Friday, July 02, 2010

Stephen King on "Why We Crave Horror Movies"

The Longman Reader (7th Edition, 2005) reprints an article written by horror writer, Stephen King, “Why We Crave Horror Movies.” The thesis of his essay is found in the very first sentence, “I think that we’re all mentally ill . . .” Here King presents a case that every person intentionally watches horror to keep one’s fears under control; well fed, but under control. “It deliberately speaks to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, or most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized . . . and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark.” King says the basic reason why people will pay money to watch gore is like riding a roller coaster, “to show that we can, that we are not afraid . . . to re-establish our feelings of essential normality . . . and we go to have fun.”

King tries to make the case that murderous insanity is in the same category as public nose-picking. The potential lyncher or saint needs to be “let loose to scream and roll around in the grass.” Why over-work the good emotional muscles and neglect the muscle-tone of those less desirable?

There is a logical fallacy in the title of his article, because not everyone craves horror movies. King eventually tells the truth concerning horror movies, which becomes the key to understanding why certain people crave. First, he says, “the horror movie is innately conservative, even reactionary.” What is being held back? What is being reacted against? All that is good. He writes, “If we share a brotherhood of man, then we also share an insanity of man. None of which is intended as a defense of either the sick joke or insanity but merely as an explanation of why the best horror films, like the best fairy tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary all at the same time.”

What he admits is that, on the action level (where we live), man is without excuse, whether he picks his nose in public or eats someone’s lung just to see what it tastes like. The level of non-reality (in the horror film) does not give man a way out, but a place to reflect what he is really like against all that is good, orderly, and authoritative. The horror of Poe and other classical writers is rooted in the knowledge that destruction is inescapable on various levels. The cruelty of man against man is shocking, fantasy or otherwise, and the bar must be lowered for impact.

The conscience has become calloused, discernment has become compromised, thinking has stopped, so the depravity must go lower to feed the craving of the cruelty that lies in the heart.
What scares me most is that all that is put into a screen play comes from within man who picked up a pen instead of an axe. He committed in mind and on paper what some do in real life—and really, there is no difference.

How is this entertainment? Would you pay for a seat and buy popcorn to watch your family get killed? Sadly, there are some that would.

Ever wish someone were dead? God calls that murder, and no murderer has inheritance in the kingdom of God. Man is not insane at heart but a sinner by nature, and when a murderer dies and stands before God on judgment day, he or she will learn the true meaning of horror in choosing their own sin over God’s way out through repentance by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

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