5 Cursed Horror Movies Based on True Stories

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Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

It stands to reason that when you make a horror movie based on a dark entity or malevolent spirits that some of that dark energy may be drawn to you or the movie set. It’s a risk that horror movie producers take especially when the horror film is based on a true story. These haunting tales come directly from actors, directors, and staff working on the movies themselves. It’s not just bad luck that cursed these movies it was everything from murder and near-death experiences to just plain creepy events – here are the top 5 cursed horror movies of all time.

Poltergeist Horror Movie Poster 1983

Poltergeist

This film is probably the most well-known cursed film in the world. Loosely based on a true story, the events that happened behind the scenes are just as strange as the movie itself. Death seemed to follow not just the actors that played in the first movie but also in Poltergeist 2 and 3 as well. Dominque Dunne, who played the older sister, was killed by her boyfriend. Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane, died of stomach cancer. The actress who played Carol Anne died when she was 12 from a mysterious illness before Poltergeist 3 was released. Will Sampson, who played the Shaman, died 3 years after the film was released. Then in 2009 Lou Perryman, who was in the first film, was killed in his home by an ex-convict wielding an ax. Lastly, Richard Lawson barely survived a plane crash in 1992. These deaths could be a coincidence but that’s a lot of disaster for such a small group of people. If the true story was not enough rumor also has it the director Steve Spielberg used real skeletons in the muddy pool from the first movie.

The Amityville Horror – 2005 version

Based on real events experienced by the Lutz family. With the horrors the Lutz family went through it is no wonder the movie crew had some strange experiences. A dead body washed up on shore near the home that was used in the movie. Allegedly the cast and crew were awakened at 3:15 every morning while working on the movie. 3:15 was the time that the murders took place.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Exorcism of Emily Rose follows the trial of a priest who conducted an exorcism and the girl(Emily) who died. It is based on the real exorcism of Anneliese Michel, who died of dehydration and malnutrition. Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily, said during filming her radio would turn on by itself, in the middle of the night. It only played the song Alive by Pearl Jam. In fact, it only played a specific part over and over. “I’m still alive.” But it wasn’t just her. It happened to other cast members so often that they removed their radios from their rooms.

The Possession Horror Movie Poster

The Possession

The Possession is based on the true story of a Dybbuk box. During filming, they used a fake dybbuk box but strange things still happened. There was a constant creepy, eerie feeling on set. Light bulbs exploded and props caught fire for some unknown reason. So many strange things happened that when the current owners of the box asked if the film would like to use the real box, everyone vehemently declined.

The Conjuring

Based on a true story, The Conjuring is about a farmhouse that was haunted by a witch. Cast and crew members felt like they were being watched by a dark force. A crew member’s dog was often found growling at nothing but when filming was done, he stopped. A strange fire started on set for no reason. Actress Ver Farmiga said there were claw marks on the cover of her laptop after filming finished.

7 Times the Necronomicon Appeared in Cinema

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

What is the Necronomicon, you may ask? It’s an ancient tome that sprung from the nightmarish imagination of H.P. Lovecraft, which he encouraged his peers to use in their literature as well–subsequently, it has become a book that symbolizes evil in horror culture. It continues on now, as an icon of what can come from the supernatural and occult influences of, what could be, an unknown origin of our universe.

So now we get to enjoy a plethora of movies that all have something to do with the Necronomicon–to be clear, this isn’t an exhaustive list of where the Necronomicon appears within pop-culture, but these are some of the most memorable!

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

The Dunwich Horror (1970)

This movie never got rave reviews, but it did add to the pop-culture relevance to the history of the Necronomicon. Despite its blatant 1970s style, it has a sort of creepy charm to it. This particular mystery is taken from Lovecraft’s novel by the same name in which Wilbur Whateley, a seemingly harmless young man, coerces a female virgin from a California University to be the vessel for the spawn of the devil. It’s worth a watch, even if it’s just to learn more about what the Necronomicon can do when it’s in the hands of someone who wants to destroy the world.

