You know what we haven’t had around here in a while? A good ol’ rummage around in the old psyche.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been writing a lot about horror films recently. And, well, not so recently, too – the very first movie writing gig I ever had was when I was about sixteen and carefully hurled my opinions about horror on to a Canadian horror site, and I still remember how happy I was to scroll through the comments and see people who loved it as much as me. For as long as I have been a movie fan, I have been a horror fan; The Mummy on out, it’s been horror all the way down for me.
And horror, boiled down to it, is a genre meant to scare. And trust me, I am well-acquainted with fear. If you read my personal blog, The Cutprice Guignol, you know that I have an anxiety disorder – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, to be precise – and that I spend a not-insignificant part of my life consumed with terror over anything you want to put in front of me. Here is an incomplete list of the things that I have had to talk myself down from anxiety attacks over since last Tuesday: my cat, my freckles, God, a lack of God, my weight loss, my weight gain, my health, my running route. While I have a much better handle on this stuff than I used to (thanks, meds and therapy!), I still spend large chunks of my life indiscriminately frightened over nothing.
So why would I want to seek out that fear in my personal life, too? Honestly, it makes no sense as to why I wouldn’t be injecting as much light romantic comedy into my veins as I could take without collapsing them. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been anxious, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved horror.
And I think that the two are actually pretty well wrapped-up in one another, really. Because so much of this bloody disorder is the sense that things are constantly out of my control, constantly trying to pull things back into order again, and knowing that I am fighting an uphill battle because the universe is a cold and uncaring place that nominates Tarantino movies for Oscars.
But there is something uniquely comforting, I’ve found, in choosing the way that fear infiltrates your life. It might sound strange – why would I go out of my way to seek out something that I have spent such a long time trying to remove? – but, to me, it has always made sense. I constantly grapple for control, and horror movies offer me a little of that, even in a micro, ninety-minute format: the fear that I get is controlled, looking over the edge of a cliff and knowing that I do not have to jump.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. Horror is one of the sub-genres of film with the most specific and dedicated fanbases – so many of us come together to bond over horror in a way I haven’t seen outside of this community in the film world, one of the many reasons I love it so much. Even for those people who don’t go around counting doors and touching walls, the world can be terrifying, life in general scarier than we can cope with, and seeking out this parcelled-out sections of fear feels like a way to get a handle on that. What we seek out for ourselves has a much harder time hurting us than what launches itself around corners at us with no warning.
Horror, paradoxically, is kind of a safe space when it comes to fear and anxiety – at least, it is for me. And that’s the reason that I always come back to it. Because, in a world where things feel so out-of-control, and with a silly disorder in my head that makes me believe that ten times more intensely than normal – sometimes, I just need to have a little control over my scares.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via AllPosters)