by Andy Peloquin
A lot of people have asked me, “Why do you enjoy horror books/movies/TV shows/comics?” The common perception of horror is that it’s all “blood and guts”.
Of course, that’s totally not the case. Horror is more than just visual gore—it’s about tapping into the primal fears that drive all human behavior. When those fears are tapped into, horror evokes the visceral reaction we’d get in similar situations. The best types of horror aren’t just splatter-fests or violence; instead, truly awesome horror uses the instinctive fears within our minds to bring out the animal within all of us.
Want to know something great about horror? It makes us stronger!
A study from Saint Joseph’s University found that horror forces us to face our fears. Classic horror (Dracula, Frankenstein, Hitchcock’s works, etc.) embodied the fears common at the time they were written. Since 9/11, natural disasters, torture, and the threat of violence have been more popular themes among the horror genre. The increase in serious diseases (AIDS, cancer, Ebola, etc.) has led to an increase in zombie and biological warfare-related horror. Technology has become more incorporated into horror just as it has become an integral part of life.
Horror evolves with the evolutions of our fears, but it also gives us a way to FACE those fears. Werewolves and vampires are no longer perceived as “terrifying”, and thus have been included in other genres (here’s looking at you paranormal romance!) of fiction in an almost watered-down way. We’ve conquered our fear of these classic monsters, so we’ve moved on to other fears.
Mark Twain said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the mastery of it.” The only way to master our fears is to face them head-on. Horror gives us a way to do that in a safe, comfortable environment.
Horror allows us to face our fear of the dark. We can read a book about horrible monsters lurking in the darkness and laugh at the absurd notion that there are werewolves hiding in the bushes outside our houses. The realization helps us to walk in the dark with more confidence.
Horror allows us to face our fear of the unknown. We’ve read about so many Cthulhic deities and mysterious supernatural forces beyond our control sweeping through backwater towns and killing people. We KNOW these fears are unfounded, so it’s easier to make the same realizations about other unfounded fears. The unknown loses its terror because we’ve faced the fear so many times before.
By facing all our fears through horror fiction, we can eventually master them. We become courageous because we face those fears every day in the books we read and movies we watch. Our fear of “real life” diminishes as a result!