When I was four, I used to sneak into the living room, against my parents’ wishes, and watch Dark Shadows over the top of the sofa where mom and dad sat with their backs to me. We’re not talking the horrible version of Dark Shadows where Johnny Depp did his trademark Unusual Person™ routine, and turned Dark Shadows into a huge pile of crap. Nope. We’re talking the REAL Dark Shadows, that late 60’s supernatural soap opera huge pile of crap.
It scared the sh*t out of me. Gave me nightmares. S’why I was forbidden to watch it, and did anyway, pajama-ninja style.
Why. Did I. Do that?
Sorry gang, it’s not because I was a pre-K rebel hell bent on flaunting genetic authority. It’s because I was FASCINATED. I couldn’t get enough. I loved…being scared.
WTF is WRONG with ME? That question certainly occurred to my parents. Why does a boy scared of the dark watch spooky videos and read Stephen King and walk to the Twin Cinema Theater to watch a scary movie, then call home begging for a ride down the six blocks back because he was scared of that last block, where there wasn’t a street light?
Even Web-f*cking-MD has an article on that. It’s located here: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/exploring-thrill-seeking-personalities#1. Apparently, I’m a “type T.” According to Web MD, a“type T’s” are “men and women (who) thrive on the uncertainty and the intensity associated with activities that most people consider to be hair-raising — from riding roller coasters to bungee jumping.” Or, perhaps, watching Barnabus Collins stalk his next victim. Or Regan MacNeil twist her head all the way around. Or a burn-scarred school janitor stalk teenagers’ dreams.
And why do we raise our hair? According to Web MD, “some people enjoy the physical sensations that can accompany being scared — from the adrenaline rush to the racing heart to the perspiring palms. In his studies of people who thrive on riding roller coasters, ‘there’s almost nothing else, including sex, that can match it in terms of the incredible sensory experience that the body is put through.’”
Uh…I don’t know about that sex part. I was scared of that most of my teen years too. We’ll call that a draw.
So being scared is basically a rush. You know what else it is? An intense emotion. A connection with the world that is deep, impactful, and if the movie/book/experience is well crafted enough, an act of love. Yup, love. Kind of. Think about it. Ever watched a character in peril and felt sadness/pain/fear for THEIR sake and not your own? Empathy, baby. Those of us who watch horror and don’t get our rocks off, feel instead a connection, and “pain” for those to whom we’re connected.
We feel. Deeply. Horror penetrates all the way down to that level. It sounds strange, but the writers I’ve met who create great horror, care a lot about people. Weird, huh?
So why do I love horror? Give me a hug, and tell me what scares you. That’s why.
By the way, after a youth spent in front of spooky shizzle, eventually my mom wanted me to be a lawyer, and my dad wanted me to be moved out. At least one of them got their wish.