Halloween is only a couple of days away and it’s almost a giventhat, between now and then, most of us will indulge in a favoritepart of the season: the scary movie.
But what is scary?
The horror genre has its roots in early short films byfilmmakers such as Georges Melies and in German films such as”The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Nosferatu”(1922). In the 1930s, Hollywood expanded the monster film genre toinclude moody classics such as “Frankenstein,” “TheWolf Man” and “Dracula.” The race was on.
1. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Answers: 1(d) 2(h) 3(j) 4(b) 5(k) 6(i) 7(m) 8(a)9(L) 10(g) 11(f) 12(c) 13(e)
Horror films today are often grouped into three categories: thesupernatural (including monsters, vampires, demons, etc.), thepsychological (of which “Psycho” is a prototype) and theslasher (think “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). While thefirst group references the pre-nuclear era, the latter twocategories are post-World War II phenomena, sprung from an erawhich also saw the development of specifically apocalyptic filmssuch as “Godzilla” (1954) and “Fail-Safe”(1964).
But what defines scary?
For some, scary is what jumps out when they’re not expecting it.For others, it’s got to involve blood, intestines, dismemberedlimbs or split pea soup. Some prefer the psychological thriller,where nothing is as it seems and the horror is more implied thanliteral – think of the root cellar scene in “Psycho” orthe plot twists in “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Sigmund Freud wrote an essay titled, “The Uncanny,”suggesting that the “scariest” is often the familiarbehaving or appearing in a startlingly unexpected and terrifyingway. This may explain the lure of films such as “Night of theLiving Dead” (1968) and “Alien,” in which the bodyis either postmortem or an invaded space alien harboring a lethalparasite.
Why do we watch? Is it for the adrenaline thrill? Is it liketaking a playground dare akin to who can keep their eyes open thelongest? Some theorists suggest that we’re attracted to theimplicit yet “safe” violence and sexuality in horrormovies. Others suggest that horror films serve as an escape valvefor all sorts of unmentionable, id-based emotions. Whatever theexplanation, it’s clear that we internalize the on-screen action.After “Jaws” came out, some people gave up swimming.Ditto for deep woods camping after “The Blair WitchProject” appeared.
This Halloween, I’m offering a little trick or shriek in theform of a scary movie semi-obscure-one-liner quiz. It’s pass/failand I promise it won’t affect your GPA.