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What’s so scary about scary movies?

By in Culture/Opinions
It's horrible! This theatre is full of old people!
I used to be terrified by horror movies until I realized there’s nothing scary about them. Honestly, when is the last time you were chased by an axe-wielding maniac to the sounds of violins and cellos? Final exams, terminal illnesses and dieing alone – now these are legitimate fears.

But people are highly-suggestible, and horror movies are all too effective at filling us with irrational fear. Don’t lie, you’ve probably checked behind your shower curtain for murderers before. You also know teens boning in parked cars at night always get slaughtered. Skinnydipping at night is also bound to get you killed.

Horror movies convince us that certain settings are spookier than others. Even in real life, people get a tingly feeling being in graveyards or the woods or stormy weather. But there’s no basis for this.

One night my friends and I took a walk outside the city when, suddenly, we saw a lady approaching us from deep in the woods. We nearly crapped our pants. (Other things also enhanced our paranoia, but I won’t get into that.)

Afterwards, we felt stupid about it. A stranger walking by us only looked scary because this was the deep, dark woods — a place where trees assault women and zombies burst out of the ground (as demonstrated in Evil Dead).

But a month camping alone in the woods made me realize there’s nothing scary out there. Still, it took me a while to shake my fears. Seeing The Blair Witch Project made it pretty creepy walking the woods at night with nothing but a little flashlight.

A greater absurdity is our fear of graveyards. It’s common for kids to play with Oujia boards or conduct séances with them, but why? Graveyards are just well-maintained green space. Sure, there’s a bunch of dead people under that green space but what are they going to get us with? Skeleton power?

One time I went biking with a friend through a graveyard and was surprised when it didn’t feel scary or even gloomy. Actually, the place seemed pretty peaceful. I admit though, I would have felt differently at night. Then I’d probably start picturing Romero-esque zombies chasing after me and my delicious brains.

Perhaps all the supernatural beings in horror cinema only symbolize our real fears. Maybe it’s not really the ghosts and zombies that scare us, but what they remind us of — death and the loss of a soul, for example. Even if we don’t believe people can be possessed by demons, it’s makes sense to fear something that controls your mind and forces you to do evil.

While I’ve grown highly desensitized to scary movies, I wish I hadn’t. I’d love to be moved by them again, to develop silly fears of television white noise and diabolical clowns.

Maybe a horror movie that addresses more relatable human fears would freak me out. Imagine a scary movie about public speaking, or credit card debt. Just the thought of it chills me!

Photo: NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr

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