Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Do scary films make us a bit mad?

Last night I watched Paranormal Activity 2. It was pretty much the same as the first one, but with a dog and a baby. Doors slam. Frying pans move. Demons stomp up the stairs to drag you out of bed. But it made me think about the way in which horror films effect us. How they alter our minds. The least scary way to watch a horror film is by yourself. It's hard not to join in with other people's nerves, like how you'd laugh more at a comedy while sitting in an audience. So the tagline for Paranormal Activity is 'Don't watch this alone'. Because it might make you paranoid.

If the film has done its job your head will be in a slightly different place afterwards. Even when you've put the film back in its box. Everything is a bit more tense. You start noticing little noises. Creaks and bumps. Your safe house becomes a bit threatening, even though it hasn't changed. Only your perception has. And since Paranormal Activity is all about these little noises, some people might have trouble sleeping (not me, I'm brave). For a short time after watching a scary film, everything's different. What other genre could have this effect on us? Make us actually alter our behaviour. We know it's just a film (and in the case of Paranormal Activity 2, not even a very good one). We know it's not real. Maybe it flicks a switch in our brain, that makes us believe in the monsters we forgot about. Maybe that's the reason we watch these films. To go back for a bit.

Do horror films make you a bit mad? Little bit of crazy? The effect is reversed if you watch a Pixar film straight after. So that's good.


  1. Couldn't sleep until dawn for about 3 months after seeing The Exorcist (at the cinema - no video nonsense) at the tender age of about 11 (a big brother and girlfriend snuck me and my younger brother in). He was making wooden crucifixes out of meat skewers for his bedroom for about the next two years.
    So yes, affected and raving. Still love them though!

  2. I don't know what to think about Horror films, I'm still trying to make my mind up whether I think they are a bad thing, a good thing, or just films...
    I don't like them personally, but I find it fascinating that people wilfully scare themselves.

  3. I've never seen The Exorcist. Maybe it's too scary. I'm still so impressionable.

    Jack - That's what fascinates me as well. I think, unless it's something really horrible, being scared is good. I don't like gore, I want suggestion. Of scary things.

  4. I think it's because people have pretty cushy lives these days so just aren't getting scared anymore.
    Thus they find fear rather tantalising, as long as it's a controlled fear as in a horror film. It's a kind of strange appeal. I'm sure if you mentioned horror films in an area with daily real life horrors, you would get an entirely different reaction.

  5. I don't usually watch horror movies. The only movies I watch that could be considered horror flicks are some of Tim Burton's films and Alfred Hitchcock movies.

    From the few others I have seen though, I'd say they usually just make me angry because the characters are often really dumb and get into stupid situations that most normal people would never get into just so that the writer can have a maniac come out and hack them up and try to shock us. Many seem to lack any real depth or thought.

  6. Suggestion is the best form of horror. I'm with you on gore because it just isn't scary. All the great horrors have played on our fears of the unknown and unseen.
    But it is funny isn't how after a movie like this we hear all the creaks and cracks in our homes! Maybe we need a psycologist to come up with the answer as to why we watch horrors in the first place, and are affected by them!

  7. Jack - Supernatural horrors are what's appealing. They are things only fiction can show us.

    Sydneylk - I don't watch many either. Only the good ones.

    Brent - Sometimes there's too much suggestion though. I like Blair Witch, but I needed a bit more than pebbles.

  8. Agree with Jack L, fear can be rather tantalising, as long as it's a controlled fear.

    I took part in a "morality bites blogathon" recently, where the question was Do filmmakers have a moral responsibility? and one thing I wrote in my article was this:

    Do we watch horror films like Saw, so we can mentally live out a fantasy, so we don’t have the urge to do so in real life? And is film therapeutic in some way. There is a numb thing these days, so in many cases takes more and more to shock.

    By the way, hope you don't mind, I added your link this week to my "What are other people blogging about"

  9. Thanks for the link.

    I can't say what effect the 'torture' films have, because I've never seen one. But it can't be that good.

  10. I heard people killed them selfs after watching the exorcist because it is so scary. I don't know what I would do if I watched that because I couldnt get to sleep for months after watching the TRAILER of the human centipede!!!!!!!!!!!