Don’t Be Afraid

You should watch more scary movies.

I say scary movies instead of horror movies because horror is a genre, and scary is a feeling (well, afraid is a feeling, to be exact). All horror movies try to be scary. Not all scary movies are horror movies. Without diving deeply into the minutiae of sub-genres, “scary” can be anything from stylistic sci-fi portraits of dystopian futures to paranormal tales of a haunted nouns to documentaries of terrifying realities.

Fear is instantly polarizing.

No one stops watching comedies after seeing one bad comedy, yet people write off horror movies after a bad one. The irony is bad scary movies are usually the most polarizing. I’m wading in subjectivity, so here’s what I think a bad scary movie is like:

I love suspense.

I don’t love to be startled. I’m all for a scary pay-off, but constantly being startled is to scary movies as dick and fart jokes are to funny ones — cheap.

Being startled is stressful. It creates the sensation of fear by forcing an unpleasant physical reaction which causes emotional exhaustion. I tend to avoid PG-13 “horror movies” (with some exceptions) for this reason. Let that shape your opinion of me however it does, but being startled is like being tickled. It has two speeds: fun and torture.

I do love to be scared by movies. It relieves stress. Really! Our minds do it naturally by having nightmares. Science!

In a study focusing on children, researchers were able to conclude that nightmares directly correlate with the stress in the children’s lives. Children who experienced the death of a family member or a close friend or know someone with a chronic illness have more frequent nightmares than those who are only faced with stress from school or stress from social aspects of daily life.

I never have nightmares. Not good ones, anyway. My highly unscientific theory is that I relieve excess stress by being scared in a conscious, controlled environment. If you tend to have nightmares, try watching more scary movies. Let me know if it works!

It takes all kinds.

Don’t forget the purpose of watching movies: entertainment. The double-edged sword with horror movies is a much higher possibility of looking for fun but finding OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT THE FUCK?! In other words, “I get it — it’s easy to not like scary movies.” This is all about managing expectations. Shaun of the Dead and Martyrs are technically both horror movies, for example.

Everyone has their limits. I have my limits. I would put myself in the “fanatic” category with regard to scary, but there are some things I don’t care to see. I really like gore in scary movies, for example. It’s an art (sadly, a fading art). Bad gore can spoil a good movie, and well-done gore can make a good movie great. All of that said, whether the antagonists have it coming, gore porn has never been my thing. It’s not fun for me, and therein lies the point…

Scary movies are supposed to be fun!

Take the time to find what you like. Find your limits. The more people you watch a scary movie with, the more fun it can be. Invite your friends!

Let’s review. First, the thin and unvalidated premise that watching scary movies could be good for your health by reducing stress. It works for me! Next, there’s a style of scary movie for everyone to enjoy. With that, I present for your consideration my favorite scary movies of 2014.
In no particular order

Update: I completely forgot about the Israeli movie, Big Bad Wolves, which came out in January 2014. Highly recommended as well.

All of these movies are available to stream on iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and/or Amazon Prime. The playlist of trailers above spans genres from comedy to drama, all with varying degrees of scary WTF and/or OMFG.

I tweet about scary movies sometimes too, so give me a follow and feel free to ask for recommendations.

Sleep tight!

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