The Ninjabot

Why Do We Need Horror Movies?

Posted on July 3, 2013 at 7:18 pm by Jason Byard

still-from-the-stuffFilm genre is a fairly straightforward concept. You can pretty much situate any narrative you like into one of several distinct groups based simply on the kind of reaction it’s trying to get out of you as a member of the audience. That’s all movies are, really: An effort to provoke some emotional response from the audience. And we categorize them based on whatever sentiment it is their goal to realize. Ergo, genre.

And, in just about every case, those emotions would roundly be considered positive. Comedy: People want to laugh because it’s cathartic. Drama: People want to be moved because it’s inspiring. Pornography: People want to be aroused for arousal’s sake.
Horror movies, naturally, are the anomaly. This weird outlier that manages to thrive and pack in audiences and amass admirers, all in spite of the fact that their goal is not to provoke arousal but revulsion. So why all the love? Because, whether we like it or not, we all have a Death Drive.

No, it’s not the name of some Scandinavian speed metal band, it’s a real thing. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of psychoanalysis could tell you about it. It’s the part of our psyche that shares a property line with our libido. Only instead of pushing us toward creation it craves destruction. And despite the elaborate psychological Rube Goldberg mechanism we have in place to hem the little fella in, eventually, we need to feed the beast. Or at least give him something to tide him over.

That’s where horror comes in. It’s what we use to slake the bloodthirstiness that resides in all of us. It’s really the most honest form of art there is. Because it speaks directly to that aspect of ourselves we’d like to acknowledge the least.

So what to make of horror movies then? What to make of the people who love them? What kind of person is it that plunks down hard-earned money and gives up a few hours of their life to feel systematically terrorized? The answer is, well, we’re all that person. It’s simply a matter of the degree to which we’re willing to embrace it.

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