“Fear isn’t so difficult to understand. After all, weren’t we all frightened as children? Nothing has changed since Little Red Riding Hood faced the big bad wolf. What frightens us today is exactly the same sort of thing that frightened us yesterday. It’s just a different wolf. This fright complex is rooted in every individual.”
Halloween is this Thursday and all the little kids will be going door to door, collecting candy from random strangers. The bigger kids might dress up for a costume party or two, but for homebodies, the best Halloween treat is to curl up with an extra scary movie. And one of the biggest legends of the horror genre has to be Sir Alfred Hitchcock.
He was originally an English film director and producer, but he really started making a name for himself when he moved to Hollywood and truly defined a genre. He is best known for such films as Rear Window, Psycho and The Birds, as well as the iconic Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series. If you wanted to be frightened, Hitchcock knew how to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.
And he’s right. While we may have all been more easily frightened as children — you might have been scared of the dark or the monsters under the bed — but that same primal fear persists in us as adults. By tapping into that most fundamental of human emotions, we cringe, we tense up, and we jump out of our seats. It’s, as he says, just a different wolf.
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
As scary as scary movies may be, the actual moment when the monster leaps out from behind the shadows isn’t nearly as terrifying as the moments leading up to it. This is a sentiment echoed by author Stephen King when he spoke about the three types of terror. You don’t even need the monster to be there; you just need to be fearful of his possible appearance.
To be fair, with the exception of classics like Psycho and The Exorcist, my favorite horror movies all came from the 80s and 90s. These were all slasher flicks that focused heavily on gore and blood, but some of the most memorable characters came out of that tradition: Freddy Kreuger killed you in your sleep. Chucky was a possessed doll. And the Leprechaun series was just gory for the sake of being gory.
“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”
Horror movies, much like other forms of fiction, will continue to serve a very important purpose in our society. They allow us to live vicariously through the action depicted on the screen, experiencing a broad range of emotions and life-threatening situations, all while posing no real risk or danger. We can sit on the couch and safely munch on our buttered popcorn as Mr. Hitchcock makes us suffer. And we all love him for it.