Most people assume that genre fans watch horror movies because they love to be terrified. They relish the anticipation of a sudden jump scare, the creeping build of a scream, the feel of their heart jumping into their throats. Although many assume that this is all there is to being a horror fan, the genre is far more in depth than that. Often, horror is seen as low grade cinema that serves no purpose beyond the torture porn outlet of blood, guts, and nudity. The genre is rarely ever recognized by the bigger awards shows, and when it is, people try to squeeze it into some other category like Thriller or Drama, because God forbid a horror movie be nominated for a mainstream award. Well, I’m here to tell you that horror is far more than blood and scares and has even saved lives.
I’ve had other writer friends wax nostalgic about how horror got them through tough times and helped them cope with a variety of things, including depression and anxiety. This leads to what sparked this editorial, the recent news of a horror fan at this year’s San Diego Comic Con who told Jamie Lee Curtis that Halloween saved his life. Her role actually saved him. That’s powerful stuff.
You may be thinking, “Anyone who comes to face with an iconic Scream Queen like Jamie Lee Curtis might say that. She probably hears stuff like that at least once a week.” But that thinking alone proves my point. So many horror fans, myself included, can testify that horror has changed their lives for the better.
Let me tell you a bit about myself. I suffer from extreme anxiety and depression. Up until recently, my depression was so unbearable that suicidal thoughts came more often than I’d like to admit, and I lived in this mindset where I couldn’t stop thinking about how terrible my life was. My friends and family helped me as much as they could, but the one thing that got me through some of the darkest and most lonely days in my life was writing about horror and the people I met through these horror-related articles.
It all started by getting back into watching horror movies on a daily basis, much like I did in my youth. Then I started to reach out in groups to find people who also liked the same things. Between the movies and the community, I slowly began to heal and feel more like myself. It wasn’t a permanent fix, however. Depression isn’t that easy to cure, but if I hadn’t met some of those people back then, I probably wouldn’t be around to share my story.
If I were a doctor and my patient came to me full of despair and misery, I would prescribe them one daily two-hour dose of horror to make all that bad shit in life go away for a little while. If anything, realizing that you’re not as bad off as the person on the screen in front of you has got to raise your spirits, at least a little bit. It may not be science, but in my case and many others, it has been proven to be true time and again.
As a ghoul myself, I love blood, guts, and all the icky crud in between, but that’s not all horror is about for me. Or I should say, it’s about that and much, much more. A lot of horror movies have a strong lead character, a hero that takes on the bad guy. Seeing someone kick so much evil ass can be pretty therapeutic, especially for someone who has dealt with abuse in any form. Horror movies fulfill the desire to take on your abuser, but in a safe environment on your TV screen. It’s one reason I’ve always been a huge Wes Craven fan. His films always had strong female leads who kick ass, take names, and don’t hold back. They made survival an art form.
Horror films can also be an escape from the real world, because let’s face it… the world is one scary fucking place. It’s hard to cope with sometimes. Actually, on most days, I’m like, “Is this madness ever going to stop?!” Although some may enjoy a love story or comedy to get a release from reality, we horror goons prefer to get lost in an over-the-top horror comedy, a bloody slasher, or even a psychological game of cat and mouse. What, you don’t think watching someone’s head getting sawed off is therapeutic? Don’t trash it ’til you try it! It may just help to release all that anger you’ve stored up over that person who cut you off on the highway or that bitchy coworker who never shuts up.
Once at church, I was told that liking horror movies would send me straight to Hell. Right then and there, I’d said, “Well then, so be it. Bye, Felicia!” In the end, horror makes me happy. Reaching out to people who also love horror makes me happy. I hope that people learn to embrace whatever works for them, even if it’s against the norm. Life’s too short not to.
Has a horror movie ever made a difference in your life, small or big? I’d love to hear your story!