One man’s horror is this woman’s happy place
Written by: The Bat
There are a couple of theories about why people flock to the theaters to see horror movies or why they line up for haunted attractions every year. Wes Craven, one of my favorite directors once said that “horror films don’t create fear, they release it.” The adrenaline released by experiencing your fears in a safe space can actually be beneficial to the human mind. It can reduce stress and even teach you healthy fear responses. Do you remember the tension that builds up during a scary movie or a good haunted attraction? And the feeling of relief or triumph when the credits roll or you run out the doors? That feeling carries you out the theater door and into real life, a great stress reliever.
There is even science as to why horror movies, and by proxy, haunted attractions can be the perfect escape from reality. The fear-based plot requires you to be super focused. You aren’t thinking about the dishes you forgot to do or the homework assignment due tomorrow. Instead, your mind is completely absorbed by the monster on the screen and the characters whose lives hang in the balance.
But psychologists have not even begun to cover why my twisted mind is obsessed with horror. So, Readers, want to come down the rabbit hole of my brain? Well, you’re still reading, so….
Horror is a puzzle
This goes back to my first ever haunted attraction, Brutal Planet at Elitch Gardens in Denver. I was a freshman in high school and I’m pretty sure I had just told my parents I was going to ride amusement park rides. But I really wanted to go to the haunted house. It was a post-apocalyptic-themed haunt, with a great intro during the line. I still remember they used the speaker system to overwhelm the senses with deep beating music and dragged victim after victim on stage to torture and execute as they screamed for help. My friends were trying to look like they weren’t affected, while I was enthralled. I wanted to know how they hid the blood tubes, what they used to make it look like her head came off, why the music made my heartbeat change.
And it went on and on during the haunt. The head with the disembodied spine….how was he talking? The pop scares…where were they going to come from?
I view horror movies the same way. It somewhat makes sense, considering my first horror movie was Scream, with its mystery killer. I was determined to guess who it was before the movie told me the answer. I still watch horror movies like that. While I may or may not jump or gasp, depending on how good the movie is, I want to know all about it. Who is the killer? And even when we know who it is, like Michael, where will they come from next? What weapon will they use? Who will catch them? How did they get the blood pack there? What is the blood made from? Those questions can absorb my mind way longer than the experience itself, and I never want to go back to the real world.
Horror is a challenge
This mostly relates back to my first experience with an extreme haunt. It was Gates of Hell: Victim Experience in Las Vegas. Awesome haunt, by the way. They don’t do the extreme anymore but read my review of Freakling Bros here to learn more about Gates.
Anyhow, extreme haunts are often more expensive than the normal ones, but I was determined to go. So I put out a dare on my Facebook. Anyone who would front my ticket price, I would bet them double or nothing. If I chickened out, I would have to pay them back double the price. If not, I didn’t have to pay them back at all. Of course, this bet made me even more determined to make it through. I was one of the approximately 33% to make it through without saying the safe word or hitting an actor. And the feeling of triumph afterward was euphoric! I felt like I could take on the world! Since then, I have taken an extreme haunt every time I get the opportunity, chasing that feeling of invulnerability. (Not to mention the bragging rights).
This works with movies too, to an extent. I once was dared to watch Saw alone with the lights off. No problem. Also dared to watch Hellraiser without wanting to gag. A bit more challenging, but still succeeded. Even more of a success when the scenes that are supposed to scare me just make me crack up. Speaking of which…
Horror is comedy
I feel almost mean saying this in print, but watching people get scared cracks me up. This is true for both movies and real life, in the right situations. Watching the horror victims in slasher flicks run up the stairs or towards the chainsaws, or trip for the billionth time as they are being chased: definitely hilarious. Seeing people jump and scream at a haunted house (or when a friend jumps out from a dark corner), also hilarious. Causing that scare is twice as funny. During my time as a haunted house actor, I have seen and caused boyfriends to drop their bravado and jump into their girlfriends’ arms. I have made an entire group of tough acting guys jump back and almost knock over a wall. I have chased a grown man all the way out of the gates of the haunt, as he screamed and hid behind his car to get away from me. And while I can’t laugh while scaring, except for evil laughs and demonic giggles, I am cracking up inside.
For the record, I am also able to laugh at myself during the rare occasion when the Dragon catches me unaware and makes me jump a mile high and run into a door. Go ahead and laugh. I would laugh at you.