Why Do We Like to Get Scared

Horror movies are more fun when you have other people to watch them with. I like seeing somebody else jump, scream, or squirm. So I’ll often have friends over and host movie nights. I am very good at “setting the stage” for people to be scared.

First, it helps to have a house already with a reputation as my place is haunted already. Mostly it does not affect me. Sometimes I hear voices or stuff is moved even when I am out of a room for just a few minutes but that’s mostly it. There are friends that the ‘spirits’ don’t like, though. Sometimes people get locked in my downstairs bathroom and people have said they smell weird things (mostly like the house is on fire).  I also have a black cat named Poe. He is very cool but he likes to hide on chairs in the dining room and jump on your back when you walk by. I think it is funny. Other people don’t.

If you can’t get your hands on a haunted house or a spooky cat like Poe, you can still host a great horror movie night. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Have the viewing at night, obviously. Preferably when there is no moon, unless it is Friday the 13th or Halloween or something. Or if it is a werewolf flick. Make sure that any curtains or blinds are closed. You can have lighting on in your house, but try to leave the room that you’re showing the movie in is as dark as possible – movie theater style!
  2. You don’t need a big TV or anything, but a tv with a quality picture and a good internet connection (if you’re streaming) or a high-quality player is good to have. Take a minute to wipe down the screen and/or the disc before you start the showing. You also don’t need a good sound system, but it certainly helps. At the very least, you need a speaker or two behind the listeners as well as in front. It’s just better that way. It’s like the killer is inside the house with you.
  3. Give your guests good food. Serve BBQ snacks or meatball sandwiches if it is an especially gory movie. Ribs with the movie Aliens or something. Think outside pizza and popcorn.
  4. If you’ve seen it before, don’t talk about it during the movie. Don’t be that guy. You don’t need to introduce it and you don’t need to explain what is happening. If you were able to understand the movie through one sitting, expect your friends to be able to as well. If they aren’t smart enough, then a) pick a different movie and b) what does it say about you that you hang out with such idiots? A big exception to this is if it is not the first movie in a series and they haven’t seen the ones before or if it is based on a book, which you have read, and the film leaves something out that makes more sense in the book. As long as it doesn’t ruin the movie before the person has had a chance to see it, you’re good.

What are your favorite ideas to make a horror movie viewing more immersive?

Why Do We Like to Get Scared?

Life can be boring. If all I did was work, come home, watch tv, eat and sleep, I don’t think I’d live very long. Sure, my cat Poe adds something interesting to my life (and that something usually smells or is dead) but there is not a whole lot I feel worthy of a real reaction or pushes my buttons. You might think it is because I am a calm guy but that’s a bit of a misconception. Usually it is because I don’t get too involved with anything or anyone. I come from a long line of “emotions are useless” people. My family is pretty stoic in general. It’s a wonder we’ve cared enough about anybody to procreate enough to continue the line as long as we have.

People ask me all the time why I’m “obsessed” with horror movies. I don’t think it is because I have an “obsession” with death or murder. Maybe that is true for some people who like the genre, but I think the vast majority of us have a different motive. Watching a horror movie is a cheap way to feel like you “cheated death” and feel alive. It is the same reason people swan dive out of perfectly good airplanes and drive racecars. You have no control over when and how you’re going to die so we sometimes feel like we want to take things into our own hands – maybe have a little say in the matter or to show ourselves that we are stronger than death. Or display our own stupidity as we earn ourselves a Darwin Award. That stuff can be messy or expensive.

The whole thing is because we like the way our body reacts. Horror movies do the same thing, but from the comfort of your own living room or a plush seat in a dark, air-conditioned theater with surround sound. It is all of the reward of being in those death-defying situations but with none of the actual risk. Scary movies can elevate your heartrate and scare the bejesus out of you for the price of a movie ticket. They provide a break to our ordinary lives. Horror movies also often reinforce the belief that good triumphs over the unexplained evils of the world, even when our reality is trying to show us differently. Sometimes we need that reminder. And if we’re having a bad day, with nowhere to put all of that emotion, watching a movie where a bunch of idiots suffer and die for their betrayals or mistakes can really make a guy feel better.

Scaring yourself silly is a great way to release stress and tension. It is good harmless fun, unlike some of those death defying sports out there. So go catch a movie about a bunch of jerks who die in ridiculous, painful ways. Watch people being held brutally accountable for their bad choices and terrible judgement. You’ll feel better about your own life, I promise.

My Favorite Stephen King Movies

When my mom figured out she couldn’t stop my obsession with scary movies, she tried to get me into scary books as well. It did not really work. For the most part, I think reading is boring. She tried to get me to read Stephen King, but that backfired. Boooooring! But his movies, on the other hand? Those I like.

First up is The Shining. Now, I know that Kubrick’s version of the film is not a whole lot like the source material. It is actually notoriously hard to adapt a Stephen King book, and Kubrick basically did his own thing with it just like he did with everything else he ever made. King disliked a lot about the adaption, from the casting of Jack Nicholson (because he’d already played somebody crazy so it would give that part of it away) and the watered-down, pathetic way Wendy was portrayed. But you know what? I’ve seen the tv adaption from 1997. It might be more true to the book but it is nowhere near as scary. Those creepy twins and the blood in the elevator? Gone. No REDRUM either. And everybody remembers the “Here’s Johnny!” bit with the axe. Poof! Those things were all added by Kubrick and hurt King’s feelings apparently because he had to do it over as a tv miniseries. All I really remember about the tv version is that they casted the guy from “Wings” and that lame, not scary ending. I hope the book fans like it because there was no other reason to make that garbage. I don’t know anybody who like the “authorized” version better.

I was mad when they announced the remaking of It. How can you get a better Pennywise than Tim Curry? The other major problem I had with it was that the book is incredibly long. The mini-series was long too. The movie is not. A lot had to get cut, and you feel the missing relationships and connections through the movie. There was a lot of suspense and build-up to the mini-series, but the movie is mostly CGI and cheap jump scares. It did not do Tim Curry’s terrifying Pennywise justice at all.

Another movie I love is Pet Sematary. This is one of the few King-written adaptions that I really like. If you like gore and creepy and are a fan of horror, you’re going to like this one. And the ending is just dark and awesome and works really well. They are remaking this one as well, supposedly. That should be interesting (maybe. It seems that I hate remakes).

The last movie I will write about here is Misery. Now, this is not the same kind of scary as the ones above. It is more of a thriller. While it does justice to the book according to fans, William Goldman (of Princess Bride fame) wrote the screenplay. James Caan and Kathy Bates are amazing in their roles. While I wouldn’t say this movie scared me, it does put me on the edge of my seat every time I watch it and I still cringe every time it gets to the hobbling scene. That part is super hard to watch.

What are your favorite King films? Or do you like to waste your time reading all those pages instead?