Spurred on by the creation of my new blog and our viewing of The Grudge
this weekend, Eleven
decided to post on why he's not a fan of horror movies. His post
follows.Eleven's post:I'm not a big fan of horror movies. I found this out for certain this weekend when L. and I watched a movie called The Grudge. Now, she found the movie perfectly unscary. She reviewed it, gave it a D, and moved on with her life. I, though, found the movie eerily unsettling, not necessarily because of its plot or general theme, but because I am just plain freaked out by ghosts, zombies, spirits, the undead, monsters, and anything else designed for fright. This particular movie had some particularly creepy ghost-head-hair things that had these hollow eyes that just freaked me out. Now, I don't necessarily know where this deep fear of such things comes from, but I have had it my entire life. And, well, when I do think about it, I always come back to the same general idea: that I am someone who takes death very seriously. I don't want to get into any philosophical discussion here on the nature of death, the afterlife, what life means, or anything else up that stream. I just want it to be enough to say that I take the ending of life to be a particularly delicate and sad thing (in fact, it factors into the reasons I am a vegetarian), so I take more seriously than others, perhaps, the representation of the undead in a particularly uneasy light.
Now, there are some "ghosty" kinds of stories with which I am ok. Take, for example, Toni Morrison's Beloved. Beloved is, I guess, a ghost. The house in which the family lives is haunted. There is a general theme of “spirit” in the novel. But, I rest easily with this novel more than I do other representations of ghosts. And maybe this is why: I think that, somehow someway, I feel it a bit disrespectful to death to make a mockery of it by representing the undead, the dead, ghosts and so on, in a fashion that is designed to make fun out of it. We watch horror movies because it is fun to be scared. We read scary stories because it is fun to be scared. But, going back to Beloved, Morrison's story is about respect for the dead, treating it in a serious manner that gives us pause about the importance of life. The novel isn't designed to scare for delight but to make us thing about the preciousness of life itself.
Now, this reflection, of course, doesn't explain why exactly I am afraid of scary things. I think I may have some plain ol' childish fear still residing in my heart. But what it does explain, maybe, is part of the reason why I am not a huge fan of the genre itself.
And, I think for right now I will leave it at that. I don't want to spawn an argument or debate about the value of horror movies. I don't be-grudge (pardon the pun) horror movies. I don't think people who like them are bad people, wrong people, or anything like that. I don't think we should stop making horror movies or scary stories or anything like that. What I am saying is something from my particular, and completely relative, point of view. The genre as it stands is probably a good thing--something to be lauded. It's just that I can't get into it the way others so easily and happily can.
posted by Eleven at 6:01 PM | 0 comments * * * * * * * * * * * *My thoughts:
The basest and most disconcerting of all the fears we must face on a daily basis is death. It opens the door to so many questions--Is there an afterlife? Is death the end of everything we are? What does death feel like?
What is so intriguing and attractive about horror movies is how they dredge up and play on these fears. They force us to acknowledge and respond to them in a base and completely visceral sort of way.
Eleven states that "...I don't necessarily know where this deep fear of such things [zombies, monsters, etc.] comes from, but I have had it my entire life. And, well, when I do think about it, I always come back to the same general idea: that I am someone who takes death very seriously." This is key--where does
the commonly held fear of monsters come from? I think Eleven dances around this without ever really realizing himself that he is answering his own question--fear of such monsters comes from the fact that death is
something to be taking seriously, something that scares most of us to our very core.
Eleven identifies something threatening that many people recognize in horror movies, that "the ending of life [can] be a particularly delicate and sad thing..." and "take[s] more seriously than others, perhaps, the representation of the undead in a particularly uneasy light." The thing is, death is not always a particularly delicate and sad thing--sometime it's terrible and horrific, and sometimes it's slow and painful, and sometimes it's a beautiful beautiful moment of love. But his words represent something that is hunched down terrified in the corners of all of us--fear of this unknown.
That's what is so attractive about horror movies--they play on this fear of death that pulses through most of our veins. Zombies and monsters and werewolves represent an in-your-face confrontation of that thing we fear the most--an abrupt, unplanned, and painful removal from this life. They are
the unknown and stand in for exactly that which we don't quite understand about death.
But why do we watch them? Why do we like to be reminded of these fears? Many of us fear death, but not all of those who fear death like horror movies. So why is that some of us do?
Many people (such as Leon Rappoport
, professor of psychology at Kansas State University), believe "it is the same thing that attracts people to amusement parks to ride roller coasters.
"It goes all the way back to sitting around the camp fire telling ghost stories and folk tales," Rappoport said. "It's a very prevalent, deep-seated, human characteristic to explore the boundaries where they can tolerate fear and anxiety, and then master that fear and anxiety by working through it."
"The more civilized we get the more we repress our sort of uncivilized nature," Rappoport said. "And one way to release that is through festival occasions, vicariously enjoying horror movies and all sorts of related things.""
I think the key here is this: some of us like to "explore the boundaries where they can tolerate fear and anxiety, and then master that fear and anxiety by working through it." Some of us do not. I think this is where the horror movie fan comes in--we like to step to the edge of the precipice and wobble there precariously with our hearts in our throat. We find it exhilerating. We like to be reminded of the fact that things are unstable, that life can leap out of your hands at any second. Many of us (though maybe not all) like to be confronted with this reminder of the unknown, this silent threat that's always lurking in the shadows.
Maybe a bit too philosophical, yes.
Maybe we just like to watch these things for sheer entertainment.
But there is no doubt that our bodies respond to horror movies in a completely visceral way, in a way that we don't respond to most movies (jumping in our seats, screaming out in fear), and to me, it is hard not to see our love of horror movies as an obvious confrontation of this one thing that scares us the most.
And now I shall quote The Shining
twins (blatant symbol of death and the unknown) once more in support of my argument:
"Come play with us, Eleven. Forever... and ever... and ever..."