The Evil Dead Collection

The Evil Dead Franchise

Yeah, we know, the Evil Dead franchise constitutes four movies, a series, as well as a handful of crossover movies, comic books, and more–but we’re going to count it as one for the sake of this list. As far as the Necronomicon is concerned, it is pretty much contained in the four feature films, as well as the television series. This supernatural horror film franchise was the brainchild of Sam Raimi and revolves around the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, which is referenced as an ancient Sumerian text that systematically targets and possesses its victims. Initially, a group of teenagers who are staying in a cabin overnight, in The Evil Dead (1981); the franchise devolves into a sort of comedic horror hybrid, which suits fans just fine.

The Evil Dead Franchise IMDB Listing

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

The ninth chapter of the Friday the 13th franchise, where we get yet another dose of our favorite supernatural psycho, Jason Voorhees. We see Jason return from the dead in order to possesses the body of a medical coroner–so we realize that even after his death, we can never escape the fate of Camp Crystal Lake. This movie is one of several interesting crossovers that appears with Raimi’s Evil Dead Franchise–as the Necronomicon and the Kandarian dagger appear within the movie, very briefly. Here’s the thing though and Adam Marcus confirmed it later on–Jason Vorhees is now a deadite, after his mother made a deal with the devil to bring her son back.

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday IMDB Listing

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993)

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1994)

This film is a collection of three terrifying Lovecraft stories brought together as an anthology. In the Cold revolves around a scientist who cannot tolerate warm temperatures. The Drowned tells the story of a man who inherits a dilapidated mansion from his uncle. Whispers concerns two police officers who have to deal with a particular resident of a horrifying subterranean community.

Necronomicon: Book of the Dead IMDB Listing

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft (1998)

This particular movie never made it to the big screen; in fact, the low budget and actors made this a less refined, yet interesting take on Lovecraft’s original creations. We follow the story of a young man who inherits a book–the Necronomicon–from an estranged uncle, and against his better judgment begins to investigate the content of the book quite intently. After reading from the book, he begins to be haunted by disturbing dreams that are reminiscent of the Lovecraft universe, this leads him to become interested in the writings of the father of cosmic horror himself.

Out of Mind: The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft IMDB Listing

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

This anthology of horror features a myriad of inexplicable and terrifying stories; part spiraling insanity, part supernatural exploration, Enola Penny is obsessed with what is thought to be a long-abandoned theatre. Acting upon her impulsive curiosity, she sneaks in one night and what she finds in that dilapidated auditorium is a show she could have never expected. This show features six different stories and while it might not be a huge part of the story, there is one entitled “Mother of Toads” which is based loosely on a story by Clark Ashton Smith, a colleague of Lovecraft’s. Smith’s stories regularly featured the Necronomicon and this one was no exception.

The Theatre Bizarre IMDB Listing

Color Out of Space (2019) Movie Poster

Color Out of Space (2019)

Loosely based on the short story by Lovecraft, Color Out of Space is possibly the most successful movie to come out of the body of work of H.P. Lovecraft. This isn’t of course due to a flaw in his stories, so much as an inability to capture the cosmic horror sub-genre for which Lovecraft is responsible. This doesn’t follow the short story that Lovecraft wrote specifically, so it can’t be judged based on those merits, but it does capture the essence of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror. This movie focuses on a secluded farm that is struck by a strange meteorite, the consequences of which are quite disastrous for the family who lives there with the potential of it reaching the rest of the world.

Color Out of Space IMDB Listing

Chasing Transgressions: Censoring Excess in Exploitative Horror

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Ever since the introduction of the Hays Code in 1927, films in the horror genre have fought to remain true to the voice of the genre. The consistency in which film creators have chipped away at those codes since their inception has brought us to where we are today; while movies like Hellraiser (1987) have still had to deal with censorship before they premiered, what is deemed excessive or exploitative is brought to new heights with each film that dares to push the limits.

