loaded question: do you like scary movies?

Our loaded question for this Halloween weekend is prompted by an essay in the Chicago Tribune by Nina Metz about scary movies. Some of us like them:

Does watching scary movies — experiencing fear in a controlled setting — help people to deal with fear in real life? “That’s the other main arm of my research,” said University of Chicago’s [Coltan] Scrivner. “My colleagues and I had this idea that if you engage in scary play frequently, it helps you build certain cognitive and emotional skills that you can then — at least some people seem to be able to — translate them into other areas of their lives.”

In other words, watching horror allows you to rehearse or practice feeling anxious and afraid. And to practice not being paralyzed by these feelings. It’s not that you’re learning the specifics of how to escape Michael Myers in one of the “Halloween” films, Scrivner said, “but that you’re learning how to think and act when you’re feeling anxious.” In fact some people, he found, have been seeking out scary movies specifically as a way to cope with anxieties caused by the pandemic, even as many people — with good reason — try to avoid anxiety.

Some of us don’t like scary movies. As Metz says about herself:

I cannot watch scary movies. I know my limits. For me, fully make-believe scenarios conjure lasting fears, which is why I am forever fascinated that plenty of audiences have the opposite reaction.

For me, I don’t like most of the movies Hollywood considers scary — such as most of what is labeled “horror” — primarily because I simply don’t find that sort of thing scary. When I do find a movie genuinely unsettling in ways that keep me away at night, it will be something like the 2004 film Open Water [pictured | Prime US | Prime UK | Netflix UK], about a couple forgotten in the middle of the ocean when their scuba-diving outing accidentally leaves them behind; I find it a terrifying reminder of just how big our planet is and how tiny and fragile we are as beings walking upon it. Or Threads [Prime US | dvd UK], the 1983 BBC docudrama about nuclear war that is still the scariest film I’ve ever seen; it’s all about how fragile our civilization is, and how it could be disrupted it beyond all recognition.

Do you like scary movies? If so, why? If not, why not?

(You can also discuss this at Substack or Patreon, if you prefer. You don’t need to be a paying subscriber to comment, but you will need to register with either site to do so.)

The Question of the Weekend experiment I (re)started back in July seems to be going well, so I’m going to continue it indefinitely. But I’m changing the name of the feature to Loaded Question, just so that it doesn’t feel dated once Monday arrives.

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