Chainsaw-wielding maniacs, mask-wearing slashers, crazed mental patients killing people in hotels. Old news, isn’t it? Horror today might even laugh at the face of these classics and turn away unmoved by the sheer lack of interest it calls for. But why? Because horror today has become more than just about bloody killings and scary chases in poorly lit corridors. It plays with your mind and reaches into the darkest abscesses of your soul to pull out the most horrific depictions of terror you can fathom. Dark huh? Well get ready, it’s about to get a whole lot darker.
Get Out of My Head
Though movies like ‘Insidious’, ‘Annabelle’, and ‘The Conjuring’ often boast their archetypal link to traditional horror with a contemporary twist, the genre has seen a massive shift in what it envelops under its category. The most prominent today being: psychological horror. Probably one of the most terrifying facets of horror… horror itself has faced.
Movies like ‘Orphan, ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’, and ‘Get Out’ (worth every second) are just a few of many that have made lasting and extremely disturbing impressions on its viewers since their releases. These movies choose to focus on the human psyche and chilling twists that can go wrong with the most petrifying renditions of any situation. And what makes it worse is that it takes normal real-life situations and turns them into something so haunting that you can’t forget even if you wanted to. Don’t believe me? Adoption gone wrong: Orphan and Case 39. Meeting relatives gone wrong: The Visit. Overworking at your job gone wrong: ‘The Black Swan’ and ‘Suspiria’. You name it and it’s there. These movies not only challenge the bane of what we consider everyday events but also influence our perspectives, essentially making us emotionally more vulnerable to imagining and fantasizing the worst for any little thing that goes south.
The simple beginnings and the turns of hellish fate that the characters go through, both physically and psychologically, make watching this content that much scarier and more relatable. Ever felt scared to wake up at 3 o’clock to get a glass of water from the kitchen just because? Or maybe a chill down your spine as you heard that clatter from another room while you’re home alone? If you have, it’s probably because, even if not consciously, your brain just conjured up an outrageous scenario that’ll probably play into your mind until you can watch a F.R.I.E.N.D.S episode to cool it down again (it works). This is all thanks to the very creatively and cleverly portrayed messages associating night, darkness, grandfather clocks, dark mansions, parents, grandparents and even us with horror and terror. If you think that last one is an exaggeration, I’d say you go check out ‘Us’. All I’d say is there isn’t a better way to find out why finding doppelgangers isn’t as fun as you’d think it to be.
The Clock Strikes 12 and I’m Still Awake
It shouldn’t be a secret at this point that psychological horror has some pretty daunting psychological effects. Some can be extreme and very overtly visible to others and ourselves, while others may be subtler and more subconscious. Either way, if you’re watching a nanny taking care of dolls the parents believe are real children (Exhibit A: ‘The Boy’ and ‘Servant’), it’s only fair that we know what we’re exposing our own brains too.
Studies have shown this genre of horror to not only trigger pre-existing mental pathologies but also create new aggravations in the form of excessive stress, panic, insomnia, sleep paralysis, and loss of control over thoughts and emotions. While in many of the times this is temporary and short-lived, in some cases it can be carried over to daily life. And if that wasn’t the cherry on top, in some extremely distressing situations there have been actual heart attacks because of jump scares on-screen leading to untimely deaths of certain viewers too.
Though movies and TV shows aren’t the ones to particularly blame for this, if audiences watch this content voluntarily (and with high demand), it is only right that we understand how much is too much and when to stop and take a breather. Trust me, that Hannibal series is not going anywhere, so maybe taking a bit of a hiatus once in a while won’t be too damaging to your reputation as a horror buff.
Hate Not the Game, Nor the Player
What I just wrote above isn’t unheard of, in fact, most of those reading would already know of what psychological thrillers, crime, horror, and slasher genres have meant for mental health for a while now. The truth is, however, that despite everything, these genres still thrive and to such an extent that the future may only find more of these in our box offices.
And I’m one to talk, considering I have watched endless numbers of horror movies myself, even taking pride in it to a point. And I will admit that movies like the ‘Haunting At …’ series and ‘Paranormal Activity’ did mess with my head a little, but I have to say, with time came immunity and with that a lot of desensitization to the cliché tropes and scenes most horror movies embody.
Do you hear sounds from the empty rooms? Go explore it, obviously.
Creepy little girl talking about inappropriate and very troubling life lessons? Bring her home of course.
Seeing a doll in the house you just moved into, walk around once or twice? Please….. that one has to be a red flag, I mean come on?!
We can only hope that we as an audience understand our limits and enjoy the genre for what it is.
But I will still say that there are movies today that do scare the hell out of me like Midsommar, Run, Us, and Hereditary, with their sophisticated but equally terrorizing plotlines and depictions. All in all, with horror fans like me, and the multimillion-dollar industry ever-expanding, is it much of a surprise that its ill effects have been overshadowed by miles with the entertainment it brings us? No, and it shouldn’t in the future either, as the horror industry molds itself anew sticking with every success in the theatres it gets and rejecting those which don’t. So with this, we can only hope that we as an audience understand our limits and enjoy the genre for what it is; pure upsetting, disconcerting, unsettling, and unnerving entertainment.
Cover: Aimee Vogelsang
Edited by: Carolina Alves