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Horror Movies: Gateway to Our Dark Side

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I stood upon a high place

And saw, below, many devils

Running, leaping,

And carousing in sin.

One looked up, grinning,

And said: "Comrade! Brother!"

- "I Stood Upon a High Place" by Stephen Crane

From the day we are born we begin our training to become a part of the society. Day after day we learn through a process of reward and punishment the dos and don'ts that make up the civilized world. A child that kisses his sibling is praised and stimulated with hugs and smiles, while one that punches his sibling is punished with spanks and frowns. As we grow up, our understanding of what is right and what is wrong broadens. We see the brutality of actions like murder and we see murderers as sick people. To what extent, though, are these people sick? Don't we pay to watch movies where those actions take place in the most gruesome ways? Horror movies are full of images of blood, violence, and murder. People will wait impatiently for movies like "Saw 2" to get to the movie theaters and then wait in line anxious to get in. Why, however, are we so attracted to this kind of movies? Many might argue that it is the thrill, riding the roller coaster. Others might say that they just like a good scare. However, the appeal of horror movies can actually come from the fact that humans are born with a natural tendency to violence, a dark side of us repressed by society, which lies hidden in our unconscious, and is kept under control by allowing it to come out for a while as we watch our entertaining horror films.

Horror movies have been around since the very beginning of film. The first horror film ever made was the silent short "Le Manoir Du Diable" by Georges Melies, a vampire film which dates back to 1896 (Bennett). Later on, the genre would become popular with gothic movies like "Dracula" (1931) and "Frankenstein" (1931), which were taken from books written in the 1800s (Horror Film). Nowadays, horror movies present even more explicit violence and blood with movies like "Saw 2" (2005). The gore content in this movie is so strong that just thinking about it can make people sick.

Horror, as a genre, is characterized by certain elements. There is a great effort put on frightening the audience and the themes usually involve some kind of evil person or monster which will try to kill the protagonist. Horror movies' monsters can take many forms: vampires, zombies, werewolves, ghosts, demons, psychopaths, serial killers, among many other things (Horror Film). In addition, there are always series of unexpected events happening to ordinary people with whom the audience can identify. This is accompanied by the always-present violence and sex, which is associated with the most important element in the horror genre: the exploration of our dark side (Robinson).

People have always loved to watch these violent, sexual movies because what is forbidden will always be attractive to them (Robinson). What most people do not know, though, is that what is forbidden is actually a part of them. As Juhi Bakhshi explains in Why Does Horror Appeal to Us?, "all of us carry certain unacceptable and even harmful sexual and violent tendencies." This is illustrated in Stephen Crane's poem I Stood Upon a High Place. People see evil but they refuse to face it. They believe that evil is something strange to them, not a part of them. They talk about evil people and they say to themselves: "How can they be that way? I could never be like that! That would never be me!" But as the last line of the poem suggests, those devils are them. There is no big difference between the devils and them. There is an evil side of humans that will always stay alive. It is our primitive and instinctual side, so dark, yet so real (Conger 87). However, as we go through life, society teaches us that we must learn to control these "bad" impulses and we end up denying their existence (Conger 84). This rejection of our natural tendencies causes them to be forced into our unconscious where they remain alive as part of what psychologist Carl Jung calls our shadow. As Young-Eisendrath and Dawson describe in The Cambridge Companion to Jung, the shadow is "everything we fail to recognize about ourselves" and "what a person has no wish to be" (261). The moment the word "taboo" becomes part



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