Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guest Blogger Deux

Hello everyone!  It's an absolutely lovely Wednesday morning... There's a blizzard outside my window.  Not what I wanted.  Oh well, to brighten up the day a bit I have a fabulous guest blogger's article to share with you.  Miss Elleni is a journalism major, fabulous writer, movie buff, and just an all-around awesome person.  I was über excited when she e-mail me a Halloween-themed piece for me to post.  So here is our second guest blogger.  Enjoy!

The Real Horror: It's Here to Stay
by Elleni Cladis

The pretty girl steps out of the shower.  Her parents are out of town.  Despite the recent spate of mysterious killings in her neighborhood, she had decided to stay home alone.  She begins to wipe away the condensation on the bathroom mirror.  When she pulls her hand away, a menacing figure appears in the mirror's background.  The girl screams in fright as the figure reaches for her.

She is not alone.  The audience witnessing her plight in darkened movie theaters across the country screams as well at this typical scene characteristic of moviedom's horror genre that has proven to be prolifically popular throughout the decades.

It's that time of the year again, and as the night of ghosts and goblins fast approaches, so, too, do the latest offerings of cinematic gore meant to scare the living daylights out of us.  And while most of us would never choose to trade places with the girl stepping out of the shower,  many will choose to venture to a theater, buy a ticket, and spend more money on popcorn and soda - all for the privilege of being scared out of their wits (and inadvertently dumping their popcorn and sodas on the theater floors in the process).

But why?  What is the attraction of this unmitigated fear?

The appeal of this popular movie genre is difficult to assess, yet, the attempt to explain the inexplicable had draw almost as many academics to the task as moviegoers to the theaters.  Professor Susan Burggraf, Ph.D., of Naropa University's  psychology department, wrote her dissertation on the appeal of horror movies and found that while no one enjoys the fear experienced in watching horror movies, many do savor the arousal brought about by fear.  "The social setting is crucial.  We enjoy horror movies to the extent that the people we watch them with enjoy them.  You might say that watching horror movies is a 'bonding experience,'" said Burggraf, in referring to her research.

Even if a couple goes to a horror film and finds it less than horrifying, even comical, The University of Alabama's Dolf Zillmann's research shows that the couple will engage in what he refers to as "the snuggle theory" - in which the male and female pretend to be scared so they can get close to one another.  In other words, his research delves into the mutual attraction of a couple exhibiting gender-socialized displays of emotion in response to the on-screen gore.  Girls are more attractive to guys it they are, or pretend to be, scared in a horror film; by the same toke, guys are more appealing to girls if they aren't, or pretend not to be, scared by the horror.

Ask any teenager; horror movies are great dating vehicles.

In whatever way one is drawn to the horror film genre, the formula has worked for a long time.  And it would appear that the genre is here to stay.  From the late 1890s and George Mélies' Le Manoir du Diable ("The House of the Devil"), often credited as the first horror film, to today's "torture porn" fare such as Hostel (Roth, 2005) and Saw (Wan, 2004), there is no shortage of 17-year-olds to 30-year-olds looking to gobble up the gore.

After all, with the price of skydiving at $200 per jump, and roses at $65 per dozen, the horror movie is the most cost-effective way for teenagers and twenty-somethings to get their adrenaline rush or to get their romance on.

Psychologists and sociologists will debate the moviegoer's motives for choosing to buy tickets to horror movies, but the genre's continuing success over the years suggests that the motives have one thing in common, perhaps best summed up by the tagline for the 1986 horror flick, The Fly (Cronenberg).  It is an insatiable need to "Be afraid... be very afraid!"


  1. Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Melissa! Always love to have new readers :-)