Why is fear so fascinating? I was recently pondering thinking about this after seeing The Cabin in the Woods. It was a really cool, interesting take on the “typical” slasher movie. Of course, the story has cliché elements to it, such as the jock, the slut, the brainiac, the diverse character, and the stoner. Oh, and a bunch of things that seek to end their ever-so-meaningful lives. All of this has the makings of a very shrug-of-shoulders, eat-tons-of-popcorn, jump-in-your-seat kind of thrill. We know people are gonna do stupid stuff that ultimately ends in their grisly demise. We know there’s gonna be a lot of creepy night shots with even creepier men roaming the woods. We know the “good” person will make it out, but the cool thing about Cabin is that it does away with many of the conventions of typical horror pictures. Ultimately, it makes fun of them.
It’s hard to miss the overwhelming sense that, as a society, we’ve stumbled a bit into the depraved category. In many ways, we’ve lost our sense of fear. Sure, there are things that make us jump, but in many ways, very few things deeply terrify us. (Except, of course, the scarecrow dude from Jeepers Creepers; he will always and forever creep me out.) But, to some degree, studios know that our tolerance for fear has increased. Therefore, they often seek the shameless gore approach, because it holds shock value. But movies like Cabin and Funny Games are unique and interesting because they poke fun at humanity’s need for violence, at our obsession with death (even though, at the core, we’re all afraid of it), and our insatiable lust to witness our fellow man or (insert derogatory name for loose woman here) in peril. We get some kind of satisfaction from seeing victims in jeopardy. Perhaps this is because it’s not us, and we know we’re still gonna make it home safe and sound, assuming no evil entity reaps our souls first.
But why the fascination? I love horror movies. I love thrillers. I love eerie, dark stories. But why? Is it because I’m just a little sick in the head or a skosh depraved? Probably. But beyond that, I think it’s the shock value such entertainment brings. Now, I do appreciate gore in small and necessary doses. I much prefer being terrified, though. I think part of us needs that unsettling feeling swimming in our veins, that compelling which makes us rush toward our houses at midnight, because we think, for whatever reason, that Jason is chasing us from the car to our front door. Obviously, he dropped out of the sky, probably left here on earth by little green men. Either way, it is that spike-of-pulse sensation that keeps us crawling back to the theaters or to the books for more. And while Cabin in the Woods uses dark humor to poke fun at all of this, even to the point of making people’s lives seem like little more than expendable videogame characters, the filmmakers are still victims themselves, victims because they too are adding to the clutter of the system. And I, depraved writer that I am, will still inject little doses of eeriness into the things that I write as well. Why? Because I’m a twisted fre…I mean, because it’s fun. Because I like making you feel a bit unsettled, and because maybe that’s how you know you’re alive. Because I like the feeling I get when I write a scene that may make me jump if I were to be dropped into it.
Fear is just a four letter word, or maybe it’s something more. Maybe it’s as much a part of our genetic makeup as love or happiness. So the next time you’re walking through the woods at night without your cellphone or a flashlight or wandering from your car to your front door, the keys jangling as you search for the right one, know that it is I who is to blame(insert maniacal laugh here)…and probably you for ever reading my stuff. Shame on you.
Spread the fire!
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