Grace Manning ’21
There is something about scary movies, scary books, scary stories, and scary anything, really, that we love as adults and often despise as children. It is actually the same thing that is to an equal degree hated when we are younger, and loved when we are older: the feeling of sweaty palms, a racing heart, and an intense feeling of nervousness or dread. I have often wondered when and why this change occurred in myself, as it does in almost everyone. I grew up terrified of any adult in a costume, especially a clown costume, and would go to extreme lengths to avoid an encounter with such a person. But now I find that I can watch horror films or television series featuring clowns, and I actually enjoy the discomfort I feel when watching them.
Society’s obsession with being scared is a strange thing to think about. Maybe because we lack intense stimulation in our lives, or because we can fall into the routine of monotony and comfort which we take for granted, we desire the sensation of being terrified. It can be likened to any extreme emotion; being very happy, very excited, or very nervous all cause increased heart rates and racing thoughts. But in today’s world, what we find scary is so different from what was considered terrifying even just a few years ago. Simply try watching old horror films. Sure, you can appreciate them for the breakthroughs in special effects and cinematography that they were in their time, but when comparing them to more modern horror movies, they can seem ridiculous or over-dramatic. My parents swore to my sister and I that “The Exorcist” was the scariest movie of all time, hands down. But when we watched it with them, we were unimpressed and most importantly, definitely not scared. Since then, we have introduced them to recent horror films which they found terrifying and overly gory and twisted. This proves that our idea of what is “scary” has changed over the years and continues to change. It is what allows producers to re-make famous horror films such as “It”: telling the same story, but changing and intensifying the scare-factor in order to suit a generation that isn’t easily frightened. But is the fact that we are less easily scared or turned off by extreme violence, gore and jump-scares necessarily a good thing?
The amount of violence and horror we are exposed to in our real lives (i.e. school shootings on the news, kidnappings, murders, etc.) is much more closely documented and publicly known about now, thanks to technological advancements, than it has ever been. We can see images and videos on our phones or laptops that couldn’t be so easily accessed when our parents were young. Because of this, we are so much more aware of the crises in the wider world and with the increase of photography and journalism presence abroad, we can see documented, real-life horror. Why would we be scared of ghost stories when real, true stories are so much scarier? I think that instead of trying to create new, terrifying plots for films, there is much more of a demand for movies based on real life, because that is what scares us the most. We are frightened of anything that hits too close to home, or something that could possibly happen to us. It is easy to detach oneself from a situation that is surreal and this allows us to feel like observers, rather than feeling like we could be experiencing what the characters on the screen are experiencing. We live in a world that is constantly trying to catch our attention through advertisements, with businesses clambering to stand out and to make themselves known to us, so horror movies strive to do the same. We won’t settle for the same old ghosts haunting abandoned houses or skeletons jumping out at us from closets. Instead we want something that is going to take the sense of security we generally feel, and turn it on its head.