Fully banned in Kansas…

When Frankenstein (1931) was first released, the local Kansas board banned it for the entire state; thousands of unhappy moviegoers wanted access, so eventually, the board relented. The Kansas board bastardized the movie with so many cuts that it, “would have stripped it of all its horrific elements,” which brought the intervention of the MPDDA and fewer cuts (Petley 132). The film standards that were enforced in the 1930s didn’t take into account the production of the horror genre; after wondering where the line would be drawn for a genre that consistently dug further into the dark, it was decided that:

As long as monsters refrained from illicit sexual activity, respected the clergy, and maintained silence on controversial political matters, they might walk with impunity where bad girls, gangsters, and radicals feared to tread.

(Cited in Petley 131)

Those standards wouldn’t last for long. The lines within horror are blurred, humans can be the monsters who don’t refrain from illicit sexual activity, demonic representations within films regularly disrespect the clergy, and have had a tendency to be outspoken on controversial political matters [see Night of the Living Dead (1968)]. Censorship for violent or graphic content was incredibly strict from the inception of the Hays Code until the 1960s when the standards for censorship were relaxed (Petley 130).

With the growing popularity of television sets in the home came tight restrictions for television programs. Televisions made entertainment easily accessible to people in the comfort of their own homes—this created stiff competition for filmmakers. While television standards were stricter, it allowed film production codes to be lowered in order to lure viewers back to the theater with the prospect of seeing something more forbidden. When Hellraiser was first released in 1987, audiences may have been a little shocked at the overt sexualization of pain and violence.

The graphic nature of the gruesome torture scenes cut in between scenes of sexual conquest and that starts within the first fifteen minutes. The mise-en-scène we are given with Julia’s flashback to her affair with her soon-to-be husband’s brother Frank sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Frank appears at the door, confident if not rude and slightly mysterious, drenched from the downpour of rain. He imposes himself upon Julia and we see her in her most innocent and unassuming form—cut to her walking into the third floor attic, a dusty, dingy, room in ill repair, to be alone with her thoughts.

Every inclusion of prop, from the knife that he cuts her nightgown strap with, to the wedding dress he lays her down upon to begin their torrid love affair, is essential to the story. Frank will take what he wants from Julia; having never been with a man who so confidently takes what he desires, Julia falls lustfully into their fervent and passionate, if not taboo, lovemaking. Engaging with Frank atop her pure white gown, sullying her presumable innocent reputation, is at the core of what Hellraiser translates to. Pleasure that feels sinful, Pain that feels pleasurable—two things that, with the Lament Configuration, blend together seamlessly.

The scene continues, cutting from the flashback of the affair to present-day Julia in longing remembrance, and then to her husband as he struggles to move a bed into their home. Frank and Julia climax in the flashback, Julia begins to cry, and Larry cuts himself deeply on a nail protruding from a wall. In these five minutes, we have excess in the taboo sexual act of cheating, the emotional show of Julia’s aching desire for Frank, and the adverse reaction Larry has to his own hand gushing blood. The movie continues on in this manner, unapologetic and all the more entertaining for it—we spend the next few minutes watching the floorboard soak up Larry’s blood and subsequently reconstitute most of Frank’s body.

Pinhead from Hellraiser

Torture Porn and Erotica?

Some people might have found those two scenes to be subversive or even repulsive—some, according to movie critics at the time, found it comical. As if the excess pushed it from a horrifying experience, to a campy overdone joke. I think, when appreciated for the time it was created and given a little benefit of the doubt, it sows the seeds of a completely gratifying horror experience. Any attempt to relate to Julia, one might actually feel sorry for her—she feels as if she’s fallen in love with Frank and that he loves her back. The truth that she doesn’t really take into consideration is that desire and love don’t always coexist; Frank doesn’t actually care about Julia past using her for his own personal gain. We find out later, Frank’s coercive nature leads her to bring back men for him to feed off of and escape hell. Her own selfish desires lead her to assume that once he’s back in his skin (quite literally), they’ll rekindle their love-affair.

