It’s Horror Movie Season! Why Do We Love Scary Films So Much?

Janet Stilson
Published in
5 min readSep 23, 2022


Photo by Maxime Roedel on Unsplash “Psycho” still ranks as one of the most terrifying movies of all time.

Get ready for terror. Streaming channels and movie theaters are about to unleash the annual October sack of ghoulish predators and monsters. At least eight new horror movies are coming out of their cages in October. For example, there’s “Hellraiser,” a mystery-horror-thriller reboot of the 1980s film; “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” based on a Stephen King novella; the final installment of the “Halloween” franchise; and “Terrifier 2,” which features a resurrected killer clown named Art.

Consider this: out of 15 movie genres, horror is the sixth most lucrative when judged by box office revenue that was raked in between 1995 and 2022 (to date). That’s according to The Numbers, which estimates that horror dragged $13.9 billion into the industry’s coffers in North America alone during that period.

Which leads me to wonder: Why is it that we like to be scared so much? On the face of it, that might suggest that horror lovers are a tad masochistic. But is that really true? There’s one guy that I knew could give me some insights on that and other related questions: Felipe Machado. He’s an independent producer who has worked for two of the best filmmakers in the business: Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “The Martian”) and Sam Raimi (the “Evil Dead” franchise, “Army of Darkness”).

Felipe Machado, my favorite horror geek

The list of movies Machado has worked on include “Crawl,” “Umma,” “Don’t Breathe,” “The Grudge,” “The Unholy,” and the upcoming “65.” Yeah, he’s a bit of a horror geek.

Horror That Echoes Reality

When I asked him for his thoughts about why we like terrifying shows, Machado gave me an answer that makes a lot of sense. He believes that horror gets to the heart of big issues that people face in real life. Yes, evil predators are not something that people generally experience. “But horror is a great way to tell stories about trauma or anything that scares us,” he said. “People can experience those emotions more clearly. Because there’s so much about real life that we’re afraid of. And horror movies are a great way to face those fears — watching someone else face them for you.”

Take, for example, “A Quiet Place,” which blends horror with sci-fi and drama. The movie stars John Krasinski (who is also the director) and Emily Blunt. It’s about a family forced to live in silence because they’re hiding from monsters with extremely sensitive hearing.

That’s the longshot view of the story. Deeper down, it is also about the loss of a son and a daughter’s unspoken sense of guilt that she’s somewhat to blame. And as a result, there’s friction with her father. So, while the outer layer of the movie is about not being able to speak because of monsters, the core of the movie is about a family that can’t speak openly with each other. Know anybody like that?

“The horror serves to distract you from the fact that it’s telling such a real, true story that is so easy to relate to — not being able say what you really feel to a loved one, or blaming someone for something that, in a way might be their fault, but maybe you blame yourself a little bit too,” Machado said.

As another example, he mentioned a movie I have yet to see: “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies,” which was released earlier this year. In addition to horror, it’s a murder mystery with comedy. In it, friends party in a remote mansion during a hurricane, and they keep dying off. Backstabbing and fake friends are at the core of it.

Machado is a fan. “It’s very real, how all the characters turn on each other.” Similar to “Quiet Place,” it reveals points of conflict between people that often go unsaid. “It exposes how fake human beings can be to each other.”

The Scary Comedy Problem

Personally, I’m attracted to horror films, or horror books, that have threads of comedy running through them. For example, the Jordan Peele film “Get Out,” which also has a strong theme tied to racism and social justice. The funny parts are largely embodied by the main character’s best friend, played by Lil Rel Howery.

We may not see as many movies like that as we might, because horror films shot through with comedy are difficult to market. Machado said it’s hard to wedge both the comedy and horror together in trailers, which are by their nature very short, so that they accurately reflect a movie’s tone.

That said, horror-comedies do resonate. Many become cult classics. “Even though it’s not necessarily thought of as a laugh-out-loud comedy, ‘Scream’ was super popular in the ’90s. Then you have ‘The Evil Dead,’ which is completely out-of-left-field hilarious. The first ‘Evil Dead’ was somewhat funny, but not to the levels that ‘Evil Dead 2’ or ‘Amy of Darkness’ got to. The whole franchise became known for being super scary, but also super funny.”

Machado learned a lot from the filmmaker behind “The Evil Dead” franchise, Sam Raimi, when he worked at his company. And ironically, even though Raimi is known for two of the greatest horror-comedy franchises, “Evil Dead” and “Drag Me to Hell,” he’s always hesitant to do others because of that pesky marketing problem. At the time Machado worked for Raimi, “he would joke that every movie his company, Ghost House Pictures, made opened at the box office at №1, except for the one he directed, ‘Drag Me to Hell.’ But I reminded him that it came out the same weekend that the Pixar movie ‘Up’ was released.”

Raimi focuses on the importance of every line in a script, and every frame in a movie. Machado said that when there were meetings about a particular script, Raimi would constantly ask what certain dialog lines meant. “Not that he didn’t know, but he wanted to know what it was trying to do in the story.” Similarly, when watching edited versions of a film, and focusing on individual scenes, “he would literally say, ‘Can you cut three frames from that?’ And it would matter. It would change the feel of the scenes.”

Machado pointed out a similar kind of exactitude when speaking of Ridley Scott — most specifically how he builds extremely intricate sci-fi and fantasy worlds with movies like “Prometheus” and “The Martian” to deepen the audience’s experience.

When it comes to horror, are there limits to how scary they can be? At a certain point, will audiences get turned off? Machado explained that if the violence, gore, and terror are gratuitous and don’t add to the story, then they’re best left out.

On the other hand, “since we’re making films for consenting adults who generally want to be scared, we try not to limit it in the script phase.” In the production planning stages, that might change. “But with the script, if something is so scary that you’re having doubts, you’re probably going in the right direction.”



Janet Stilson

Janet Stilson’s novel THE JUICE, published to rave reviews. A sequel will be released in May 2024. She won the Meryl Streep Writer’s Lab for Women competition.