Monday, December 2, 2013

A Theory About Horror Movies

a blogpost from March of this year that got a lot of comments...
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My older daughter was at a sleep over party last week where they watched a horror movie. It was a whole bunch of girls together and none of them seemed to be particularly affected by the film, except for my daughter who was pretty disturbed by the experience. We don't watch horror movies in our house and I think this was the first one she had ever seen. She's had bad dreams for a week now and has vowed never to watch another horror film. I'm not surprised that the movie affected her like this. I've only ever seen two horror films in my life and both of them really disturbed me, and I think I have a theory why it is that I (and possibly my daughter too) get so upset by these kinds of movies. 
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Sociopaths (bear with me here, I know what I'm doing) have no capacity for empathy for other human beings. They can't put themselves into the shoes of other people and therefore have no problem using those people as means to their own ends. There are degrees of sociopathy, of course, and not at all sociopaths are violent, but some are, serial killers for example. Just as 1-2% of the population have sociopathic tendencies, it's my theory that on your standard bell curve there must be 1-2% of the population who have too much empathy for other humans. If I'm correct and one of those people is me we are simply not capable of watching a slasher or horror film because we have excessive empathy for the victims in the picture. The first horror film I saw was Friday The Thirteenth which involves teenagers getting serially murdered by a maniac. I did not enjoy the experience of watching that movie at all. All around me people were laughing, hiding behind their hands etc. but I was utterly aghast  at the poor kids who were being slaughtered. I thought about them for weeks afterwards, wondering how they could have escaped their fate and the emotional damage their murder must have inflicted on their siblings and parents. This, I gather, is not what is supposed to happen in a horror film...what I think is meant to happen is that you get a quick thrill from the murder and then you move on to the next shocking development carried along by the narrative. You are not supposed to be so traumatised that you want to stop the movie. But I reckon if you are one of the 1-2% of us on this theoretical empathy scale you have trouble separating fiction and reality - for people like us suspending our disbelief isn't the problem, for us the problem is remembering that all these individuals in the movie are only pretending to get hurt, the blood isn't real, the knives aren't real and no one actually died here at all. 
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I think this may also be why I have so much trouble liking supposedly frothy middle of the road murder mystery shows like Elementary, Monk, Sherlock, CSI etc. - in a lot of these dramas the show begins with a violent murder (on Elementary it's often incredibly violent) and after that I don't really care how the mystery gets solved or what's going on in the personal lives of the detectives because I'm still reeling from the emotional trauma of the pre title murder sequence. (I also find it very bizarre that on American TV you can show someone getting their throat cut but you are still not allowed to say the word shit, a word which is in Chaucer.) In fact now that I think about it, maybe I dont have the problem at all. Maybe the problem is you. I actually wonder how anybody can enjoy programmes or films which begin with an act of shocking, lurid violence (often against young women). Why do you read torture porn novels and watch tv programmes like this? Why don't you care about the victims? How can you compartmentalize? What the hell is the matter with all of you?

87 comments:

Sheiler said...

I have the same damn reaction you do to horror films. I came to understand at friends' parties when I was maybe junior high and older that it was a laugh riot for them. Meanwhile I busied myself with making popcorn or being elsewhere in the house other than where the betamax player was being used.

I still feel this way about shows that start off with a murder and especially feel that way about the new Kevin Bacon vehicle (now serving at Wendy's!) whose name now escapes me. I HATE that show. There's no reason to watch it other than to witness followers of some cult ritually hunt people down and kill them. Followers might be the name of the show?

I always likened this aspect in me with my inability to eat food that had too much sauce or weird textures. I had a severely limited pallette. But I got older and now can eat Bleu Cheese and Chinese food. But still can't go there with the horror.

John McFetridge said...

Well, there's lots wrong with me. But I agree with you about horror and most crime fiction.

Lately I've seen everything through the prism of "divide and conquor," as a means to maintain the social order and I think that violence is acceptable because it keeps people hating each other and that keeps them (us) from uniting in any meaningful way.

But if people were able to say anything they wanted and love anyone they wanted, that might stir things up.

That Kevin Bacon show is called The Following and also stars the guy who played Marc Anthony in Rome. I forget his name, but he's really good.

When it comes to TV it's an entirely souless eneavor (on purpose, I think, it goes back to that not disrupting the social order). Silence of the Lambs led to Dexter which has led to The Following. If either of the two new movies about the White House under siege are a hit soon there will be a show about the president as a serial killer.

Dana King said...

I watch very few television crime shows, and no horror/slasher movies, for much the same reason you cite. They trivialize the violence, using it as a plot device to get the story gong and nothing more. They might as well be cozies, but on a more distasteful level.

(Full disclosure: I have found a guilty pleasure in watching DVDs of CASTLE, because of the great job the writers and actors did with the relationships between Castle and his family, Castle and the cops, and among the cops. We're near the end of Season 2 now. The stories aren't holding together quite as well, and the relationship stuff is getting pushed in directions that weaken what I liked originally. The Beloved Spouse may get to go on without me if Season 3 doesn't pick up.)

