Halloween is approaching and as we do every year, we’ll see many of the same types of decorations, practices, and traditions. Kids will go trick-or-treating, and houses will be covered in spiderwebs, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns. Altogether, it makes for an intentionally spooky but fun experience. While generally geared toward children, there are few things about Halloween that genuinely scares adults. Among those few things are horror movies.
Over the years, it’s become exponentially more difficult to come up with new filmmaking techniques that are capable of scaring the audience. With all of the exposure that recent generations have had to shocking and explicit content, it’s no wonder that it takes a real artist to make a truly frightening movie.
You might remember the classics like The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, and much of Alfred Hitchcock’s body of work including Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo. And since then, we’ve seen some truly evocative thrillers like The Conjuring, The Quiet Place, and The Invisible Man. But for every quality film released, there are ten bad ones released, so we must be very careful about the type of content we’re consuming and why we’re doing it.
Recently on Trending with Timmerie, Timmerie discussed the concept of watching horror movies and why we should examine our intentions when doing so.
“This is, I think, one of the key questions,” she said. “Are we seeking out a good spook in a thriller, or are we searching out something that will terrify us, and even elicit curiosity about the demonic realm or about witchcraft?”
Which one is it? It’s a very important distinction. The first reason for watching horror movies, getting a good scare, is a motive for entertainment. It’s almost like a competition you can have with friends and family. Who scares the easiest? Who is the most stoic? In an ironic way, it’s good fun to realize that we’re all human, and it can be humbling to realize together how frightened people can become. And that being said, good horror movies also have merit and richness to their plot. It’s about getting scared but it’s also about understanding the message.
It’s so easy to fall into a sense of fascination with things like this. While many people stay away from horror movies altogether out of fear, it’s common for viewers to get hooked on this film genre. When you watch horror movies, your brain releases cortisol (the primary stress hormone), but it also releases adrenaline. And adrenaline, as it turns out, is directly linked to the production of dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical. The more we receive, the more we train our bodies to like it.
Enjoyment leads to attraction, and attraction leads to fascination. As Timmerie pointed out, fascination can become a dangerous cornerstone to temptation if we let it. Many horror movies revolve around the presence of demonic forces and their influence on the world, so it is vital that we temper our enjoyment of horror films and recognize that the demonic aspect of horror is not what is bringing us joy and entertainment. The demonic is what allows us to see the contrast between good and evil, the protagonist and the antagonist. A good horror film does not arouse curiosity in us about things that we should not be curious about.
Fr. Vince Kuna of Family Theater Productions once said, “The best horror films are those that tell the truth of the fear they are representing, irrespective of whether there’s any overt religious content or not.”
This Halloween, be sure to have fun and treat your traditions with a sense of levity and detachment. We are preparing to celebrate the feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, a commemoration of the ones who were able to reject the devil and enter heaven and purgatory. Let us imitate them.
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