Why do people like to be scared?

September 29th, 2011

I love romantic comedies, I’m a fan of chick flicks, and I find animated films to be adorable, but I absolutely hate horror films.

My family and friends can attest to the fact that I am a scaredy cat, and I will be the first to admit it.

I sleep with the TV on because I’m afraid of the dark (and because I love to watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” before I fall asleep). I won’t go in the ocean because I am afraid of fish (though I avidly watch “Shark Week”). I won’t go camping because I’m afraid of the animals that come out at night (though I’ve tried camping in my backyard before). I’m afraid of hospitals and emergency rooms because frankly, even the thought of blood makes me nervous. I can’t watch “Jurrassic Park” movies because I’m scared of dinosaurs. I’m afraid of dogs (even though I have an 85-pound Black Lab).

This is why I don’t watch horror films: because I’m such a chicken. I don’t understand how anyone enjoys watching movies like the “Saw” or the “Halloween” series.

One time, when I was in high school, our girl’s track team had a sleepover and watched “Scream.” I faked being sick and called my mommy to pick me up. Until she arrived, I covered my eyes so I couldn’t see the movie. However, damn my curious personality, I decided to peek through my fingers to watch some parts of the movie, and I still vividly remember what I saw and I still find it terrifying.

What I really hate in horror films are the sick and twisted ways people are tortured and killed. I wonder if the screenwriters regularly see psychiatrists because it just doesn’t seem normal to create these torturous scenes in their minds. I don’t even understand how people can watch these happen on screen. Personally, just the sound of people screaming in pain and and horror (even if they are just actors), makes me extremely uncomfortable, let alone trying to watch it happen.

Thriller master Stephen King addresses the strange human obsession with horror films in his article, “Why We Crave Horror Movies.”

The first reason King mentions is, “I think that we’re all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better – and maybe not all that much better, after all.”

According to King, “The mythic horror movie, like the sick joke, has a dirty job to do. It deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized … and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark. For those reasons, good liberals often shy away from horror films.”

I guess I must be a really, really good liberal because I more than shy away from horror films, I avoid them altogether. What I don’t understand about this quote is that with horror films, our nastiest fantasies are supposedly realized. Does this mean that people who crave horror films have a deep, dark secret fantasy of the torture and killing in horror movies? I sure hope not, or I will just have to commit to a life of solitude and isolation.

King defends this by writing, “For myself, I like to see the most aggressive of them – ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ for instance – as lifting a trap door in the civilized forebrain and throwing a basket of raw meat to the hungry alligators swimming around in that subterranean river beneath.” I guess what he’s trying to say is, people who crave horror movies do so because it gives them a break from their civilized mentality in order let loose a little? Do people crave them in order to let some crazy out and relax?

I’d rather relax with a romantic comedy and a bag of popcorn.