The Window To Our Fears

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Cormac O’Meara champions his fascination with horror.

Horror cinema isn’t just a one day trip for this writer, it’s not a three hundred and sixty five day trip either – that’d be excessive – my family having to call the proper authorities to come a knockin’ at my basement bedroom door. But I have always been a fan of the horror genre and subsequently became a fan of its various sub-genres. There are many who hate horror. Whether it’s the violence, kitsch or some deep-seated psychological issues, many people will not want to go to the cinema to be scared witless and have their popcorn spill all over them. The more people hate horror, the more I love it and try to champion it wherever I go.

Despite what the media and PC police may tell you, horror films can act as a positive reinforcement within cinema. It is often lambasted for its graphic violence, misogyny and dark humour, even when these functions are employed to evoke broader themes. And even when these genre conventions aren’t utilised as some form of metaphor for greater social issues it shouldn’t be penalised for their quality or aesthetic. Some have criticised the role of women in horror, especially within the slasher sub-genre. They claim these type of films to be offensive towards women, who are brutally murdered one by one at some co-ed frenzy or summer camp. However, as suggested in Carol Clover’s book Men, Women and Chainsaws, the slasher film can be construed to be one of feminine empowerment. Her theory of the ‘Final Girl’ proposes that in the slasher movie, the sole survivor is always the girl who abstains from sex, drugs or alcohol. She is strong, smart and resilient and she is always aware of her surroundings.

Clover also argues that although the promiscuous girls all die bloody deaths, in terms of the production itself, they actually get more screen time and characterisation then the male actors, who are often disposed of in some mundane fashion. In cinema you will always have content that offends audiences – you can’t please everybody. Why though, are these virginal scream queens deemed offensive while the materialistic and sex driven women of Sex and the City deemed independent role models? Don’t people realise that the only reason male viewers watch that show is to see Samantha get it done. Now of course cinema is subjective for audiences and essentially entertainment, but why are the female portrayals in films like Sex and the City placed on a pedestal, while the ‘Final Girls’ are subjected to low-brow culture?

Beyond subtextual film criticism there are more more immediate and emotional affects to take into account while viewing the horror film. In an age of postmodern cynicism and cinematic attention deficit order, the horror film remains one of the few genres that can evoke momentary physical attributes among audiences. A good horror film won’t allow an audience to passively watch the movie, but rather keep them active, playing them like an orchestra. In a genre that is primarily plot heavy, they use the horror conventions to make audiences jump, scream and bite their nails through scenes of tension.

There is a primordial nature to horror films that doesn’t permit audiences to be docile, and within an increasingly complacent culture where audiences would rather Netflix and chill, it would seem that the horror genre plays the role of the conscientious parent urging their children to be pro-active. Horror is a genre that keeps you on your toes, alert and imaginative – a cathartic for the body and mind – that forces you to face your fears and tackle them within a safe environment.

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