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The psychology of horror movies – and why we like to watch them – is a fascinating topic.  I like the genera very much.  I don’t care for the “slasher” variety, which I find crude. They are more about gore and violence than the supernatural. A really good horror story doesn’t need such bluntness. Rather, good horror scares the dickens out of you by screwing around with your psyche.

If you are looking for a good horror movie to watch this Hallowe’en season I have a few to recommend.

They are near guaranteed to give you the creeps.

I like the old classics,  and you can’t do wrong with Dracula. See the original one with Bela Legosi. By casting the Count as a handsome noble, the movie better captures the erotic subtext of vampire stories.

In some of best ghost stories, you don’t actually ‘see’ a ghost, only feel its presence. You can’t do better than the original 1963  The Haunting. What could be more scary than to feel something uncanny is looking for you, and only a flimsy door keeps it from coming at you?

Alas the Youtube link is no more.  😦

Sometimes horror is unsubtle. Night of the Living Dead has its horror plain and simple. You are being attacked, you can’t fight or win, and all you can do is try to hide. What is scarier I wonder: sensing ‘something is there’, or knowing what is there and being unable to do anything about it?

Most horror films follow the archetypal story called “Slaying the Monster”. In this classic stencil, we are being attacked by something at first dismissed as not real or doubtful. When it is confirmed ‘Yes, it’s real all right’ the battle begins as to who will win , us or the Monster. Despite our best efforts, the Monster gets the advantage. Just when all seems lost there is a ‘chink in the armor’ discovered and the Monster is slain.  When “Slaying the Monster” is done well, it is fabulous – and very scary.  A sci-fi setting of “Slaying the Monster” is Alien.  Marvelous!

Being a shrink, I appreciate horror based on going nuts. The Shining has it all – isolation, the inability to escape, and the hint of the supernatural – or is it just people going crazy?

Even Horror needs to lighten up from time to time. A piece of camp is like dessert to a large heavy dinner. May I suggest  Attack of the Mushroom People?  Give in, eat the mushrooms, and try not to laugh.

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October 2011

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