Horror makes life less boring: Why I love the genre and why you should, too


Why do I like horror and spooky stuff?  Well, because life would be boring without it, if you ask me.  Let me explain how I reached that conclusion.

A good place to start is my first experience with horror (and no, I’m not talking about puberty). The first horror film I remember is A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.  I hesitate to call it the greatest film ever, but it’s still one of my personal favorite films.

I don’t know if I was actually scared, but it was a bit of a thrill ride and an adventure, all in the safety of my own home. Basically, it was — and still is — a safe way to have fun.  I even pretended I was Freddy sometimes while chasing my classmates around in grade school.

Interestingly, I understood that Freddy wasn’t a good person, so I didn’t really try to be like him. Still, I remember occasionally crafting my own Freddy glove out of paper.  Of course, Freddy wasn’t the only bad influence on me.

For example, I remember being at the beach and, after dipping my hand into muddy sand, I’d let the gross, muddy mixture drip from my hand and pretend I was the Incredible Melting Man (a more obscure horror film that my mom used to own, and which I also found entertaining).

Basically, I found this stuff fun.  Years later, as a man-child, I have a “real” Freddy glove, and I’ve even experimented with it as a percussion instrument!

I mess up the rhythm a bit here and there, but Freddy Krueger is obviously an influence in my life. I guess you could say Freddy touched me (and let that phrasing sink in for a moment).

The Fun and Thrills of Horror

Basically, horror is a way to prevent my life from being too mundane, and a unique way to have fun which reflects my dark sense of humor. However, if I’m being honest, I feel awkward writing about having fun. Being over 30, I’m older and more jaded now, and less fun than I used to be.

Still, I’m young enough to remember how fun life really could be (and that’s a depressing sentence, but bear with me!). Horror movies (and similar forms of entertainment) have a way of taking me back to the “good old days,” and without feeling like an old clunker. They’re like a way of attending the circus without having to smell the elephant dung.

Other people have similar experiences. For example, look into the old “midnight ghost show” phenomenon, which largely pre-dated horror movies.  Those event posters kind of take me back, and I wasn’t even there to see that stuff!

Still, doesn’t it sound exciting, fun? Hell, it seems I’d need to make an effort to be disappointed in such an experience.  I mention these because, in many ways, they were the primitive essence of horror.

Here’s an excerpt describing one ghost show, Dr. Silkini‘s Asylum of Horrors:

"“Placing a bag over the boy‘s head, Dr. Silkini proceeded to cut if off with a knife. The girls in the audience squealed and screamed as blood dripped over the white tablecloth. Just after this decapitation, the Frankenstein monster seized the newly-severed head and started down the steps into the audience. At that precise moment, the house lights went off. Enthralled onlookers thought the rampaging creature was loose in the dark. During the blackout, girls shrieked and boys shouted as ghosts, bats, and eerie faces zoomed about overhead and up and down the aisles….”"

Similarly, Teller (of Penn & Teller) has written highly of this era. He sentimentalizes:

"“The mad doctors and maniacal magicians who toured with live midnight fright shows, and scared the bejeezus out of hormone-pumped teenagers on dates.”"

Some of these events claimed to have used “live snakes” and such (And who knows? Maybe some of them did). In any case, it seems today’s world is drifting ever further away from this. Not only is trick-or-treating off limits for adults, but many adults seem to love being boring, and hate imagination and fun.

They want to grow up, for the most part. In short, they suck, and not in the good way.

In contrast, I try not to be so lame and boring, and horror movies help me in that struggle. In many ways, horror movies are the modern equivalent of those “spook shows,” especially for those who’ve never seen something like “Dr. Silkini‘s Asylum of Horrors.”

If I watch interesting movies and think about interesting things, my life will probably be more exciting, right? Granted, there are times when I step away from horror, but I always want to eventually get back into it. There’s just a lot to explore in the genre, and so many sub-genres!

Do I count as a thrill-seeker by watching a movie? Yes and no. I’m not climbing a mountain freestyle or popping wheelies on a bike, but there can be thrills nonetheless, or at least laughs.

The Intelligence in Horror

It’s not said often enough, but horror is often a deceptively intelligent genre — almost inherently. Glimpsing the dark side of man (or woman, as is sometimes the case), horror really reminds us that we’re capable of evil. Hell, we pretty much are  evil, even if we don’t see ourselves that way.

Human society always seems to be falling apart, people still murder and violate each other, and sometimes for seemingly no reason beyond boredom. We know our brains are easily damaged and that, at least sometimes, we do things we can’t particularly control.

Seriously, one nasty bump on your head could permanently render you a psychopath. In other words, life is scary, because we are scary.

Whether you watch a horror film or a novel, or simply see a tragic news story, you’ll be reminded that we’re flawed because we are living things. Bad things happen to us and we can very easily do very bad things.

Sure, it pays to take breaks from horror sometimes, just like we shouldn’t constantly look at depressing news. Still, the truth is out there, and it’s not all good.

Horror is a relatively safe way to engage in this knowledge, and to help cope with the stress of a maddening world. Deviant and evil monsters and madmen are fascinating, especially when we consider how human they really can be.

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Of course, there’s the other side of horror involving giant monsters, demons, zombies, Sharknados and such — but that brings us back to the more fun aspect of horror. It’s basically fantasy, has a wide variety of flavors, and I like many of them.

How about you? Why do you like horror? Let us know in the comments!