Critical Analysis- Final Draft
14 July 2013
Horrifyingly Entertaining Horror movies have always been a part of popular culture from early monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein to the more modern serial killer thrillers like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer. Horror enthusiasts flock to theaters worldwide for a nail biting, seat clenching horrifying experience. And with the development of special effect over time the horror genre has become more grisly and grotesque compared to its earlier counterparts who used techniques like heavy shadowing and suspenseful music to play on audiences’ fears. However, upon leaving horror movies audiences usually seem to be enjoying themselves, which begs the question, do horror movies have a negative effect on viewers? In my opinion, the effect of horror movies have on viewers has changed dramatically over the years. The desensitization of what used to be considered vile is now rather tame in the eyes of the typical horror genre enthusiast. Horror genre lovers have always been looking for that next film that will push the envelope to scare audiences’. However, the genre did not get its start this way. The horror genre began in the 1920’s when filmmakers began to explore darker stories with plots that dealt heavily with supernatural and psychological themes. These films were limited by the technology of their time until the addition of sound, which aided in the Hanson 2 rebirth of not only the horror genre, but all aspects of film. Now suspenseful music and other elements of sound could be added to provoke audience members to be frightened. This new wave of horror films became extremely popular among Americans because they provided an escape from the harsh day-to-day realities of the great depression. “The horror films of the 1930’s are exotic fairy tales, invariably set in some far-off land peopled by characters in period costume speaking in strange accents.” (Wilson) This shows how Americans in the 1930’s used the horror genre as a means of imaginative entertainment much like the horror enthusiasts of today. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s and 1970’s that horror films such as The Exorcist became a cause for concern and controversy. The Exorcist is widely considered to be the scariest film of all time. It was on the forefront of broadening restrictions that were once banned from movies, as one critic reports “Gone were the restrictions on what could be shown on screen, which meant that an adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel about a young girl’s demonic possession could be brought to the big screen without sacrificing its most shocking details.” (NBC.com). When it was in theaters it caused many viewers to run out of the theater screaming and praying before the movie was even over. Some viewers even had to treated with psychoactive therapy after viewing the movie because they were too frightened by the imagery of the demonic presence in the film. However, until the release of Jaws in 1975, The Exorcist was the highest grossing film of all time. Even with the controversies that followed the film, it seems that thrill-seeking horror fans were not deterred from going to be frightened.
So, why do we go see horror movies over and over again? It is obvious that these films do not horrify us, but merely entertains the emotion of fright. As one professor from University of Utrecht points out “Researchers have identified various motives for viewing horror films, including the need for excitement, the desire to feel intense emotion and distractions from everyday concerns” (Goldstein,…