The Insanity Within
Why do we crave horror movies? Stephen king was asked this same question in an interview that was published in a Playboy magazine in 1981. King replied “we are all mentally ill” (1) and “to show we can”(3). King expressed his views on both sides stating that we all are guilty of acting mentally ill, and that we all simply enjoy watching horrifying movies. Both of these statements are true, but not necessarily accurate. King did not take in consideration human error or opinion, which creates flaws within his statements. I can agree and disagree with King on both accounts, but the pure and simple enjoyment is why we crave horror films.
Are we all insane? This is where I have a disagreement. Yes, almost everyone does something strange while they think no one is watching, as King stated, or abnormal phobias that are deemed weird to others. I do not believe either of these should have the power to label us as demented. Another flaw in his insane theory is the two degrees of insanity that he mentions are the extremes of both. Being compared to Jack the Ripper or the Cleveland Torso Murderer is like saying that we have a murderous nature. King also states that talking to oneself under stress is a form of hysteria. I have yet to meet a person that does not talk to himself under stress. Talking aloud simply helps organize a cluttered brain, and the majority of people are guilty of it at one point or another. He also claims that nose picking is a sign of madness. Although it is not socially acceptable, I have a very hard time deeming the action as insane. Absurdity allows a place for us to place blame. If we cannot agree with the actions or thoughts of another person, then we make the accusation that he has a complex. Craziness is measured in degrees, but the strength of the degree is in the hands of the accuser. Delirium is a plea we all will take if our thoughts become corrupted due to alarming films. There again is a place for us to lay the blame. Insanity, I believe, is too vague because opinion is too influential.
On the other hand, I can sympathize with the author when he states that we watch such conflicting motion pictures to prove that we are not afraid, either to ourselves, or to another. The logic behind this theory is to prove how macho we are. We go see the scary feature of the month with either an old friend or someone we wish to impress to show that we can watch the whole film without closing our eyes. We watch atrocious movies to feed our fear. We know while watching the production that it is fiction, but we still can’t help but jump at the slightest loud noise. We crave the reaction and adrenaline rush that such productions give to us. King says that we watch to “re-establish our feelings of essential normality”(4), I can agree with this statement. Our minds are allowed to wonder to places that would originally be considered criminal or unethical. We are more likely to feel pathos toward a maimed or tortured person in a terror picture if they have been playing the antagonist, than if we witnessed the same actions against the protagonist of the film. As King also stated, we are willing to pay money to go sit in a theater to entice our nightmares. As humans we like to rationalize our actions. For us to go watch a horror flick, we have to be able to finish the entirety of it, so we can rest with ease knowing that it came to an end.
Stephen King’s view on both derangement and self accomplishment can be argued or sympathized. The insanity approach can be agreeable by the fact that people are crazy in their own way, it does not have to be stereotypical of how they are deemed fatuous, it is just so. The same statement can be argued for the fact that some people believe that only certain actions can deem you as insane, and those actions are not socially acceptable. The self accomplishment approach is agreeable because most everyone is proud to admit that they sat through a horror film, or they did not jump at the scariest scene. Whatever the reason may be, people like to brag when it comes to overcoming a fear. This approach can be argued that people who watch horror films watch only to feed their demented imagination and self accomplishment plays no part.
There are numerous reasons as to why we watch horror movies, or even what makes us crave them. Scary movies are attention grabbers. They are designed and advertised for the gruesome effects and the story line. The more the outline presses the morals and ethics of normalcy, the more we are intrigued by it. There is a certain balance that must be maintained throughout a horror movie. If a production is scripted with nothing but blood and guts and no development, the audience will be too disgusted and not challenged enough intellectually, to want to continue. The same goes for the story line, if the plot is great but the effects throughout the scenes don’t match, the audience will give a bad review. For a horror movie to really last with the crowd, the scenes, plot, and amount of goriness must all be at an even level to balance the other out. King states that we are far from true ugliness in such enticing films, and he is right. Specific films have to be creatively scripted, and artfully set. The film may not be as beautiful as a ballet or broad way show, but it they are nowhere near the massacre of what they could be.
To reiterate, are we all mentally ill? I think not. But dare to argue your own perspective. Like I said previously, degrees of mental illness are influenced by opinion, and opinion is what runs society. Horror films are common nightmares that allow us to relate with another no matter what physical or mental differences we may have. To feel self accomplishment from watching a nightmare in almost realistic form is a natural stimulant that can improve the image we have of ourselves. The thought of knowing that we have overcome such a small step as to watching a horror movie gives us the strength to want to try to overcome other fears we may have. In essence, watching a terrifying feature does not categorize you as mentally ill, nor does it assume you simply enjoy the film. Both of these are forms of opinion from which are accurate to the beholder. So, whether you are mentally sick, or proving you can watch your nightmare, remember your own perspective of the situation and chose your own category.
King, Stephen. “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” Playboy 1981: 404-407. Print.