What is it about horror films that we like?

March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013           Stephan Graham Jones

From vampires to werewolves to zombies to knife, axe and chain saw wielding slashers, horror movies have been scaring audiences ever since motion pictures came on to the scene - and today more so than ever before. According to the religious publication, “First Things,” horror films have increased six-fold over the past decade.

That increase doesn’t surprise Stephan Graham Jones, a professor of English at CU-Boulder and a horror writer. He says horror films are part of our psyche.

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What is it about horror films that we like?

March 8, 2013           Stephan Graham Jones

From vampires to werewolves to zombies to knife, axe and chain saw wielding slashers, horror movies have been scaring audiences ever since motion pictures came on to the scene - and today more so than ever before. According to the religious publication, “First Things,” horror films have increased six-fold over the past decade.

That increase doesn’t surprise Stephan Graham Jones, a professor of English at CU-Boulder and a horror writer. He says horror films are part of our psyche.

CUT 1 “I think humans, we’re hardwired for horror. We’ve evolved on the Earth in a way that our whole time there’s always been things in the trees that want to jump down and bite the back of our necks and kill us and drag us off?  We’re hardwired to expect those things in the dark to want to eat us. (:16) And, you know, more or less, leopards aren’t a big problem for us anymore. So we give ourselves Jasons and Freddys and Michaels and ghost faces and leather faces, and I think they satisfy that need for us to know that there are still slobbering things in the dark that want us.” (:31)

Jones is the author of the acclaimed novel “It Came from Del Rio,” a story that’s combines the sci-fi nature of “The X-Files” and the grisly brutality of Cormac McCarty’s “No Country for Old Men.” He says there’s a difference between horror and gore but that one feeds off the other.

CUT 2  “Horror is that feeling that stays with you. That makes you at night not turn off the lights till you get to the top of the stairs. I don’t think gore is the reason for horror though. I think horror is satisfying a more basic need. (:12) I think gore is fun; gore is like a trigger mechanism that breaks down our defensives and gets us in a state of mind where we’re going to be receptive for the horror.” (:20)

Jones teaches fiction workshops and literature, usually relying on some brand of horror genre to get the creative juices flowing in his students. He says the current generation is drawn to horror and gore for very simple reasons.

CUT 3 “I think one of the big draws of horror for the target demographic, 14 to 24 year olds or whatever it is, is that my parents don’t like it, therefore I must like it. I think that’s a big part of it. (:14) And I think horror to the younger crowd probably feels like validation – that yes, the world is a big scary place. I think once you start making a check and your mortgage is getting paid off you can stop thinking that the world is scary. Once you get to that point you forget what it’s like to be 15-years-old and be terrified.” (:30)

He says there’s another reason why the horror genre is so popular. It’s something you can actually feel.

CUT 4 “There’s nothing wrong with getting a visceral response from your art, um, art is not meant to be cerebral or intellectual, it’s supposed to be felt, and I think horror makes you feel it more than any other genre.” (:10)

-CU-

 

 

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