BMA Magazine

[From The Bossman] A Dissertation On Horror

Why do we like horror so much? People getting tortured, murdered and other atrocities… Why engage with that? Surely that’s the one thing we would try to avoid for a happier life. It’s certainly something we try desperately to keep our children from. And yet horror brings in the bucks more than any other genre.

Why is the podcast My Favourite Murder – in which real life murder cases are delivered in a storytelling fashion by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – so popular? Particularly with the female population? (Sidenote: It’s a great podcast; I highly recommend)

It’s a complicated issue – one that resonates with the essence of cognitive dissonance – but I believe the answer to be relatively simple. I’ll tell you that at the end. For now? Let’s get into some field study.

We – that is BMA – recently ran a tix giveaway for the highly anticipated new horror flick Hereditary. We asked you to tell us of a compelling, memorable and/or shocking horror film moment of the past. Here are some of the winner responses. See if any resonate with you. My thoughts are at the bottom of the piece.

My favourite horror film moments is in The Exorcist when the girl has transformed into the evil devil and rises above the bed. There is no talk, no noises… for about five minutes.

 It is just so eerie, and the scene is terrifying.

Peter M

Answer: The Sixth Sense – the scene with a tent, where the boy is playing hide and seek. A ghost appears outside, and I squeal in the cinema, the only one to do so – apparently the only one who was scared!

– Carol C

Horror moments: 

  1. Watching The Shining as a kid and being introduced to the furry scene through the infamous bear suit bj scene and being creeped the fuck out

  2. Watching
    Silence of the Lambs and thinking Dr Lecter would’ve been a terrible choice of therapist to help control my cannibalistic urges …  

  3. Watching
    Jaws on Easter Sunday with the family as a 5-year old and falling in love with sharks

Boom!  

– Victor W

One of my favourite horror movie moments would have to be from Silent Hill when Pyramid Head peels the skin off the young woman outside of the church after the siren had gone off *shudder*
That guy. Creepy AF just like the clip to hereditary… so many questions!

Jon M

I am old enough to remember Psycho when it first came out – and the shower scene! I was living at Gorman House (when it was a youth hostel) at the time, and going into the bathroom was a nervous experience for a while. Really.

Isabella M

One of my favourite horror movie moments is in Event Horizon, when they realise that the recording (in Latin) left by the previous crew of the ship is not “save me”, but “save yourself from hell”…and they realise the shit they’re in for. Or do they? Anyway, sick film, awesome moment.

Liz K

I love horror flicks. My wife and I have a horror movie marathon tradition on Xmas night.

The first horror movie moment that comes to mind as my #1 is in Hellraiser. When the Cenobites come to Kristy in the hospital and Pinhead says, ‘No tears, please. It’s a waste of good suffering.’

A Nightmare on Elm Street is also fantastic! Every time a teen falls asleep, I still find myself on the edge of my seat.

The movie that actually made me scared when alone at night was The Descent. In comparison to the other movies, it’s rather recent, which means that it scared grownup me and I don’t get scared. The whole movie was sweaty palms, grind your teeth suspense and shock. 

Lauren G

My fave horror movie moment is when I took two non-horror fans to see The VVITCH and they both clawed my arms at crucial moments and scared the shit out of me. The movie itself, less so.

Katherine G

It’s a fascinating thing, horror, isn’t it? The genre remains the most bankable in film; see The Blair Witch Project as an example. Shot for a mere $60,000 US dollars, it made a walloping $250 million in initial box office takings.

But thanks to the internet and social media, we have been largely desensitized to horror. Heck… We’re exposed to some pretty horrific shit daily on the news, right?

So when a horror film comes along and genuinely gets under your skin? That’s pretty special.

There are two examples of horror moments that resonated with me that I shall now give; one horrific, one beautifully subtle.

The horrific one is in Bone Tomahawk. What a movie this is. It’s a western horror, and I can’t recommend it enough. Truly unique. There’s no spoiler alert here, because I’m not going to give anything away. But there is a scene that truly curdled this curmudgeon’s stomach. Add to that a brilliant plot, stoic characters and a wonderful overall story arc and I can safely say this is the best horror film of the last decade.

The second is more subtle, and I pay homage to Carol C for reminding me of The Sixth Sense.

There is a moment – set in the kitchen – where Hayley Joel Osment’s character is sitting at the table as he talks to his Mom (American spelling, with respect) played by Toni Collette. The camera pans to the left for a few seconds; when it pans back… All the cupboard doors are open.

Now that’s genius. No gore. No expensive special effects, or elaborate set pieces. But the CHILL that sends down the spine? Amazing.

Just goes to show; as Alfred Hitchcock once said in an Epic Rap Battles of History, he can stir fears up with chocolate syrup. You don’t need to be CGI gore-ridden fancy to scare.

But again… Why is horror such a – to perhaps misuse a term – attractive genre? What pulls us toward it so?

For mine, there are two reasons, which are interlinked. In one word; survival.

We go to theme parks to get locked into terrifying rides, or walk through haunted mansions, or do extreme sports because… They’re a controlled sense of fear.

Fear is a big enemy. It keeps us safe, sure… That’s why the emotion, or sense, exists. Fight or Flight. But if we can push past it, there’s another level we can reach. How many of us are scared starting a new job, knowing we are completely out of our depth, only to master it in a matter of weeks and feel great about ourselves for surmounting that fear?

The other theory is darker, but I believe more attune into who we truly are.

The cesspool that is Reddit has a stream called Watch People Die. And it’s exactly that. Actual footage of people dying in a variety of terrible ways. It’s brutal. It’s appalling. But most of all? It’s POPULAR.

Why? Are we really that sick? Do we honestly love to indulge in the suffering of others for our own gratification?

For some, sadly, yes. But for most? Absolutely no. We’re human. We live, then we die. So of course we’re fascinated by death. And there are genuine reasons why someone – well minded, kind, generous, has kids, the genuine pillar of their society – would watch such horror.

For some, comedy and distraction works if you’ve had a bad day. It does for me.

But not everyone. Sometimes, a stray into the darkside can remind you just how fucking good you have it.

I still have air in my lungs. I have options. I have family and friends. Heck, maybe knocking my tea over, or being told that deadline I thought was for a month away is actually due today isn’t so bad as having your head cut off. I’ve got it sweet. I’m lucky.

That’s why we like horror. A needed controlled scare that reminds us how good we have it. Because a lot of people experience genuine horror every day. We get to choose ours.

Thanks for playing, y’all. Stay tuned for more giveaways in the coming days.