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In Defense of Horror

By: Logan Klinger

For the third semester in a row, my parents have been disappointed in me. “Another horror class?” they ask. I’m an English major, which means I’m already used to the judgment of having a ‘useless’ major. Why not add in a few classes to make my parents flush with rage?

I study English out of pure passion, the sort of passion that has gripped me for my entire childhood and now the beginnings of my adult life. Horror novels and movies are like that for me too. I have the conviction that horror, done well, is an art form in itself, and perhaps the most difficult to achieve. To consider the genre of horror, you must think of gothic literature, of Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick shaping cinema as we know it.

In defense of horror, the genre is wonderfully trashy. Think of horror you’ll think of ghosts, chainsaws, killer clowns, and probably gratuitous sex. Horror is a genre that knows its place in the grand scheme of cinema and has accepted the same type of eyerolls from critics that my parents give.

On a more serious note, horror mirrors the constant grappling with fear that everyone experiences to some degree. The audience’s care for the characters stands so close to the terror that horror evokes, that the stark contrasts are able to uniquely embrace not only evil, but the kindness of the world as well. Fear is at the core of our deepest instinct, and horror teaches us how to counter with empathy.

There’s also a social aspect to how we imagine horror. Friend groups will often watch the cheesiest horror movies they can find and poke fun at who squirms the most. I, for one, consider myself exceptionally talented at screaming ‘boo’ at whoever is unfortunate enough to watch with me. It's an experience meant to be shared.

There’s a concept called ‘elevated horror’ that started around the release of ‘Get Out’ and A24 films such as ‘The VVitch’, ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Midsommar’. It refers to horror that has a more artistic connotation, critical satire, or a deeper meaning, where critics can admit to themselves that maybe ‘Silence of the Lambs’ did deserve an Oscar after all? After all, we’re pressured to enjoy the media society deems worthwhile.

Yet can’t entertainment also…entertain? A film as ridiculous sounding as ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ can be about the 1970’s political climate of the South and also have meat hooks. Horror should be enjoyed, just like a good comedy film or rom-com. So what’s the harm in spending time delighting in so-called B-movies and shoving popcorn in your mouth while ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ makes your stomach curl onto itself?

The enjoyment of horror calls into question; why do we like to be scared? For escapism, I would answer, for an adrenaline rush, for that strange bout of laughter and for reasons that are endless and will stand the test of time.

No other genre that gives humanity a common ground in the way that horror does. Generating fear is the ultimate goal of horror. Fear is an emotion so raw and visceral, one that every person can relate to. All students should learn about fear. Rather be it a horror class, or a psychology class, or even history. To reflect on ourselves makes us conscious about how we engage with what we’re scared of. Awareness with fear makes us into more empathetic, patient individuals. At the end of the day, there’s something beautiful about the goriest close-ups, romantic even, if you can treat horror with a little patience.


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