As we all adjust to a more isolated way of living, we wondered how many of you might be turning to horror films to relive the tension of our current situation. And with the news that horror distributors and filmmakers are doing their part in this crisis – such as Shudder and their free sign up for isolation, or SyFy airing the original The Twilight Zone back-to-back – we wanted to explore why the horror community seems to be a source of support for many. Of course, many are turning to options such as online therapy as they endure isolation. You may even have considered this yourself, but are unsure of the costs involved and the services provided. BetterHelp.com are experienced in helping you explore your therapy options during this worrying time. In addition, let’s examine if horror can offer fans something additional to make their situations more hopeful?
We already mentioned that some streaming services are offering free trials that fans can take advantage of. The trial periods have been extended from the industry normal of seven days to up to a month, allowing viewers to select from a wide variety of films to fill their time. Shudder have also begun using the hashtag #ShudderShutIn to share film recommendations on social media, including lesser known and cult horror movies, so this could be fans opportunity to broaden their horror horizons. We encourage everyone to give more obscure horror films a chance, they may find they connect with films not in their native language, older films they previously missed, or independent films which may not have had the advertising budgets to reach a massive audience. Similarly, horror and science fiction themed TV stations are digging out their older collections to share with new generations of viewers.
What about the subject matter of horror films themselves? Some might find the idea of invoking fear during a time of great anxiety to be unpleasant, but for fans of the genre it has often been cited as a health outlet for fear, anger or sadness. A popular reddit thread from a couple of years ago revealed a large group of people with anxiety disorders find that exposing themselves to fear in a safe, controlled manner actually shifted their mental health and perception of the real sources of anxiety in their lives. One poster expressed “Watching or reading horror gives a face to this “threat” and lets your mind live out the scenario, giving you a catharsis of sorts, and relieving the anxiety.”
It seems their observations are backed up by science. Studies have found that the amygdala – the region of the brain that alerts us to danger – is more active in individuals who suffer from anxiety. By regularly stimulating this part of the brain, we become desensitised to the experience and better able to moderate the reaction in daily life. The bodies fight or flight response also triggers the production of chemicals that boost happiness and satisfaction, which might go some way to explaining why horror fans keep returning to the genre.
Often a dark sense of humor is found in horror enthusiasts, who are able to laugh at gruesome deaths and over the the top gore. Within the first week of social isolation, many memes drawing parallel to horror were being shared across social media. There were jokes about certain movie settings being perfect to isolate in – such as the haunted cabin of the Evil Dead franchise, or the lavish and well protected manor house of Vincent Price’s mansion in the classic House on Haunted Hill. Dark humor has a long history. Even Plato believed that most comedy is derived from laughing at others misfortunes. Peter McGraw, who studies behaviour science, published a paper on dark comedy. In it, he traced the idea back to primitive humans, who were constantly surrounded by danger from predators, starvation or disease. Historic artifacts from this time reveal jokes about believing a prowling big cat is in a bush, only to discover it is a butterfly, but being caught by a real predator when one’s guard is down admiring the butterfly. So perhaps being able to laugh at the incredibly dark subjects of many scary movies, interwoven with frightening real life events, is something of a survival mechanism for those who enjoy horror media.
To conclude, we know that everyone is suffering anxiety and uncertainty at the moment. But we hope that engaging with the horror community can be a positive outcome of our increased isolation, and that it can provide some kind of therapy for enthusiasts.