Interest in horror defined by expectations

I will finally admit that there is an appeal to things that go bump in the night. As a long-standing oppositionist of horror films, TV shows and books, my eventual experiences with this genre come with both good and bad critiques. 

But first I need to rewind and revisit why I had such a sore dislike for this franchise.

My first experience with horror occurred as a child because I really wanted to watch scary movies. My parents wouldn’t let me and being a relatively good kid, I didn’t try to watch anything behind their backs. So when I was old enough to beg my parents into letting me watch a scary movie, I was expecting twisted story lines, strong characters and brilliant logic tying it all together.    

Maybe I shouldn’t have started off with “The Grudge 2.” It just did not exceed or meet my expectations. I even saw it in theaters, hoping the big screen and enhanced audio would boost my viewing experience. 

Maybe it was the over-the-top guttural noises that escaped from the actual grudge (the weird creature that is the monster of the movie) and its victims that freaked other people out, but honestly I just thought it was weird.

What I learned from the scary movies I watched was that they thrive on haphazardly put-together story lines and cheap thrills. That’s how I felt when I watched “The Grudge 2.” 

I was expecting to be amazed by how the plot would be pieced together, but instead, it ended up being full of superficial gags and awkward attempts at horror. Sure it seemed scary at the time, but when I thought about it later, the noise that the creature made — called a “death rattle” — sounded superficial and the terror it invoked was not enduring. 

I feel like the fear that comes with horror should linger rather than evaporate within a few seconds.

“The Ring” is another example of a scary movie that people raved about but I did not enjoy. Although it did manage to scare me, I was not impressed by the plot. 

There were too many loose ends and there wasn’t a clear explanation of the supernatural properties of the videotape that killed those who watched it. Although the movie does explain the history of where the videotape came from, it still left me with a lot of unanswered questions. 

Maybe my imagination set the bar too high for horror, but I definitely expected the movie to come with a stronger explanation.

I used to think the best horror movies would be the ones that were the most realistic. A movie that manages to create a plot that is fictional but still approximates reality to a certain degree is probably more frightening than the most imaginative ideas. 

In a way, a movie that is more realistic can leave more to the imagination than one that isn’t. A movie that can get inside a person’s head and make them believe that what happened in the movie could actually happen in real life is pretty scary.

Except for some reason, movies that were pretty close to reality still didn’t scare me. 

My experiences with the franchise were poor representations of horror and I didn’t find anything I liked until I came upon the TV show “American Horror Story,” which managed to scare and impress me simultaneously.

What I like the most about “American Horror Story” is that unlike most scary movies, TV shows or even books I have read, it explains everything. There aren’t random story lines thrown in there just for a shock factor. It comes together very cohesively and new ideas aren’t constantly being introduced and forgotten. 

Stories are explained, characters are developed and loose ends are tied up.

Although it’s completely unrealistic (unless you believe in ghosts and other supernatural phenomenon), it still manages to convince the viewer that it could happen to them. Because it’s questionable whether the main character from season one is going crazy, it leaves room for interpretation as to whether the spirits she is seeing are real or if she is just having visions.

Either way, going crazy and having visions is very real and could happen to a normal person and that’s what’s so frightening and appealing about well-made scary movies and TV shows. Being put in the shoes of the character in the story bridges gaps between the viewer and the show, which makes everything feel real and all the more frightening.

I used to think the appeal of horror was in something being so unrealistic, we knew it could never happen. 

However, I now think the true appeal is the idea of something being terrifying yet relatable that keeps us coming back for more.

Sehar is a junior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]