Thursday, June 17, 2010

Horror is Fun, but Hell is True Terror

If you really think about it, it’s really strange that “horror” is a genre of fiction.  I mean it’s kind of funny that we are entertained by being disturbed, shocked, horrified, and disgusted.  Why do we like getting scared?  There something masochistic about being thrilled by making ourselves afraid.

I remember back when I was eleven years old, when a classmate lent me this Goosebumps book:
I would not really consider R.L. Stine’s popular (at least, during my childhood in the 90’s) Goosebumps book series as part of the “horror” genre.  It was more of semi-“soft core horror” (no such genre, I made it up.  But you get the point) or fantasy, with trademark twists – a sort of Twilight Zone for kids.  Speaking of Twilight Zone, I really love that vintage TV show and probably my most favorite ever.  Thank God for the reruns in Studio 23 back then.  The storytelling and the twists were first rate, but the show also sometimes (or often) freaked me out – sometimes, frozen from mild jitters – considering the show’s schedule was late at night and I was still about twelve or thirteen.  Anyway, back to being eleven and this particular Goosebumps book.  Okay, so there, there was no Goosebumps story that scared me stiff at all.  I loved the series back then and found Stine’s stories entertaining but not really scary.  Then I read “the Headless Ghost.”  And it was the first book (and so far, only, I think) that made me scared – scared in a good entertained way.  But, nonetheless, made me scared stiff.  Maybe it was because I read it late at night and it had that “late night”-mystique.  Maybe it was because of the spooky storytelling technique and the twists that I was never ever expecting.  Or maybe because being eleven, I was not yet really out of the “easy-to-scare” gullibility of childhood.

As I grew up as lover of books and tales, I encountered authors like Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe that wrote some pretty good entertaining horror or other disturbing stories.  But though some such stories freaked me out a bit, I was never scared.  I also had read some freaky non-fiction about creepy psychological cases that freaked me out a bit, but never scared.   I guess, I got “hardened.”  Goosebumps No. 37 “The Headless Ghost” was something special.  Sure, I may find it cheesy if I read it again now and if I compared it to the other literatures of real horror it would come up tame and pale.   But it was really the only book that scared me stiff in my lifetime.   As for the movies, well, let us say they can be more effective to scare me (anybody) since they are more, uhm, graphic.

My father had always been a movie lover.  And since I was a baby, I was exposed to plenty of movies (and I grew to love watching flicks, too) because I was usually tagging along when my parents watch movies in the cinema or TV.  Even if they’re horror movies.  I could remember two movies that frightened me big time when I was a kid. 
They were about this guy…
 …and this guy.
                I get to watch those movies again (in cable) when I was a little bit older.  Of course, they can’t scare me by that time, but as a toddler when I first saw them, I was definitely scared.   Come on, any toddler would be scared.   But as a child grows older, the child becomes braver and braver.
                This guy also freaked me out… but not to the point I was scared stiff.  The movie was more of action anyway and not really horrifying.  
By that time, I was over getting scared silly by horror movies.  Then in high school, I saw this classic horror movie – un-cut version – in cable.
Then again, I guess I can still be freaked out big time by some horror movies.  It was late at night again when I watched it (what’s this thing with late night-mystique?).  Up to now, I don’t dare watch it again (note: I also had seen that “Emily Rose” movie and that prologue to the Exorcist but they were really not that scary, though still freaky).  The possessed Linda Blair gives me the creeps.  And, no, I would not post that picture here! 
And let’s not start talking about those popular Japanese horror films...

Now, again the question, “Why are we entertained by horror?”  Well, according to a research, we get a bit of a dose of phenylethylamine – the pleasant chemical nerve reaction when we “fall in love” or get romantic highs (which this generation is addicted to) – when we feel fear and excitement.  So we are semi-“in love” state when we get scared (so that's why being afraid and being "in love" have the same symptoms).  That’s probably the reason we are entertained by horror.  We are just biologically and psychologically designed to be, in one way or another, pleasured by fear.  So we give ourselves thrills by reading horror books, by watching horror films, by riding horror rides or roller coasters, by doing some dangerous life-risking hobby or activity like bungee jumping or sky-diving, and, those really hard core fear-phenylethylamine junkies, really enjoy real life violence or gunfights or wars – reminds me of a George Washington quote, “I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.”  Fear and danger gives a certain type of high that even in the risk of life, humans can find some pleasure in it.  Probably this human trait is also a reason of such cases like pyromania.    

However, not all of us are past “fear from entertainment” highs and are into “real life life-threatening danger” highs; just like toddlers are not at all entertained by fear from Aliens and Freddy-esque slashers.  In fact in real-life dangerous scenarios - like being shot under fire in combat or a real life sociopathic killer is coming after you - getting scared stiff is not harmless and fun anymore as it is in the case with entertainment, but getting scared stiff is actually fatal since to be able to think and move under pressure is a necessity to survive in these scenarios.  Being frozen in fear by then would mean getting killed.  In real life, there are things that are so terrifying that, I think, that phenylethylamine are never released in our minds and not fun at all.    
                The most intense emotion of terror I had felt ever was because of this…

                Horror in fiction is fun and entertaining.  But the reality of Hell is actually so terrifying.     Yup, hell in this world is hell enough, but nothing horrifying compares to the real Hell.  An eternity of burning.  Never ending suffering.  And because of Man’s sin, Man is destined to that fate. 

                But this fear of Hell is sometimes a sign that God has opened someone’s eyes; that one realizes the consequence of sin.  And when this someone ultimately repents and surrender to God, he or she would completely appreciate the grace he or she received. Because he or she can compare the terrifying destination of eternal punishment that he or she was supposed to go with the undeserving salvation and ticket to Paradise from God he or she was given instead.  And with fear of Hell now reduced to a mere vague feeling of the past as a reference for the joy now felt, it would be replaced with a real fear of God, and fear in God alone.  With this exclusive fear in God established, headless ghosts to demon-possessed creatures to, even, physical death are not worth fearing anymore.   

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We [perhaps subconciously,but sometimes conciously] can desire things we also fear. We want to see death,corpses,monsters-from the first Dracula movies in silent film days,women have found vampires erotic. Even more so today.Hell holds the attraction of no rules,sin,wickedness,and being an endless Slave/Bondage/Torture orgy.