Violence and sex have had a tendency to be viewed differently in different countries. Where America has historically fallen back on christian outrage when it comes to depictions of sex (especially premarital sex) on the big screen, violence has been considered more acceptable. Alternatively, as Dumas has noted, countries like Sweden have had the opposite policy (29). People experience an incredible amount of shame and anxiety surrounding their own sexual desires that may or may not be considered taboo within an otherwise moral society—this of course causes an internal conflict for the audience (Dumas 29). What’s more is when Hellraiser’s Pinhead suggests that, “pleasure and pain (are) indistinguishable,” within his realm, it cements the concept of sexualizing brutality.

A certain morbid curiosity has escalated the gory nature of horror films with the release of each new feature. Post 9/11 audiences seemed to be even more desensitized than before—torture porn like Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) hit the theaters—horror fans flocked to experience the repulsion and anxiety that comes with watching the suffering of others (Pinedo 345). A world where fear and uncertainty were becoming more commonplace, there became a vaccuum for horror. These gratuitous, taboo, excessive movies gave viewers a space in which we were free to be afraid.

Excess turns exploitative when the horror no longer fits around an underlying story, but instead, a story is made to fit around underlying ideas of violence and repulsion. Like pornography that attempts to have a plot—just look at any motion-picture porn parody—exploitative horror like The Human Centipede (2009), I Spit on Your Grave (2010), A Serbian Film (2010), and Tusk (2014) is simply an excuse to showcase gratuitous violence. These films are still liable to be heavily cut (Petley 146-147) and for good reason.

What is interesting is that such exploitative films are defended regularly, but are they films that need to be defended? A Serbian Film’s subject matter is indefensible, yet there are people who try to reason away the infant rape scene by bringing up that it wasn’t a real infant. Regardless of whether it’s a real infant or not, it’s meant to convey the scene in the most realistic way possible so as to instigate a severe repulsion response. It’s even suggested that “the masochistic and sadistic aspects of the film-viewing experience [implies] that viewers get some form of sexual gratification from these images,” (Pinedo 347) which in the case of A Serbian Film is beyond horrifying.

Horror and sex have a long, intertwined history, the eroticization of depictions of violence is nothing new. However, a horror film’s ability to stimulate viewers sexually, “not only draws their attention, but also primes them to react more strongly to other feelings, such as suspense and fear,” (Pinedo 347). In the end, what is considered exploitative or excessive is dependent upon the audience—there will always be those who object, just like there will always be those who call for more violence, gore, repulsion, and explicit sexual content.

Strong reactions and emotions have historically created experiences fewer people can forget. As an example, who can forget the release of Hostel in 2005, where viewers were not only fleeing the theater, they were reportedly throwing up in their seats. If the saying, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” is true—which it certainly seems to be within the horror genre—then these outrageous claims of such violent repulsion created a more morbidly curious audience.

Works Cited

Dumas, Chris. “Horror and Psychoanalysis: An Introductory Primer.” A Companion to the Horror Film, edited by Harry Benshoff, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017, pp. 21–37.

Petley, Julian. “Horror and the Censors.” A Companion to the Horror Film, edited by Harry Benshoff, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017, pp. 130–147.

Pinedo, Isabel C. “Torture Porn: 21st Century Horror.” A Companion to the Horror Film, edited by Harry Benshoff, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017, pp. 345–61.

Etchison Through Film, Screen, and Radio

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Featured Horror Books

As a professional writer for fifty years, not only was Dennis Etchison successful with his short stories, novels, and editorial work, he also had a prolific career with film, screen and radio work. This of course simply works as an overview of what he was most known for in these fields—in respect to him as our honored Dead Author Dedication of the month of May, we felt it was fair to mention how he contributed to the field of film, screen, and radio.

