You only have to scroll through your social media or turn on the TV to know that we live in a world that is full of famine, violence, war and disease. The real world is essentially packed full of real horror. For those of us that are of a nervous disposition, we aren’t necessarily interested in the details, not because we don’t care but it is too close to home, it feeds an anxiety and we worry about the present and the future. The bottom line is, a lot of us want to know what is going on in the world but the details can fill us with fear.
Of course, there are inevitable events in our lives. We may be involved in war and terrorism; we may witness the end of the world but the one thing that we will all experience whether it is our own or a family member/friend – is death. Yes, that word that no-one likes to think about yet when it comes to horror films, we cannot get enough of it. Decapitation, a stake through the heart, an exorcism; we love it all!
Getting older allows you to view the world through a sharper lens. From a British perspective, death is viewed as a very somber occasion with barely any room for celebration of that person’s life. We as human beings achieve so much through life and push through hardship, it is amazing some of us make it to the grand age we do. Selfishly, it is about mourning and how the living feel yet in other cultures we see people care for the dead as they would the living – it is part and parcel of their lives. So, what can we do to alleviate these thoughts and feelings? Well we lock ourselves up in a cinema or in our homes and watch horror films featuring death, death and another sprinkling of death. Yes folks, we use these films as our safe space.
Throughout our culture we are told not to cry and not to be scared and, in some cases people are ridiculed for just having very simple emotional feelings and we are expected to just get on with it all. This being a rather unhealthy way of living has been ingrained into our society and we keep calm and carry on. For the horror film fans, we see 90 minutes of gore or demonic possession and for that time we can feel what the hell we like but after pressing that stop button, we can safely return to our normal lives without any repercussions. Within that 90 minutes we put our middle finger up to the happy self-help memes and we can let our feelings run riot without any criticism from the world because you know what? It is ok to be scared of horror films!
So, taking this very simple idea, could this be a case that these sorts of films can actually prepare us for real horror? Of course, Auntie Doris isn’t going to become a zombie anytime soon nor will Uncle Dave be possessed by the Devil but it is thought that this act of viewing could help us have a better world view and aid us in the future.
Mathias Clasen, School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark mentions in his article that features in ScienceNordic.com that we learn how to handle negative emotions through horror films and that his research suggests that “humans evolved to find pleasure in situations that allow us to experience negative emotions in a safe context. You can see these element of horror in children’s games. Take hide-and-seek for example, which is a simulation of a predator-prey interaction. The kid hides and the adult pretends to be a troll or a predator, searching for the child while growling like a dangerous beast”. So could the games we played as children and the watching of horror become relevant later on in life if we are faced with fear?
Only time will tell so order yourself a pizza, grab a few beers and put on that horror film, it may save your life!!