Thursday, May 30, 2024

Op-Ed: Horror Movies Give Us False Sense of Security Disguised as Preparation

Ask just about any enthusiast if they think they could survive a horror movie and watch them lie to themselves. They’ll probably claim they would end up being the final person because they know every trick in the book from never looking back when a slasher is chasing you to “don’t say you’ll be right back because you’re not coming back.” 

Many think they would survive a demon-possessed doll terrorizing them or a serial killer cat-and-mouse chase because they’ve watched Annabelle and Halloween a dozen times. But most horror films take place in uniquely specific settings and situations, mind you. 

Similar to how zombie movie experts know to aim for the head, horror movie fanatics have taken note of every stupid, horrific decision made by characters enough to think their fate would somehow turn out differently. While avoiding driving on the highway behind a logging truck (Final Destination 2) may prove itself useful, it’d be absurd to think that apartments can’t also be haunted, or that you can only be hunted by masked maniacs if you live alone in the woods. 

The goal for every auteur in the genre is to give audiences nightmares, but there is usually a loophole, key under the mat, or safety net that will put minds at ease when you can’t sleep at night. There’s no way Michael Myers can get you because he only slashes the throats of people in Haddonfield, Illinois. Samara Morgan can’t harm anybody since most of us don’t even own VCRs anymore. Freddy Krueger terrorizes the children of the people who burned him alive. No one is forcing you to buy your kids a creepy, talking red-headed doll with denim overalls. And believe it or not, you can actually go on a trip to a foreign land and not bring back strange relics and talismans the villagers warned you about touching. These are details that serve as comforting reminders when we’re too scared to run to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Here are 13 more ways horror fanatics have convinced themselves they’d stay alive when in reality that sense of security only stems from cliches:

  1. You don’t live in an old house with a sketchy history.
  2. You’ve never played with and won’t ever play with an Ouija board.
  3. You aren’t crazy enough to say “Candyman” in the mirror five times. 
  4. You would never sleep in a cemetery overnight or trek through a forbidden, abandoned area (at least not with only one random guy you just met who is the only person on the tour that knows their way around the place).
  5. You would never think your pet was “losing it” if they sensed something strange.
  6. You wouldn’t dare let a stranger into your home in the middle of the night.
  7. Considering most people are terrified of clowns, do you really have to worry about them?
  8. You would always carry a phone charger. Or at least a car charger.
  9. You pay a lot for your cellphone plan. There better be a strong signal.
  10. I’d hope you check the blueprints and require every door to be unlocked before buying a house.
  11. Who hasn’t already shattered their creepy medicine cabinet mirrors?
  12. You know to lock your doors. 
  13. Overkill, make sure killer isn’t breathing, overkill some more. 

Most horror movies, whether subjectively done well or not, lean on cliches. Therefore, if we base our safety and peace of mind on the fact that we will never find ourselves in these situations, who are we fooling?

That’s why it is the hidden gems and underrated horror credits that are the most unsettling – the ones where you question if the house is really haunted or if the main character is just tormented by their demons, ones used as vehicles for deeper social commentary, and ones where the protagonist is distrusting from the get-go. If you want to use horror movies as a way to prepare for the unthinkable, don’t watch the ones that give you adrenaline rushes. Watch the ones that make you uncomfortable, the ones that will follow you home and stay with you for days on end. 

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