Then one day in my teens, when I was stuck at home with the flu, I pulled a movie off our shelf that I had always avoided watching. But on this particular day, with my stomach already turning, I thought to myself, what do I have to lose? Other then the cherry jello sitting in my guts, that I was likely going to throw up anyways. So i took a chance and watched it, and the film 'Misery' changed the way I thought about an entire genre.
Through this film, I learned that 'scary' movies were not always just about knife wielding, deranged killers who torture and disembowel innocent people. That blood sprayed shower curtains and demonic children and unrelentless monsters surging from the depths of a dark lake were not all that these films had to offer.
I realized that a horror movie could be a slow burn, a careful unfurling of terrifying events, a horrific mystery you are afraid to solve or a story of sacrifice, redemption or bravery.
It has been many years since that fateful encounter with 'Misery'. In that time I have watched countless horror films, ranging from fantastic to awful. And after some contemplation over my own obsession with movies that make me check my closet before i go to bed, I have realized that the best horror films speak volumes about the human condition.
They tell us that people can be cruel, saddistic and awful, especially when terrible things happen to us. That life events change us and can turn us into horrible monsters as a result. But on the same note we can look at these awful life events as ultimate tests. Can we rise to the occasion? Are we strong or weak? And will the quality of our human souls mean survival or an untimely defeat?
I think that many of us watch horror movies as a way to reveal our own inner truths. We place ourselves in hypothetical situations and try to imagine what decisions we would make in the given scenario. We all like to pretend that we would be the bravest, the smartest and the most ideal leader. But while watching these films we may also empathize with the serial killers, demons and evil forces. Because the truth is, whether we want to believe it or not, we are all Clarice and Hannibal. A bit of deranged Norman Bates and his hopeless victim, Marion Crane. We are Julia in 'Hellraiser', making sacrifices for the person we love above all else or Sarah in 'the Descent' fighting grief with distractions. We are Jason Voorhees in 'Friday the 13th', angry at childhood wrongs, and Jack Torrance in 'The Shining' emotionally empty from an existence that has become all too familiar.
These characters connect to us, terrify us, move and inspire us. And whether we wish to admit it, it is because these characters are us, neither good nor evil but merely hoping to come out alive at the end.