In spite of studies and surveys that have been conducted on the subject, nobody really knows why people enjoy horror movies. The reasons seem to vary from person to person. And, of course, there are some people who don’t like them at all.
I can only give you my own reasons for enjoying horror movies. The first one is nostalgia. My favorite horror movies are frequently classics from the 1970s and 1980s. My mother and I used to watch them. Movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Carrie” are reminders of a time that was in some ways simpler and in others more sophisticated. I love the atmosphere of those movies. The writers and directors seemed less censored and that sense of artistic freedom comes across on screen.
Sometimes I think my life has been like a horror movie. So, I have a sense of resonance with the the characters and events in horror movies and that’s the main reason I love them. Real life criminals are like the monsters of horror movies. But, the difference is that most horror movies have an ending – some even have a happy ending. Whatever the case, it’s over in a couple of hours or less.
If you’ve ever been in a town full of strange people all alone, you might be able to relate to “Children of the Corn” or “Carnival of Souls.” There is a sense of otherworldliness along with the eerie stares from the locals. If you’ve ever arrived in some small town in Iowa or Nebraska from New York City, this is a feeling that will be all too familiar to you. It isn’t pleasant. In fact, it can be frightening and we frequently find it portrayed in horror movies.
Have you ever experienced something that you just couldn’t explain? Or else the only obvious explanation is so bizarre that you just can’t make anyone else understand it? If you have, you might relate to the Dr. Bill Harford in “Eyes Wide Shut,” or Eve in “Eve’s Bayou.” Those movies leave you wanting to watch them all over again to see what really happened and you have a sense that even the main characters don’t really know.
If you’ve ever experience the real life horror of stalkers, gangs or just living in a high crime area, then zombies and vampires may have a way of making you feel better. I’ve had those experiences and I can really relate to the victims in those movies. Living next to a drug house full of meth addicts made me feel like I was living in “Night of the Living Meth Heads.” At other times, I felt like Vincent Price’s character, Dr. Morgan, in “The Last Man on Earth,” who has to secure his house from flesh-eating, post-apocalyptic zombies. It’s not safe to be at the house. It’s not safe to leave and you don’t know what you’ll find when you get back.
In studies, the usual reasons that are given for people liking horror movies is that they “like to be scared.” Clearly, this isn’t the whole story. For me, it’s about feeling better about feeling scared. It’s being able to relate to the characters on screen who are running from scary monsters and super creeps because we have such a high violent crime rate in the U.S. in real life. And, it’s nice to see the victims triumph at the end, at least, some of the time. I love seeing Eddie Weinbauer get even with all those vicious preppies with the help of Sammi Curr and even get the girl at the end of “Trick or Treat.”
I believe that is the reason many people like horror movies. We can really relate to them. But, of course, you’ll have to do some soul searching to come up with your own personal reasons for loving scary movies.