Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Defence of the Horror Film

People often complain of the overuse of violence in horror films or that certain horror franchises i.e. Friday the 13th and Halloween are overdone, but what these viewers are not realizing is that a horror film is a vehicle to arouse excitement in the viewer, while heightening the senses for a brief period of time. During a viewing of a horror film the participant increases his/her adrenalin, blood flow, and general arousal leaving the viewer in a much more relaxed state afterwards. Similar to the experience of an amusement park ride a horror film provides a rush. The rush of adrenalin and endorphins is pleasurable and can be slightly addictive to horror fans as viewers look for the next big rush or latest horror blockbuster. Also, for some "...the attraction of horror the ability to conquer something that seems threatening, even though it poses no real harm." Therefore, watching a horror film allows viewers to overcome their own fears (Msn).

As stated by horror master Stephen King "...eliciting terror in the viewer is the ultimate goal of the horror writer and film-maker...," horror films often deal with scary subject matter i.e. masked killers, weapons and elicit feelings of distress, but once a horror film comes to resolution positive feelings such as delight and relief are predominant. In one study on excitation transfer, the shift from distress to delight occurs in the final third of the film as the source of distress i.e. a horror film is brought to resolution. This change from distress to delight is more prevalent in males than females. Consequently, the arousal of negative emotions (distress) leads to an increase in the feeling of positive emotions (delight) (Cal State).

As a generalization it is the female viewer who is averse to viewing horror films, but it is time for women to boldly step through the cinema doors and take ownership of this genre, thereby enjoying the rush of adrenalin experienced by male horror film viewers. Gender role stereotypes of the frightened girl/woman and fearless boy/man in the horror movie must become a thing of the past as both sexes face their fears. The snuggle theory, whereby women appreciate men for appearing bold and fearless during horror films can be reversed or equalized as both sexes show their fearlessness while watching this genre. With only 4 out of the top 100 highest grossing films falling into the horror category it is important to increase the fan base so that high quality horror movies continue to make their way to the cinema (Calstate, Imdb 2008).

One argument against the horror film is that they are just too scary or totally unbelievable. However, by facing your fears in a safe environment such as a movie theatre a viewer becomes aware of both; what makes them afraid, and how to deal with these fears. It is through facing ones own fear that a person grows and develops; a horror film can be seen as a stepping stone to other fear inducing pursuits like bungee jumping, or sky-diving.

Yes, a horror film is unbelieveable, but it exposes many viewers to the supernatural and allows fans to place themselves in the role of hero, heroine and even villain, thereby increasing the arousal in the horror film viewer. Although, some people do not understand the attraction of exciting stimulation many others seek out adventurous situations and "...are attracted to horror pictures because of the increased levels of sensation these movies provide." Therefore, the horror film can satisfy the need for excitement in many while satiating a horror fans curiosity in the supernatural (Calstate).

In 2008 and 2009 there are many opportunities to get out and show support for the horror film as "Saw V," "Let the Right One In," and, "Quarantine," are currently showing in theatres. Now, is the time to conquer your fears and feel the rush of excitement as fictional situations unfold before your eyes. If you are afraid of the horror film see it with an experienced friend and slowly immerse yourself in a world that is fear producing, exciting, sometimes distressing and often exhilarating.


An In Depth Study from Cal State on the Psychology of the Horror Film

"Scientists Study the Thrill of the Chill at MSN

A List of the Top Grossing Films on IMDB


Unknown said...

This is "in the defence of this post."