By Christian Sosa ’20
The earliest horror movie I remember watching was called The Gate in which two kids discover a hole in the ground caused by tree removal and find out they accidentally opened a gate to hell. I used to think this movie was horrifying. The little demons that came from the hole and the visuals terrified me and left me unable to sleep comfortably as a kid.
But after watching it again at the current age of 18, I realized that the only horrifying thing about this movie was how dumb-looking and shoddy the graphics and CGI was. I share this same sentiment with just about all horror movies now; I believe that “horror” movies just aren’t frightening anymore.
The science behind horror movies
Basically, horror movies are meant to target your brain in order to create that horror by using elements like gore, violence, atmosphere(music/ sound effects), dread through anticipation, etc.
The thalamus determines where it should send the info that it’s receiving, sensory cortex interprets the info, the hippocampus stores and retrieves memories and process stimuli in order to give context for how you should feel, the amygdala “decodes” your emotions while storing any memories of fear, and finally the hypothalamus activates your fight-or-flight response through adrenaline.
Basically, all of these elements are what create the horror in horror movies and, for some, that rush of adrenaline is what makes horror movies enjoyable.
Why I believe horror movies don’t have the same oomph
Of course, not all horror movies are scary, but the ones that are don’t usually accomplish what they want. I feel like horror movies have been relying on jump scares too much recently and while not always bad, there is a point where, if used too much, jump scares just get stale as they are a cheap, quick way to startle someone.
As Christopher Stuckmann, Youtuber and film critic put it, “Jump scares do not scare. They startle. Being startled is not the same thing as being scared. Being startled is like getting pinched — the pain is sudden and sharp, but you forget about it immediately. Being scared is like getting stabbed in the gut and having the blade twirl up your intestines like spaghetti — the pain is — quite uncomfortable”.
I believe horror movies have lost their oomph due to the internet. An array of videos are shared and posted on the internet and, of course, there are those people who’ll post videos of vehicular crashes, shootings, executions, Gory injuries, etc. and I feel as though all of that has just desensitized people, which implicitly reduces the shock value of horror movies.
I may not enjoy horror movies as much as I used to but that doesn’t mean that it’s all bad or that it’s a dying genre because it clearly isn’t. But I do believe that horror movies just don’t have the same oomph they used to due to overused tropes like a family moves into a haunted house and is too dumb to acknowledge the signs till it’s too late: demons, ghosts, possessions, monsters, cults, etc.
While I don’t enjoy them as much as I used to, horror movies are still enjoyable in their own right.