When I was a little girl, I relished gory movies, horror books and ghost stories. Something in me would just come alive – I couldn’t explain it, although it hasn’t been till now that I wanted to.
So what makes us like to be frightened? Why are horror movies and books so popular? I believe it’s down to safe scares; after all a book can’t hurt you (unless someone clocks you with one!) and horror movies show us bloody scenes that, thankfully, most of us will never experience in our real lives. This is taken further by supernatural horrors – the more fantastical the threat, the less likely it is actually to happen. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, mutant ninja turtles (come on, they had weapons, they’re scary!) the odds of any of these creatures being real are slim to none. Serial killers, on the other hand, are very real – personally, I find movies and books like The Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of 100 Corpses, Exquisite Corpse – so much scarier. In fact in a study back in 1998, it was found the ‘seven deadliest movies’ were: The Shining, Scream, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Exorcist, and Poltergeist. 5 out of 7 had serial killers/ mass murderers in!
Part of the appeal of horror is that you also get the relief when it’s over – it’s the sense of ‘I made it’ which can spur you on to put yourself through such blood-curdling ordeals in the first place. When you first start dating someone new a horror movie is a popular venue choice as it also creates a bond with the person you’re with; a kind of shared semi-traumatic event which links you together.
From a biological perspective, the fight or flight response will kick in if you feel fear, but if your brain decides that there’s no physical danger then all you’re left with is an adrenaline rush – no wonder pop up Halloween attractions do so much business!
Also, I think that the era you’re in affects the notion of scariest. Here we are in the 21st century and hasn’t everything been done? Aren’t we just re-hashing and re-developing old movies and book ideas that have gone before? From the list of the 7 deadliest movies 3 of them have already been re-made, 2 have countless sequels and all of them have been spoofed in some way. When you think back to when The Exorcist came out, they were carting out faint-hearted movie-goers from the theatre straight to hospital – could you see that happening nowadays?
Part of my research for my YA urban fantasy, Bad Blood, was on people’s reactions to fear, and something bad and unexpected happening. In a world where zombies are being hacked apart by vampires, I at least wanted part of my book to be based in fact; to have human reactions in a very in-human situation. If you feel like have a safe yet horrifying adventure with a group of human survivors, led by a couple of bickering vampires all hip deep in a zombie apocalypse, then pick up a copy of Bad Blood today and feel free to drop and tell me how you would react if put in this situation; let’s survive it together.