Horror Movies: Why We Watch Them

Movies: Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal Anchor Tense ‘Prisoners’


Then I met my best friend. I can’t remember the first horror movie she talked me into seeing, but we had such a good time trying to scare each other during and after the movie that I decided to give the genre another chance. While I still don’t care for slasher movies, the supernatural ones get my blood pumping and my adrenaline going. I think the key to not letting myself get freaked out is to remember that while the film may claim to be a true story or may seem realistic, it’s only a movie. Even the “true story” films have to add drama to make it exciting, and many directors take great liberties with the real events. I remember watching The Blair Witch Project in the theater in 1999. As I had been lost in the woods in the dark before, the movie terrified me. Years later, when I was teaching at a community college, I showed the movie to my class on Halloween. Several students fell asleep and the ones who stayed awake through the whole thing were wholly not scared . Sure, what scares each person is going to be different, and the hand-held filming of The Blair Witch Project can’t hold much of a candle to the special effects-heavy flicks that are being made today. But why was I (still) so scared of Blair Witch? Why do I go pay good money to see scary movies? Why does anyone? The following list is compromised of horror movies that I have seen in the last year or so. Each movie is given a personal Scare Factor score (1 through 5) and is followed up with theories and research about why folks may find this film attractive.

MORE, AFTER THE JUMP … The red whistle is not a red herring. Instead, that damn missing whistle acts as a perfect talisman for the movie itself. Prisoners begins emitting piercing psychic cries as the parents spin out of control and the mysteries thicken and the hours drag on. Statistically speaking, things dont look good for missing children after the first couple of days.Keller Dover (Jackman) is a survivalist who believes in being prepared but how do you prepare yourself or your family for the worst nightmares? When a local ace detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) can’t make a case stick against the man in the RV (Paul Dano, in greasy/creepy mode) Keller decides to take the law into his own hands, plunging both families and a third one (Dano and his aunt played by Melissa Leo) into an increasingly gruesome nightmare from which its uncertain that any of them will emerge with their souls intact. Prisoners will undoubtedly remind a lot of people of David Fincher’s Zodiac(2007), another film that invites you to lose your mind over Jake Gyllenhaal’s soulful handsomeness while Jake Gyllenhaal loses his mind over maddening puzzles, dropped like poisoned crumbs from serial killers. (Has any actor ever so expertly conveyed “needs a hug” “needs to be left alone” “needs to be cooperated with” or “needs to be kissed”as Jake at his finest. I mean… (not a still from Prisoners) come on. It’s those inescapably big pleading eyes you can get all but lost in. (But enough about my boyfriend.) These Zodiac comparisons are merely cosmetic. The film it most calls to mind deep in the marrow is actually Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (2003), both for the starry miserable cast (beloved faces in pain everywhere you look!) and the moral rot of “is that my daughter in theeeerrrrrre?” parental grief and intimations of long ago child abuse. Prisoners also shares with Mystic River a barely noticeable thin sheen of flop sweat, as if every moment could tip over into the risibly pretentious, weighed down by the self-regard of High Art treatment of Low Brow genres.