An ode to the horror movie


Jackson Piercy

“Black cats and goblins and broomsticks and ghosts. Covens of witches with all of their hopes. You think they scare me, you’re probably right. Black cats and goblins on Halloween night,” plays at the beginning of the classic first Halloween movie from 1978. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Do you like scary movies?

It is almost funny how people find themselves watching horror movies in the fall. Fall, being the season of the most security. The season of big sweaters, pretty leaves in the trees and thanksgiving dinners. The whole season feels as if one is not in any imminent danger. That must be why people find themselves drawn toward horror in the fall. Realistically, anybody could watch horror movies at any point in the year, but it is curious that people watch them the most in the fall.

It is almost a thrill ride—these  movies that prey on our most vulnerable fears both visually and psychologically. It is like people want to be in some sort of danger, at the very least in their minds. In having safety, there is a sort of monotony that requires a stimulation that makes sure that we are kept on our toes.

Although, to say that horror movies in general are perfectly tuned fear-inducing stimulants is to give them far too much credit. They are not. Horror movies are cheap, just about some of the cheapest films to make. They cut corners in just about every single reasonable aspect that they do not need. Since they are bound by the conventions of traditional filmmaking, they have characters and plots, but they are at the level of a high school production of “The Crucible” more often than not.

Is that to say that they are bad movies? Certainly not. Some of the most creative films people have ever made have been horror pictures. A father turning on his own family because of the corruption of a malevolent hotel; A group of researchers in the Antarctic trying to pick out the alien imposter among them. Sometimes it’s just a “big ol’ dude” with a mask, ripping teenagers to shreds just because he can. If it exists, there has probably been a horror movie or two made about it. That is part of the beauty of the genre.

It is a genre that does a lot with a little. It is a genre that can so easily shift between moods so gracefully, even in its most crude iterations that it is almost an art, exclusive to the horror movie. Historical dramas cannot find themselves to be as darkly comic as quickly as the horror just because of the nature of said drama. Horror can relate to anybody. The characters fall into stereotypes that are the right amount of broad, so that the viewer can find themselves in the shoes of the people in the films. This makes it scarier when you find the character that you relate to gets a knife through their chest.

The horror film gives us something rare: a universal experience. That being, it is scary to be in whatever scenario we find our characters in. Something to watch with friends, for legitimate fright or to riff on it à la Mystery Science Theater. They are movies to watch with that special someone, because nothing brings people together like shared trauma.

Horror movies are one of, if not the most, culturally significant of all films. They are all movies about reflections of ourselves, being put through the worst that the world can put us through. Horror is one of the rare things that can transcend language and culture. How is that possible? Well, the simple truth is everybody has to be scared of something, and something has to scratch that itch.