Screenplays

In his time writing screenplays, Etchison wrote a fair few that he could be proud of, although his own humility would not allow it later in life. Whether it be a screenplay based on the works of others, or his own—sadly his screenplays were not as widely received as his short stories and novels. In 1998, Etchison’s story, The Late Shift was adapted to film by Patrick Aumont and Damian Harris into the film Killing Time.

Ray Bradbury

One author that Etchison greatly respected was Ray Bradbury and he displayed this in many ways during his career, by paying homage to the classic American author. One screenplay that he was said to have created, but has thus far not been produced, was The Fox and the Forest.

Teaming Up With the Greats

John Carpenter

1986 brought in the opportunity for Etchison to team up with director John Carpenter to write the script for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; unfortunately, when Etchison finalized the script, producer Moustapha Akkad rejected it, saying that it was “too cerebral,” and that it would not have been right for the direction of the franchise.

Halloween was banned in Haddonfield and I think that the basic idea was that if you tried to suppress something, it would only rear its head more strongly. By the very [attempt] of trying to erase the memory of Michael Myers, [the teenagers] were going to ironically bring him back into existence.

Dennis Etchison on his idea for Halloween 4

He was informed via telephone with an explanation that his script would not become part of the deal during the sale of the pitch for Halloween 4; that is not to say that the fourth installment of the Halloween franchise was unsuccessful, but once Akkad had gained ownership of the franchise, he returned it to a more original idea that brought the fan-base back.

Stephen King

In 1983, Etchison first worked with King to be the film consultant and historian for King’s Danse Macabre. His work with Stephen King, perhaps is the most impressive, having teamed up with the prolific writer to create the screenplay for The Mist which was adapted in 1984 fir a ZBS Media production as a 90-minute radio rendition.

Television

Etchison was a staff writer during the year of 1985, when he contributed to the television series The Hitchhiker.

The Ogre originally written by Colin Wilson, was rewritten by Etchison—he also co-wrote one of the stories for the television series Logan’s Run, entitled “The Thunder Gods,” which was later printed.

Radio Work

As an author who could seamlessly cross platforms, Etchison adapted almost one hundred episodes of the original The Twilight Zone television series for a CBS radio series which was hosted by Stacy Keach in 2002. Later on this radio series was released commercially on audio CDs. This was definitely not the only time that Etchison did writing for radio work, as he also worked as one of the writers on the audio series for Fangoria’s Deadtime Stories which was hosted by Malcom McDowell—also something that was later released on CDs and digital downloads.

Horror Trends From Gore to the Supernatural

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Indie Horror Creation Lifestyle Scary Movies and Series

It’s been well over a hundred years since the first horror movie was created—since it’s fair to say that the three-minute short film, Le Manoir du Diable (1896) counts as the first horror film ever created. Known in English both as The Haunted Castle as well as The House of the Devil, which you can actually watch here. While considered tame by today’s standards of the horror genre, it launched a multimedia genre that has gotten increasingly popular over the last one hundred twenty-four years. The sheer number of horror movies made per year continues to grow steadily, but since 2001 it has been an ever-accelerating trend—sources cite that by the year 2000 an approximated two-hundred horror films had been produced, then by 2016 the number had jumped to well over a thousand films in the genre.

This says nothing of the vastly different topics that this genre actually covers, which essentially has a taste of every kind of interest paired with the one thing that brings horror lovers together—the fear factor!

Popularity Within Horror—What Draws the Audience In?

It used to be that gory, disturbing, and slasher flicks brought the crowds in, at least that’s what the data has said since 1996. Interestingly enough, ever since 1999 this particular subgenre of horror has dramatically declined, coinciding with the introduction of stellar horror movies that fall within other genres, especially the paranormal and supernatural subgenre.

