Earlier this month I started working as an intern for Three Corpse Circus, a horror film festival based in Michigan. As such, I've been tasked with watching and analyzing a diverse array of horror films from around the world, and this has brought me to the realization of just how important and powerful the genre of horror is. My internship has shown me truly just how vast the viewpoints and subjects that can be seen through a lens of horror are--there is honestly no limit as to what topics can be explored or re-imagined. Anything at all can be made scary. But, if you're not a fan of horror films, or horror media in general, you may sincerely wonder what on earth people like me see in these films. Who wants to be scared? What could possibly be enjoyable about watching something that makes your blood run cold and your heart want to jump out of your chest?
I understand these concerns, I really do. Some people just don't like the subject matter of these films. I don't enjoy gore for gore's sake. I'm not a huge fan of zombies, either. But I'll watch films with those things in them, because I see the potential for meaning in them. Gore and zombies can be vehicles for a compelling story. Monsters are excellent metaphors.
Fear is a remarkably equalizing thing. It breaks down walls. It starts conversations. To know what scares a person can offer incredible insight into their life. People bond over fear. Fear is raw and often unpleasant, yet undeniably human. Horror movies carry valuable lessons because they force us to face our fears. They thrust us into the shoes of someone who must deal with a terrible situation, a situation that is unthinkably frightening to us, and they force us to conquer it with them. A good horror film will have a kind of catharsis in it, wherein the protagonist overcomes the monster, or whatever horrible thing has come to stand in the way of their goals. Horror films confront us with our fears so that we may show courage. They show us our fears in their worst possible forms, so we can know that it is possible to stand up to them.
Horror is important because it reminds people of their humanity. No issue is too big or too small to be handled by horror. So many works in the genre take accessible, everyday human concepts and shine new light on them. Seemingly simple things like grief, family bonds, or romance, can be exaggerated and made horrifying, because in some cases, doesn't life feel that way? Regular everyday life can be terrifying. Horror, at its best, seeks to show its audiences that it's okay to be scared--scared of anything at all--because fear is the dark before the dawn. To be scared is to be invited to be brave. To be scared is to be human, and that's OK.