyday people would be inspired by the gothic stories in Dracula, Haunted House, Fangs In The Dark, and others. But, that is likely not the case.
The second element that makes horror stories really scary is the trend. How many of us realize how many ghost, vampire, and werewolf movies we have seen? How many of us can list the scary creatures in movies and books, without mentioning those three first? Is it less of a coincidence that each one of these creatures begin their existence as human beings? The answer to all of these questions remains the trend of it.
In a 2019 essay on why these creatures would always be scary, it was revealed that they reveal the beasts hiding in everyday folks, which could break loose at any time. It also revealed that in the last decade, scary movies like The Craft, Love Witch, Black Christmas and many others were deliberately geared towards women.
It’s almost like gone are the days of frightening children… they look forward to it on Halloween already, and now we have scary movies with everyday mums as main characters. We can all sympathize with her. You begin to think deep down, this could be my mum, my wife, or this could be me.
Is it working? Are these movies still scary? Will they continue to be? Yes. As long as writers continue to mirror our monsters, and directors continue to follow trends of what scares us today, we will continue to cringe in the dark and sleep with the lights turned on. This is what we love about watching them. The rush, the panic, the climax, are the reasons we knowingly watch these movies, basking in feelings that we can not get anywhere else.
Check out Dead Talk Live’s episode about “Serial Killers!”