Gore, Disturbing, and Slasher Films

Static image on television screen
Photography by Jisun Han

For those of you unclear about what thematic elements cause a horror movie to be classified as either a gore, disturbing, or slasher film, I’ll clear that up here. Gory and disturbing movies tend to focus on portraying violence, blood, and guts in the most graphic way possible—the general emphasis is the shock factor. Violence tends to incite the fight or flight instinct that lays within each and every one of us, which in turn causes a huge release of adrenaline as well as mood-altering hormones. It’s safe to say that real-world events had some impact on whether or not a person might want to go see a horror movie that depicted obscene amounts of violence, as the early 2000s displayed a steep decline of this violent subgenre of horror. There have been exceptions to this rule, of course, the Saw movie franchise and the rebooted Hellraiser franchise enjoyed success, but 2008 marked the rapid drop in popularity. To compare fifty percent of the horror movies produced in 1999 were categorized into the gore, disturbing, and slasher film genre, whereas it now makes up less than fifteen percent of horror films being made. That being said, it’s been suggested that much like senses of fashion, certain trends are cyclically popular and that the gore, disturbing, and slasher subgenre should be expected to make a comeback sometime in the future.

Audiences have a remarkable fascination with gory violence and disgusting scenes, and scientists who have studied the depths of human recall, when surrounding horrific events have discovered—not surprisingly—that participants in this study had detailed recall of the scene itself, but the overwhelming nature of the event causes a “temporary blindness,” in our memory of what happened just before and just after the event. This is why gory movies are so jam-packed full of violence—they want the movie to be memorable, even if they aren’t the best movies ever. As an example, films like Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Green Inferno (2013) are talked about more frequently than any other horror film simply because of the abhorrent events that take place within the film. These films often surpass box office hits like Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) when it comes to how memorable they are because these movies are violent and gory just for the sake of being violent and gory.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) continues to be talked about today because it was legitimately believed to be a snuff film and the director even got brought up on murder charges until he produced the actors that were believed to have been killed during filming—that’s not all though, it featured live animal torture and is now one of the main reasons why films are required to divulge that “no animals were harmed in the making of this movie,” in a testament to animal cruelty laws that are now in effect. Films like this were made for shock value and although they remain in the memory of those who have dared to watch them, they leave the audience feeling somehow dirty. Suffice it to say, watching a movie like this once is often overkill if you like horror for more than just shock value.

Bridget Rubenking and Annie Lang argue that even though disgust makes us feel bad, it has evolved to a functional response of attention capture—as a form of entertainment, filmmakers can’t lose with the factor of disgust on their side. It keeps audiences engrossed and engaged, hoping that somehow the story gets better. From the 482 participants that were studied in Germany and the United States, they reached a conclusion that gory scenes function to reinforce our hope that good will inevitably triumph over evil.

Paranormal and Supernatural Films

While it’s clear that not all paranormal and supernatural films can be classified as horror movies, which can be easily explained by referencing A Ghost Story (2017)—a movie where the featured version of ghosts is literally a guy wearing a sheet with eye-holes cut out, over his head and walking around in a kind of vacant melodrama. A Ghost Story (2017) isn’t meant to be a scary movie, it’s meant to be a depressing drama and honestly kind of failed at that too. The horror franchise marks paranormal and supernatural movies as having content that, “deal[s] with phenomena which defy scientific explanation such as ghosts, demons, psychics, the dead and other such spooky experiences.” These days, paranormal and supernatural take the proverbial cake, as they become increasingly popular in production and now take up the largest share of the box office. It’s thought that this trend is due to the mysterious nature of this subgenre of horror—people like to be kept guessing what is going to happen next. A huge benefit to the volume of production for paranormal and supernatural films versus monster films and violent flicks is that they have a low cost to produce—with ghosts and other paranormal phenomena it’s what is left unseen that makes the movie more compelling. With a low cost in production means that more ideas are able to be brought to fruition on-screen without the burden of raising funds or seeking sponsors. The major uptick in viewership of paranormal horror came with the beginning of the Paranormal Activity franchise, which hundreds of films being added into the genre.

Low budget costs for creating a movie means that creating a captivating film becomes more attainable for people that aren’t already known in the film industry. So, these paranormal and supernatural films are brought to us from a wider collective of filmmakers who have fresh and exciting ideas, original takes on existing content, or a new idea entirely—then they help thrill-seekers who have an affinity for horror find their adrenaline rush.

