I love horror.
I find its existence both fascinating and, ultimately, necessary.
You don’t have to love horror to appreciate how amazing it is. I’m not writing this post to convince you to start reading or watching horror. But I hope that it may help you realise why horror is good for society.
I didn’t always love horror. I wasn’t allowed to watch it as a kid. I have a very active imagination and… some images can stay with you. Then, one day, I decided to learn more about it.
Here is some of what I found:
Compare your standard horror movie with a standard action movie for a moment.
Both usually deal with heroes and villains. Which is to say that there’s a main character (or protagonist) that we are rooting for and an villain or monster that we are not.
I want you to think about how violence is presented in both of these cases.
The action movie
In the standard action movie the villain is finally vanquished, the hero could kill him/her but chooses not to.
That’s what heroes do.
And as the hero walks away, the villain takes the opportunity to try them. Our hero must turn at the last moment and kill the villain after all.
‘YES!’ we all inwardly shout while we punch the air. Justice has been served.
Action movies glorify violence.
The horror movie
Now take the standard horror. The hero probably won’t hesitate to kill the monster when they are finally able to do so. But the road to this point has usually been littered with death and destruction.
Our hero is forever changed.
They have probably had to become monstrous themselves in order to destroy the monster. They may kill it – but the act of doing so lessens them. It lessens us all. They are damaged.
Horror movies always tell us the violence is bad. They even tell us that ‘necessary’ violence will still damage us.
We may sigh with relief when the monster is vanquished. But we do not punch the air with joy.
Whatever your feelings about horror, we need stories that tell us that violence is bad. We need stories that frame violence as something that destroys us. We need horror. There is not other genre that does this so well and so consistently.
We need horror.