“I enjoy watching scary movies.”
When you think about it, that’s a strange claim to make. Why would someone willingly watch something that makes you feel uncomfortable and freaks you out?
Here’s the thing, unless you watch a bit of horror you might not realize that it’s a pretty nuanced genre, there are a lot of rules and traditions. As well as that there are different types of horror which appeal to different people. Some people get a kick out of watching movies with lots of gore and torture (that’s not my thing). Personally, I love trashy horror movies featuring teenagers getting attacked.
There are two main reasons, which are semi-related as to why people watch horror movies. The first is a sense of catharsis you get from watching some average person survive through a horrific experience. It was terrible and disgusting and gross, but they GOT THROUGH IT. And by extension, so did you. A lot of people will say that there’s something wrong with their life, or that they feel stressed, but aren’t able to actually put their finger on what’s wrong. Seeing something horrible and terrifying but also very concrete can help them try to cope with a general feeling of unease in their real life.
Another reason that it makes you feel better about your own life is it give you something to compare yourself to. “Well, I know things haven’t been going very well lately, but on the plus side, nobody’s barged into my house wielding a machete.” But for this to happen there needs to be some trust between the creators of the movie and the viewer. The scary thing has to be outlandish and incredible, some people say things like “oh I really liked Paranormal Activity because I could totally imagine that happening to me” and while that’s true, you still don’t really think that you’re going to be attacked by some demon. However, a strange man coming in and stealing your children, that’s way more terrifying, because this is a real thing that actually happens to people and as such, you don’t see much of it in horror films. Joey Comeau touched on this on why horror movies shouldn’t feature rape.
This is why when people ask me what the scariest horror movie I’ve seen is I’ll say Sinister, but then say that you’d be much better off watching The Strangers. Sinister is terrifying, but in crazy, unreal ways, but you still have this sense that there’s no reason why each act in it couldn’t have actually happened (something to keep in mind while watching it is that the story was inspired by director’s actual life). Although The Strangers will still leave you terrified and is about a home invasion, it still makes the whole thing crazy enough that you’re pretty sure it won’t happen to you.
My recommendation for horror if you’ve not really seen any and you’re wondering if you might be interested in it would be something stupid, like Final Destination or Jeepers Creepers. If for some reason you enjoyed that and start wanting more try The Strangers. Only watch Sinister if you’re prepared to be totally and completely terrified (don’t watch the trailer, it spoils most of the scares).
Tell me in the comments why you watch horror, or what your favourite movies are. If I get enough interest I’ll sit down and come up with a recommendation list of different types, because good horror is hard to find.