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Why We Crave Horror Movies

The film industry has become one of the major structures of entertainment people use for leisure pastime. When money is not plentiful, and an individual can not afford to spend ten dollars to go to a movie theatre, there are always television, DVD, and video rentals available. There are all categories of films existing to suit everyone’s taste or desires, whether it is cartoon animation films, love stories, war games, comedies, adult films, or horror films there is something for everybody. In Steven King’s article (2003) “, Why We Crave Horror Movies,” he states his basic premise to this article is; that everyone is in some sense mentally ill (p. 498). However, I do not agree with Mr. King’s basic premise statement. The production of a film is the imagination of the film producer,

to provide a source of entertainment, not to supplement an individual mental capacity or disease.

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The definition for mental illness per Webster’s revised unabridged dictionary states; mental illness is the suffering from severe mental illness; “of unsound/unstable mind.” The meaning for unsound: no sound; not whole; not solid; defective; infirm; disease; not in good condition. In addition, the definition of unstable means: not stable; not firm, fixed or constant; subject to change or overthrow; backing stability or fixity or firmness. To understand this definition and to read Steven King’s basic premise for people that enjoy horror movies is kind of ‘distorted.

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“Nightmare of Elm Street,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Freddy Krueger,” “Friday the 13th,” and “Halloween”…the list is endless. It seems the American film directors are bending over backwards to produce horror movies and series, one crueller and bloodier than the other. Imagine the disturbing picture scheme inside a child’s mind. A child around the age of 6 to 8 begins to understand story plots and begins to mimic the characters. The development of aggression in children, especially boys, is particularly critical around the age of eight (Mediascope Press, 2003).

Boys for the most part are vulnerable to the violent overtures, as interpretations of heroism, power and control at this age. Envision your eight-year-old son, impersonating Freddy Krueger as his hero, with his scarred face and razor-finger glove, slaughtering and killing people. Boys could be attracted to this kind of character as a hero because power is displayed by the character. Is this the stereotype you want your son to look up to? Is this because your son is mentally ill, or is this just a case of impressionism?

Another issue Steven King discusses in his article is the sexual desires people release when viewing a horror film. The entertainment industry can affect a woman in real life because of the negative perception portrayed in the movie industry. Horror, as a genre, rises in concert with enlightenment attitudes toward sexuality. Violent themes and sexually degrading aimed toward women can cause emotional desensitization.

The violent and sexually degrading scenes depicting women in films have encouraged men to be less sympathetic by violence toward female victims (Mediascope, 2003). A study was conducted indicating, “Slasher” films further distort reality by sending out the message that sexual violence is normal or acceptable. Popular slasher films such as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street regularly portray

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scenes of graphic violence against passive female victims. A recent study found that college men exposed to just a few of these films tend to lack empathy towards female victims of rape, believing she “deserved what she got.” In addition, these men often do not believe the rapist should be punished (Mediascope, 2003). Again, I go back to the basic premise stated by Steven King”, that everyone is in some sense mentally ill.” When you see these sexually degrading films illustrating violence against women, and sexual advances, does this mean the woman is mentally ill?

Many people in this world find it fun to be frightened; I for one do not care for horror films. The horror story regardless of the gory blood, the sexual tone and the death occurrence have almost always the same major structure. Though horror films are intended strictly for entertainment purposes, there are the few and in-between who actually visualize their selves conducting some of the hideous acts seen on the big screen. This scenario could support Steve King’s basic premise theory.

However, how do you explain the child that is traumatized by a horror film? In many situations, the child does not make the choice to watch a horror movie but is rather forced to watch the film because of an older sibling or parent. Nightmares or bad dreams that

can be associated with a child seeing a horror film can be long-lasting for a child. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, a wide range of symptoms have been reported including crying or screaming, trembling or shaking, nausea or stomach pain, clinging to a companion, increased heart rate, freezing of paralysis and fear of losing control, as well as sweating, chills or fever, fear of dying, shortness of breath, feeling of unreality, dizziness or faintness, and numbness all, can be physical and emotional fright reactions experienced in reaction by children who see horror movies. Scary movies can

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have a lasting effect on a child and teens, and parental control and restraint should be practiced.


Degroat, B., (03/29/99), News and Information Services, Scary movies can have lasting

effects on children and teens, study says. Retrieved from the Worldwide Web,


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