As it’s Halloween time, people tend to watch scary movies. Most horror films fall into one of three categories: the slasher films (Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween), the psychological horror (The Fly, Jacob’s Ladder, Rosemary’s Baby) and the monster films (Dracula, Frankenstein, and any zombie film). Of the three only the psychological horror film can be said to have any originality. Fans of vampire shows like Vampire Dairies and True Blood might bet to differ, but if you look closer you’ll see more similarities than differences.
Halloween just came out with a part sequel part reboot, that made $75 million on opening weekend on a budget of $35 million. I can safely say I’m not giving away any surprise plot twists when Michael, the psychopath villain, escapes from a mental institution to start killing people. This is the exact same plot as all the other Halloween films before it and since this film did so well, it will likely be the same plot as the next one. Indeed most horror films can be said to be the same. So why do horror films continue to be so popular?
People go to horror films because they want to be frightened. You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you. That's certainly true of people who go to entertainment products like horror films that have big effects.
The psychoanalyst Dr. Carl Jung believed horror films “tapped into primordial archetypes buried deep in our collective subconscious – images like shadow and mother play important role in the horror genre”.
The three main factors that make horror films alluring are death, suspense and acting out Fantasies
Acting Out Fantasies
We watch violent and frightening films as a way of purging negative emotions and or as a way to relieve pent-up aggression (an argument also proposed as a reason as to why some people love to play violent video games).
We are drawn to horror simply because it's entertaining. It acts as a means to fend off boredom and acting out our darkest fantasies. As humans, we are a mixture of good emotions and bad emotions – these are natural. In modern society, we know not to act out on those bad emotions so humans have done in the past so do it through entertainment.
A big reason we are drawn to the darkest of film darkness is that the horror film is a way of unraveling death. For all the religion and modern science, humans still don’t understand death or what comes after it. The juxtaposition of death is, of course, life and the seeming randomness of it. We can die at any time. It is constantly there, hanging in our subconscious. Horror films remind us of the randomness of death and that we are never really safe from it no matter how advanced technology may cause our lives to be prolonged. This is a huge subject which we can’t possible cover all here but surface to say we have always been fascinated with death and will likely to continue to be until we find a way to live forever.
Explanation of the Unknown
We love to be scared. There will always be a portion of us that are thrill seekers, that like to explore the unknown.
The horror film is one of the oldest film genres. Dating back to the silent film period of the previous turn of the century, we have been dreadfully delighted with this particular type of film.
Although society as a whole, don’t believe that there is some unknown force of pure evil, we are still fascinated by the subject. This fascination propels us to watch and will likely keep horror films popular for the foreseeable future.
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