What this means for the Horror Genre

Violence and Monster-centric movies aren’t going to die out anytime soon, don’t worry—we’re still going to have plenty of new slashers and monsters coming (we’re personally excited about Antlers (2020) coming out this April. So while the popularity of these movies may have decreased to the point of minimal production, it seems like the ones that do make it end up generally being well worth the watch. Take Films like I Am Legend (2007) and World War Z (2013) as examples, both were large budget movies (over $150 million dollars each) and unqualified successes within the monster subgenre. Then again, despite the average horror audience’s proclivity to enjoy things that scare or disturb them, they inevitably want to see a positive ending—instead of being left with an ending that raises questions or leaves the audience wishing for some emotional closure. This can be seen in how I Am Legend (2007) was released with two different endings, one in which the main protagonist sacrifices himself and the one that was ultimately used for the final cut—where the main protagonist finds a way to fix the problem.

Why We Keep Watching

Horror films are entertaining—anyone who enjoys watching them would wholeheartedly agree—according to Søren Birkvad, a film scholar at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences—they are a way we keep the boredom away. Those who are prone to boredom more often than not, score higher than others in a trait dubbed, “sensation seeking.” These people are then more likely to have an increased affinity for horror films.

Creepy House in Camera Image
Photography by Caleb Minear

Horror films help us explain away the evil and darkness in the world—they enable us to essentially get to the root cause of why evil exists in the world. Whether or not it’s the true cause of evil doesn’t really matter in this scenario, because the fictional explanations give the audience closure for their curiosity. If people want true reasons why people do awful things to one another, they generally have a fascination with movies or television series that revolve around serial killers, who have been psychologically studied and often diagnosed with a mental disorder—psychopathy, sociopathy, the worst of the worst helped define evil within forensic psychiatry.

In modern culture, it’s a rarity to discuss evil as a true force of nature—what drove the conversation before was the dominant religious influence within western culture. The beliefs of religious extremists, it’s simply not common for people to believe in a demonic force within the world; in popular culture, especially within books and movies, evil is easily conveyed within the horror genre. More and more noticeably we’ve seen the gore and monster subgenre move from the fantasy realm to the science fiction realm, where instead of relying upon the explanations from the church, we’ve begun to explore the hubris of man. Unexplainable forces that were responsible for vampires and zombies turned into explainable scientific procedures gone wrong—in the form of viruses, or cures, they generally allude to man trying to play the role of God.

The final reason why people frequently seek out the thrills that horror movies provide is what Birkvad calls the anthropological and therapeutic utility of horror film. Birkvad insists that horror movies help us to cope with our own anxiety by stimulating us through a “familiar framework,” which is essentially our safety net. The audience need never overwhelm itself with how they would feel if these film sequences were really happening in front of them, as they can easily disconnect from the action—cover your eyes, cover your ears, make a joke to ease the tension, or indulge in comfort foods.

In psychology, we call this activation of a feeling “emotional regulation.” By watching horror films one can have a sense of control over both the situation, or the viewing experience, and over the feeling of fear. Watching a scary film may possibly also function as a distraction from other feelings.

Svein Åge Kjøs Johnsen

Freud’s attempts to provide a reason to how we perceive things that are considered strange or unusual—he insists that entertaining the idea of the existence of ghosts can create undue excitement, so when we experience things that we cannot explain it incites the adrenaline response. Then again, considering Freud’s work on behavioral psychology he also insists that we never fully overcome the triggers of stress and anxiety from our childhood. Fear of the dark, excessive solitude and eerie silences are things that some adults just can’t shake the trepidation of. Come to think of it, have you ever had an unbearably awkward silence with someone you’ve just met—it stands to reason that the feeling of anxiety most people get from those awkward silences stems from the same source.

So, what are your thoughts on why we as horror lovers have moved away from the gore and violence and begun to embrace paranormal and supernatural themes within the horror genre?