Don’t be scared of scary movies

It’s midnight, but you’re still wide awake, eyes glued to the screen as eerie music from the movie fills the room. Looking over your shoulder, you have to remind yourself that you’re safe in your home.

As the music gets louder, signifying something is about to happen, your sweaty palms grab the remote to turn down the volume. It doesn’t matter, as you look at the volume indicator go down, the deranged killer has already claimed their next victim.

The only thought going through your head now, is why do I do this to myself? I’m here to question you, why are you not watching more?

Scary movies serve a larger purpose than just scaring the audience. As the credits roll, we usually no longer feel fear, but quite the opposite. This process is called catharsis and can be a great way to relieve some anxiety while in our current global pandemic. 

It was Aristotle who first coined the term catharsis. He described it as the process of erasing negative emotions like fear through a sudden change of emotions, such as being scared. 

Catharsis doesn’t have to come from movies. Any activity that requires you to be anxious or make yourself vulnerable can allow you to release some pent-up emotions. Scary movies, though, are readily available at all times and can be watched safely while we are stuck inside. 

Beyond the idea of catharsis, scary movies allow us to escape reality, watching characters that we can see ourselves in, battle their (figurative or literal) demons. As the movie comes to an end, we usually get to see the protagonist win. This affects our subconscious more than just a feeling of relief, the viewer may find some alleviation from their own troubles as well. 

Michelle Park, wrote a thesis titled “The Aesthetics and Psychology Behind Horror Films” where she explains the relief viewers may have from a protagonist winning.

Park explains that subconsciously, we see the antagonist of the film as more than a monster, but as something in our own life we are scared of. This could be an actual fear, or current social issues. Therefore, when we see the protagonist finally defeat their monster, we are watching them destroy what we are scared of, giving us a feeling of resolution past what is being shown in the movie. 

An example of an antagonist being more than a monster is the movie, “The Babadook” (2014). On the surface, we can see the Babadook as a monster terrorizing a widow and her child. However, the Babadook is more than a monster but can be seen as the family fighting the grief of losing her husband. As we watch, we may recognize our own battle with grief.  

For these reasons, the next time you are scrolling through streaming services, don’t be scared of scrolling through the horror genre. Here are some recommendations of scary movies that are currently on Netflix, if you want to experience catharsis for yourself. 

As Above So Below (2014) – This found footage movie follows a professor named Scarlet in search of a treasure in the Catacombs of Paris. She has way more to fear than only claustrophobia in these deep and dark tunnels. 

Candyman (1992) – A college student interested in myths and folklore, hunts for the truth of a legend called the Candyman, a one-handed killer with a hook hand, terrorizing a community. She may realize there is some fact in fiction. Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta are in the process of producing a sequel to Candyman, expected to come out later this year.

The Ritual (2018) – Four friends take a hiking trip to celebrate their late friend. But this wholesome trip into the Swedish woods takes a dark turn as they travel deeper into the forest. 

Elijah Ewing can be reached at [email protected]