Horror is an escapist genre that often plays with themes of isolation, contagions, and people turning on one another in stressful situations. How does it impact our viewing of these movies when our everyday lives have begun to reflect these themes?
I don’t know about you, but I am having a tough time not thinking about the pandemic everytime I do anything these days, including watch movies or play video games. No matter how unintentional the connection, there always seems to be one.
People are typically shocked that horror fans 1) like horror period and 2) still watch horror during periods of crisis. But these films are meant to provide both titillate and provide a cathartic release. They tap into the Dark Things we don’t talk about, and force them into the open. In that regard, horror continues to serve one of its main purposes no matter what is happening in the outside world.
But now, our collective lives have started to resemble horror, typically a genre of fantasy, more than some realistic genres focused on everyday situations. Do we try to avoid zombie movies and tales of isolation by indulging in comedies and documentaries instead? Or do we double down on movies that resemble the pandemic? Thrillers like Contagion certainly had a huge spike in views after things really started to to go down, and one article theorizes that movies that relate to the current situation provide us closure for our anxieties in a way reality currently cannot.
Horror films provide the extreme branch of that “what if?” we always have in our minds but ignore to stay sane. They can sometimes provide a “it could be worse” point of comparison in some of our most stressful moments. Sure we are stuck inside and our grocery store runs have started to resemble supply runs from The Walking Dead, but at least we aren’t having to blindfold ourselves from creatures that cause us to commit suicide. Horror is often so outside the realm of our everyday lives, it jolts us away from them in a way other genres cannot – either because they are too similar to our lives or too demanding of our thoughts and attention. Not that horror can’t be demanding, but for every Hereditary there are 8 Leprechaun movies. And there is a time and place for both ends of that extreme and every horror movie in between.
For me, horror’s main appeal is its unpredictability. With most genres there are certain characters who are safe, and certain understandings that most of the time the heroes will prevail. With horror, you don’t know who is going to live and who is going to die. Happy endings and sensible logic are no longer guaranteed. The movie could make up a completely new mythology and we just have to roll with it. And if executed well, the result is fresh and entertaining. If executed poorly, it can be just as entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” way.
The pandemic hasn’t reduced or increased my appetite for horror, but it has increased my desire for nostalgia and junk. I binge watched the Netflix series You because it seemed like a soap opera that reminded me a lot of Dexter. It was also nice to see establishing shots and scenes set in crowded bars and festivals. I am also rereading The Shining for the first time since high school. I’ve had trouble focusing on books, and figured a reread of something I really enjoyed might help me get out of my rut.
My next horror film binge will probably be some Netflix originals. I’m curious to see if any really live up to the hype.
I’m also curious to see how this time period effects our relationship with horror, and what is released based on the nightmares and stress that have come from this situation.
Till next time maybe I’ll check out The Perfection…