Horror films as a tool to help us face our own inner battles.
A guest blog post from Calum Sanderson, Horror film aficionado.
His contemporary take on the healing power of horror films in his life.
This piece contains sweary bits.
The reason, broadly, we horror fans love horror is it is a weird comfort blanket. We are introduced to the characters (people we're supposed to relate to or know similar people in real life), we're introduced to the threat/monster/creature (usually fucking awesome), people are killed off as the film goes on (so we get our genre rocks off), but the final girl (or boy) confronts the threat, conquers the threat and everything's okay...until the sequel!
Sincerely, we horror fans find solace in facing our fears and conquering them, because, in our daily life, we fear we can't. We fear we aren't strong enough to overcome whatever we're facing. We see characters like Laurie Strode, Sidney Prescott, Ellen Ripley etc and project ourselves onto them. We, as audience members, have our own stories, our own causes of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress. We are probably on the spectrum, too (which aids in our finding comfort in something neurotypicals find disturbing). But we are CONSTANTLY fighting our own demons, our own possessed dolls, our own aliens, our own drowned machete-wielding hulks, our own ghostfaces, in whatever trauma we've dealt with in our own personal lives; divorce, failed friendships/relationships, murder, drug addiction, rape/molestation, even witnessing a crime can cause trauma.
We horror fans derive joy from horror movies on an aesthetic level, the special effects and blood shooting out, we love the iconography of killers like Valak, Ghostface, Leatherface, Annabelle, but it all is supportive of the PURPOSE of horror films: grown-up "bedtime stories." To know we always overcome the threat, no matter how many sequels get made (and in Halloween's case, no matter how many timelines there are). We have it in us, always, to defeat the monster.
And THAT'S what's comforting.
THAT'S why we horror fans keep coming back. It's, again, one of many reasons, but it's the most important and most explanatory of why we are horror fans. We want reassurance we can defeat the monster and we are almost always given that in a horror movie. Even if that same movie implies a sequel to come. That doesn't matter. We know "we" defeated the monster once, "we will learn to defeat it again." That's what the characters of all of these sequels face, and that's what we, facing our personal monsters, want to believe in and learn from: that we can overcome.
It's a more base, primal form of things like superhero movies, police procedurals etc. It's more emotional, taps into our very being in ways those other genres don't, which is why we, as horror fans, are so strongly connected to these films and characters and monsters (and I say this as a massive fan of DC/Marvel as well). We aren't endorsing things like child killing (Freddy), traps (Saw), threatening phone calls and elaborate revenge plans (Scream) or whatever the fuck Jason does (Friday 13). We're endorsing the truth that we, as humans, face horror in our lives. We don't have anything in the real world to assure us we can overcome those horrors and emerge victorious. There's no service, there's no help line, there's nothing that goes "You can defeat this monster"...except horror movies. We are endorsing the fact we can overcome threats and emerge victorious, having defeated those threats.
Why do people critical of horror never look at it like that?
Horror is the most important form of storytelling, then. It may not be everyone's cup of tea. That's fine. But to those it's speaking to, it speaks to us and we fucking HEAR it and appreciate its voice, because it gives us ours. It certainly gives me mine.
Horror Movies aren't an endorsement of murder, terror, torture. It's endorsement that those filmed stories are a proxy for the things that don't destroy us as "victims", that we truly can become survivors DESPITE our own daily horrors away from the screen.
A truly primal, beautiful, powerful thing to latch onto, and I'm grateful I for one can latch onto it.
Calum. successfully lived away from home and attended TAFE and completed CERT IV in Film, Diploma in Film and Advanced Diploma in Film - all before he was diagnosed with ADHD + Autism.
Calum now has an assistance dog, Sun.
Sun loves EVERY film starring dogs.
Calum and Sun, Assistance Dog & aspiring film star.