She sits in her bed with the lights dimmed down and the popcorn bowl strapped to her side. She picks up a handful of popcorn to shove in her mouth when she jumps as the murderer comes out to attack the main character in the movie, tossing popcorn all over her room. Adrenaline kicks in and her heart begins to beat fast. For all the people who love to watch horror movies, most of us felt or lived through a scenario like this. But, the question is why do we put ourselves through this again and again? We desire horror movies because of our unconscious, the adrenaline, and the fear. The unconscious contains all sorts of significant and disturbing material which we need to keep out of awareness because they are too threatening to acknowledge fully. It is the part of the mind that keeps our deepest and darkest feelings, judgments, and behaviors.
Stephen King states “I think that we are all mentally ill” … “we all have fears, homicidal rages, and sexual desires”. Our unconscious mind hides these desires and rages, protecting us from the monster that we can become. Horror movies exorcise these feelings and desires by appealing to the monster also known as our unconscious. These anticivilization emotions are taught to be driven away into the darkest corner in the mind and allow only civilized emotions to show. Even though these emotions are forced away, they still need to be disciplined. According to King, horror movies serve as an important regulating function, defusing people’s destructive urges and helps maintain a society’s psychic equilibrium. Adrenaline kicks in, providing that heart pumping feeling of fight or flight that we receive when one of the main characters fall to the ground, twisting their ankle with only seconds to get up. That feeling of anticipation and dread that we are aware of the next moments to come while the character is in the dark. Horror movies give us that taste of the unknown, which we fear and love at the same time. We clench to our seats in awe as the helpless girl crawls on the ground to her imminent doom. The feeling of fear and despair rushes over us even though we are not actually in any danger since, “horror movies temporarily create that emotional experience without devastating consequences”. They comfort us in abnormal ways knowing that we cannot be harmed on the other side of the screen.
This feeling of comfort is explained by The Times of India as “a cathartic relief for the audience when the actor on the screen feels the fear or stares at the deadly ending that the audience can foresee”. Adrenaline give us the feeling of action and terror without being in the movie.
Fear is that uncomfortable feeling of believing that something or someone can cause pain or harm. Horror movies induce fear causing us to scream, run, or hide. We see the killer in the corner of the screen and our immediate reaction is terror. An analysis of several horror movies highlights the striking consistency with which the two metaphors “EVIL IS DOWN” and “EVIL IS DARK” are used within this genre. Winter quotes Kawin who notes that horror movies are meant to ultimately “to frighten and revolt the audience”. These metaphors help us comprehend objects and individuals that we should be frightened by. An example is they show how we should all fear the dark. In the dark the evil is lurking and one step may be ones last. This shows evil is dark. Another example is the fear of underground like “The Cabin in the Woods” which shows evil is down. Both are relieved and no longer feared once the opposite is put into place. Horror fanatic simply love to watch the genre because of the fear induced and taught.
As the audience watch the credits roll, they sit there thinking about the movie in entirety. The viewers’ determine whether their horror needs were met. That question pops in our head again “why did we do this to our self?”, as we sit there in fright. We may have watched the movie to satisfy the unconscious mind, to get our adrenaline racing, or simply to be scared out of our pants. Regardless of the reason each one deals with an inner craving that we need or want to satisfy. Horror movies help us tame our underlying self, give sickening relief, and give us the creeps more than any other genre.