Horror movies are not for me, and I’m okay with that. Trust me, I have wanted to like horror movies for years. I have seen around a dozen horror movies, and most of them have made me feel as though I couldn’t handle any more horror movies in the future.
When it comes to my feelings about the horror genre, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. I remember my parents being hesitant to celebrate Halloween for all my childhood. My mom has told me numerous times that she does not understand the fun of feeling terrified. And my dad has more recently shared that he avoids horror movies because of how terrifying scenes will replay in his imagination and dreams.
It wasn’t until I moved out that I could choose how I wanted to celebrate Halloween. Sure, as a kid I would dress up and get candy from small local or school-sponsored events. But I never got to do scary activities or watch scary movies as my classmates did. Then as I got older, I wondered, do I even want to be scared on Halloween?
Going most of your life without horror does not prepare anyone to suddenly dive into the deep end. I think some horror fans would be shocked that one of the first horror movies I saw was “Midsommar” directed by Ari Aster. “Midsommar” is not for the faint of heart in any sense. There is deeply disturbing gore, a horrifying story about a Scandinavian cult and other visuals that will never have me rewatching the film. While I can appreciate the film’s direction and premise, it pushes beyond my boundaries of what I am comfortable seeing.
And that sentiment goes for most body horror movies as well. My experience with body horror is limited to watching the first two-thirds of the 2014 film “Tusk” directed by Kevin Smith. This was another movie that pulled me in with the premise of a man being turned into a walrus… until I realized I cannot stand the sight of that very idea (seriously, think before Googling this movie if you are squeamish). Even though “Tusk’s” horror is meant to be complemented with a comedic plot and ridiculous dialogue, I lost sleep thinking about the mechanics of pulling off such a task.
Despite my aversion to horror movies, one of my best friends Alyssa Shierry is a horror fanatic. She owns an impressive collection of horror memorabilia from classic horror novels to physical DVDs and retro posters. I wanted to talk to her about why she loves horror movies and see if I could learn anything from our conversation.
Shierry first told me that she loves horror movies because the genre itself is highly expansive. There are no constraints on what is deemed fit for a horror movie. Horror movies can be over any subject and target almost any audience or culture with its own unique fears. They can also tell compelling stories with profound messages, such as films by director Jordan Peele.
“The flexibility of horror and the ability to use monsters or the supernatural to represent abstract concepts is just such an interesting idea to me,” Shierry said. “Horror doesn’t have to be just one thing… you can do whatever you want.”
Some of Shierry’s favorite horror movies tackle important social issues throughout time. For example, the original 1974 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, Shierry’s favorite movie of all time, provides commentary on economic turmoil affecting the lower class after the Vietnam War. As Shierry expounded on her love for movies like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Thing” (1982), it gave me hope that I can find horror movies I feel just as strongly about.
The most shocking thing Shierry told me is that she isn’t scared by most horror movies she watches. In fact, she said that she enjoys putting on movies like “The Shining” in the background while cleaning or doing homework. Shierry said that watching so-bad-it’s-good horror movies from a young age grew her tolerance for triggering content and terrifying visuals. Now she can enjoy horror movies for interesting stories and characters or just for background noise.
“I’ve probably watched more horror movies that I had fun with than I have horror movies that have made me nervous or scared,” Shierry said. “Horror movies aren’t about being scared, it’s about enjoying it.”
Our conversation reminded me of the horror movie I found the most enjoyment from which is the Shudder original “Slaxx”. The movie follows a stylish pair of possessed jeans out to kill the employees of a greenwashing retail clothing chain. It’s funny, bloody and has a great message about corporate environmental concerns and fair labor. It encompasses everything Shierry told me makes an enjoyable horror movie.
What I was most interested to learn from Shierry is how people like me who usually avoid horror movies can learn to appreciate them. She recommended that people who get scared easily look for horror movies for beginners or even horror movies for kids. She also encourages old and new fans of horror to watch something they otherwise wouldn’t typically seek out.
“Just don’t force yourself to watch anything you wouldn’t want to watch,” she said. “Find something you think could be fun.”
Talking to Shierry gave me an unfound appreciation for horror that I otherwise would have never discovered. I believe it will take time for me to become less scared of subjects like paranormal hauntings, gruesome violence and psychological thrillers.
Shierry also comforted me by saying there may be some horror movies that might always be too much for me to stomach, such as body horror movies. In the meantime, perhaps I can celebrate Halloween this year with something fun and silly that still gets me unsettled.
By Maddy Lehr Last weekend, I had the absolute honor of speaking with one of my favorite bands, Twen. Just a few months ago, they released their sophomore album, One Stop Shop. Avery, another assistant music director, and I sat down with Jane Fitzsimmons and Ian Jones to talk about the new album. Maddy: How was the band formed? Jane: We both went to school in Boston, and we were […]
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