This is a question that I am often asked; apparently, it’s somewhat strange for an adult woman to enjoy horror. It’s a long held misconception that men are the primary horror movie audience. In actuality, it’s usually women driving the ticket sales. Some believe that males will, eventually, wander away from the horror genre as they mature, while females never leave. Why? Perhaps it’s because women tend to be more emotional creatures and this allows for a more visceral experience for us. Maybe it’s because most horror movies feature a female at the center of the story who, eventually, becomes The Final Girl. The Final Girl makes it to the end of the movie by overcoming her fear and kicking ass! Is there another genre that this story thread is so common in?
As a young girl I would hide in our living room, peeking around the corner into the family room where a horror movie, that I wasn’t allowed to watch, was playing. The fear and excitement elicited by doing this was something that I was both repulsed by and attracted to at the same time. They say that “seeing is believing” until the ages of 5-7; well, I believed that I was going to turn into a werewolf. Witnessing that epic transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London has stayed with me my whole life:I truly believed I was going to turn into a werewolf. This overreaction caused me to take a bit of a break from peeking around that corner.
Curious to see what all of the kids were doing in the back room at a family reunion, I stumbled upon A Nightmare On Elm Street 3:Dream Warriors. I was so terrified that I simply couldn’t look away. Consequently, I lived in complete and utter fear of Freddy Krueger for quite some time. He truly was my nightmare. So, why would I feel compelled to return to this genre that had, thus far, traumatized me?
Some believe that horror films appeal to those of us who are wired to enjoy high levels of psychological arousal. The mental, emotional and physical responses to a horror movie linger long after the end credits have rolled. I find this to be a wonderful distraction from our everyday horror. If forced to pinpoint the moment that horror became a way of life for me, it would be when my parents divorced. I lived a very “Leave It To Beaver” life and then one day, poof!, it was all gone. Pick your “favorite” parent because your life is about to drastically change. (This truly is the most traumatic thing that occurred in my childhood and I am very aware of how blessed that makes me.)
So, where was I to place all of my fear and aggression? Into horror movies! Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Leatherface were all, ultimately, taken down by that Final Girl. How cool is that? As I grew up, I began to fear more realistic threats and I found horror movies a safe haven to explore these feelings while simultaneously knowing that everything would be o.k. It’s just a movie. Horror movies almost always have a resolution and watching a girl overcome the most ridiculous and terrifying things thrown at her, made me feel as if I could also master a threatening situation. I find the real world to be a truly terrifying place where I have little to no control. While watching horror I can overcome fear, buck up and take the bad guy down. As an adult woman, I abhor showing weakness in the work place or social situations. I find that movies such as I Spit On Your Grave or Martyrs allow me to feel that very specific female frustration and just let it go; it’s very cathartic. So, why do I watch this stuff? Because I can. More than that, I truly, madly, deeply love the horror genre. I love everything about it. I love the adrenaline rush, the ethical questions posed, the awesome F/X and the absolute audacity that some people just don’t die and they don’t need to run to catch up to you.