Why are we supposed to be scared?

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Horror Films

I figured one of the best topics to discuss for a semi-inaugural post of The Horrors of the Horror Business would be to briefly discuss the core of the horror genre. Many unique films and works of literature (yes literature!) are released year after year and aggressively marketed as the “scariest —- of the year” or the “scariest —- since —-!”  and this is all well and good; to quote a great source “for every market a sub-market grows” (Repo: The Genetic Opera), and the horror business is no exception.

So the question must be posed: what is scary?

IMDB has a very well rounded list of the highest rated horror movies of all time and I have noticed a number of them (especially in the top 10) have very human themes. If the antagonist of a book or film offers a direct threat to what people hold most sacred then that story (if executed properly) will likely be a success in the horror genre.  Take Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (#1 on the list) for example, almost everyone can relate to the effect that family can have on you; even taken to the extreme Norman Bates is real enough to be feasible and that makes him all the more terrifying! His need for his mother’s love and acceptance transcends rationality and as we come to learn as the story unfolds even “mother’s” own mortality.

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The Shining (#3) also uses many very basic human fears as building blocks for Stephen King’s (and Stanley Kubrick’s) masterpiece. What can be worse than an entity that turns family members against one another? How about an entity that can do that and make the damn walls bleed! Although I prefer the book to the movie hands down, the film still delivers. The reason I think the film is so successful is that Kubrick did focus on many of the human fears that King expertly used to craft his book, the ghosts of the murdered twin girls, the disturbing insights of Danny’s imaginary friend Tony, and the terrifying history of the hotel itself. King and Kubrick both knew these ideas were solid, but without the key element it would have likely fell short; the real danger came from themselves. Jack in his obsession forgets what is most important to him, and as a result his family must be snow bound with an increasingly unstable (and violent) mad man.

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Those are just a couple of the films on the list…

http://www.imdb.com/search/title?genres=horror&title_type=feature&num_votes=1000,&sort=user_rating,desc

Check it out! I found a couple of films on there that I haven’t even heard of, so I know what I’m doing this weekend!

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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