It has always baffled me when people profess an ardent love of horror films! I wish to clarify that I am not talking about thrillers such as die hard 1-5, nor indeed am I really referring to horror films like silence of the lambs, which while somewhat disgusting are in fact not actually scary, just chilling. I refer more to the likes of The Shining, A Nightmare on Elm St., Paranormal Activity, The Exorcist. On the whole, horror / terror films are chosen because of their propensity to scare. Therefore, for people to say that they love horror films is for them to admit that they fundamentally enjoy being scared! I watch comedies because I like laughing; Rom-coms because deep down I am a hopeless optimistic romantic; Action films because they are exciting.
Therefore if people say, “well, horror films don’t scare me”, it necessitates that they are not the people who choose to watch horror films! I’m not going to watch Richard Curtis’ latest film unless it makes me smile and feel better about life, its failure to do this will lead me to avoiding such films. So what’s my point? Am I astounded that people like being scared: no! I get that people like adrenaline (I certainly do) it is why I choose to do sport, enjoy driving fast, psychologists suggest it is why I am always late (because I get a kick out of rushing and the adrenaline). But… difference between my sport and the horror film is that that adrenaline ends once the sport, or the drive does. Unless these horror film watchers suffer from short-term amnesia or can compartmentalise their minds, they surely must then go to bed with that image or memory or the levitating child decapitating someone in their sleep. How is that pleasant? Theoretically, one could argue that these people are more capable of separating reality and fiction/film – which would explain the whole thing: yes it is scary, but it is not real. The same message given to scared children is one they are able to live by.
But I have a couple of personal experiences to bring to bear: 1) After watching Sixth Sense I was forced to sleep (aged sixteen) with the light on for a whole week! But we might say that I have a very vivd memory and am incapable of separating reality from fiction hence why I could not sleep for fear of a strange American child telling me he sees dead people (sorry if you have not watched it – it is rather the theme though, so little ruined!) 2) My sister ‘loves’ horror films, but we were once staying at the top floor of a family friend’s house and she insisted I swap rooms with her because the cupboard remind her of a horror film and a serial killer!
I have no resolution: I cannot empathise with this love because films clearly stay with you. You may enjoy being scared for a moment – but hardly for life!