In Defence of Horror

Written by Chad Echakowitz

It’s okay to be scared. It’s actually a good thing. From an evolutionary stand-point, it would be the more scared of our ancestors who would have survived. The Caveman who saw a Saber-toothed Tiger and decided to take it on probably died, while the Caveman who gave anything with sharp teeth a wide birth was more likely to have survived and, consequently, procreated. These cautious beings were the reason our species survived, and as a result, Homo-Sapiens passed stories down the generations, from cave walls to written books, followed by film and television. Now we have horror films which we give consent to scare us in a much safer environment. It’s okay if you don’t enjoy horror films; it’s in our nature to avoid scary things. But there are a few good reasons why horror films are worth our respect and adoration, if not world-wide affinity.

  1. The Story

Every horror film has more or less the same basic plot. There are the good guys who embark on some adventure – such as moving to a new house, or going on a vacation. When the good guys enter the scene, some magic or evil or guy with a hook-hand emerges to terrorize them. Blood and guts and screaming follow for a good 50 minutes until the good guys find some wonderful way to defeat the bad guy. The majority of the time, the bad guy dies, but there are those rare occasions when the bad guy somehow survives, or has an evil brother, or just defeats the good guys. Even though this basic template exists as the backbone for all horror films, the horror genre is unique in its attempt to continuously reinvent itself. For some reason, Hollywood seems to be churning out spinoffs, remakes and sequels while providing a small amount of original content. While the Horror genre does have this general template, producers, writers, and directors are finding new ways to reinvent that plot. For example, The Blaire Witch Project (1999) used an inspired film technique, having the audience view the film as if the protagonist was filming it on a camcorder, giving a first-person perspective. This was followed by films like Rec (2007) and Cloverfield (2008). It is true that horror films are just as guilty for producing numerous sequels and spinoffs, but at least they are trying to release a healthy amount of new content too. 

        2. The Money

Horror films also seem to generate more profit in relation to their smaller budgets. Let us perform a comparison between two franchise films from different genres. The Conjuring saga represents Horror in its classic form: drawing from a true story, a family defeats demons with the help of some plucky ghost hunters. And what better contender than a franchise that has come back in full force: The Star Wars saga. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was released in 2015 to the excitement of the whole world. The Conjuring was released two years earlier to a much quieter reception. Star Wars VII cost $306 million to make and grossed $2.068 billion in Box Office sales. The Conjuring only cost $40 million and grossed $320.3 million. In simple mathematical terms, Star Wars only made six times more than its budget, while The Conjuring made eight times more. This is also true of the spinoff films from both franchises. Rogue One only made five times its budget, while Annabelle made a momentous 40 times its budget (which is saying something, because it really wasn't that good). This may just be one example, and there are probably other examples that prove the opposite, but it should be clear that horror films are cheaper to make, and therefore have a higher potential of grossing more than non-horror films relative to their budget.

         3. The Health

Horror films also have certain health benefits which other film genres generally do not. Horror films can help burn calories, increase energy and alertness, relieve stress, and can lead to the release of chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate into the bloodstream, giving one a feeling of happiness and euphoria. Psychologically speaking, it is also the best first-date idea ever: taking a prospective paramour to go see a horror film will raise their heart rate and release those chemicals spoken of above. The brain will then associate you with those feelings, which are closely linked to feelings of love and happiness.

You are not obliged to watch horror films, even if they have been proven to be better for the economy, film-making as an art-form, and your general health and happiness. If being scared isn’t your idea of a good time, then enjoy watching something else. But if you’re an aspiring screen-writer or cinematographer looking for a new idea, or you really want this new person in your life to like you, or you just want to increase your happiness and well-being, I suggest you sit down, grab your favourite blanket, and put on something a little bit sinister.