Cary Watson said...

I'm with you on slasher movies. I think having kids really turns one against that kind of film. You spend 90% of your thinking hours worrying about your kids and that empathy bleeds over into fictional kids and young adults. As silly as it sounds, I refused for years to see Raising Arizona because I couldn't stand the idea of babies, even fictional ones, being taken from their parents. I recently wrote a piece on zombie films that sort of covers the same ground as your post. Ghost stories I'm OK with, and there's a recent one from Australia that's brilliant called Lake Mungo. Check it out if you get a chance.

Alan said...

Adrian,I agree that the reign of slasher/horror "flics" and the laughter and indifference to their carnage are signs of social pathology. Many youths have been increasingly desensitized to violence and mayhem(include video games).Perhaps John is right, but I detect sexual repression as an important factor since often a beautiful young girl is the object of the lunatic's pathology..The girl is the very one who male's might feel would reject or did reject them.I exempt from socio pathology.I exempt Lugosi,Karloff,Lee and Cushing movies that still if I am alone scare the hell out of me.Somehow Norman Bates also sent chills down my spine and had me looking at doors.Yes violent times newscasts included produce lack of empathy.Best Alan

Deb Klemperer said...

I agree with you - I can't watch horror films.. Some other films too - I watched Thelma and Louise years ago, and was really freaked by some elements of the story, I was affected for weeks and weeks. I read some horrible crime novel recently, which I was way into before I realised it had a death porn line, and again I am still affected by the horrid images that are now in my mind, I wish I could wash them out of my head. Why do folks write such stuff?? And he dedicated the book to his supportive family!!!
Not all violence, or suggested violence affects me in this way - it depends on how it is handled, and how the characters in the film or book respond to it, I suppose. I don't always know how I will react, but I ALWAYS avoid horror films.

Matt said...

I agree, death is treated as a pretty trivial matter, especially considering how significant it is in our lives, when it happens. I actually dropped a famous mystery writer from my reading list when his '90s books inevitably dealt with horrible things happening to women (attractive women, of course). Not looking forward to the Hannibal TV show.

BTW, Adrian, new Q&A with you up at Serpent's Tail. I'd link it, but I'm sitting in a meeting, typing on my phone...

Monica J. said...

I've always reacted to horror flicks the same way. I watched "Dolls" waaaaay too young the same way your daughter did. I was traumatized for weeks. I kept waiting for my stuffed animals to start talking and come after me. I still hate horror films. All the blood and violence tends to make me ill, but it applies to graphic war movies as well. The more real it looks, the more it messes with my mind.

But oddly, I'm addicted (or was, CSI is rather lame these days) to the CSIs, Law and Orders, etc. TV violence has never bothered me. I like to see them figure out the puzzle and I like the reassurance that the justice system works, I think. But maybe that's why I hate the serial killer story arcs. They leave me angry and feeling manipulated.

Of course, I'm starting to find they all have the same plots over and over now.

Unknown said...

I always thought my intense reaction to violence was from experiencing violence and death in my '20's, but maybe not. Like several previous posters, I avoid any movie or TV show which shows any significant violence, but it works for us since my wife is Ms. SOUND OF MUSIC.

John

adrian mckinty said...

Sheiler

I've seen trailers for that Kevin Bacon programme. It seems like a new low. Utterly irredeemable. Bacon doesnt need the money surely.

adrian mckinty said...

John

Now that you have put that idea out there "the President is a serial killer" you realize that someone is going to write that and pitch it. I imagine it'll get picked up too on FX or AMC.

I still can't get over the opening 5 minutes of The Walking Dead when the lead shoots a little girl in the head. Thats the point where I stopped watching The Walking Dead so I have no idea whether little kids get shot all the time or whether that was a one off. I've read that The Walking Dead is THE most popular show in cable history.

Of coruse no one in Hollywood would ever dream of connecting The Walking Dead to a massacre where a bunch of little girls got shot in the head in real life.

adrian mckinty said...

Dana

I like that word distasteful. It IS distasteful. I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination and if you read my fiction (which I know you have (and MANY thanks again for the review))you'll know I don't mind swearing, sex and violence, but when the violence is so horrific and lurid and especially when that violence is directed against kids I just can't enjoy the piece after that.

adrian mckinty said...

Cary


Yeah its true. You worry so much about your kids and you also worry about other people's kids. When you see an adult abusing a child in public transport or whereever you feel yourself compelled to intervene but then you're supposed to not care too much when a bunch of kids gets pursued through the woods and murdered in a movie? I for one just can't turn it off like that.

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

I'm NOT saying that people who enjoy horror movies are sociopaths. I'm just saying that I can't enjoy them. I get it that its only a movie and its supposed to be fun but I just can't turn my empathy off.

These comments are interesting. I wonder if I'm wrong and actually the people who hate horror movies is a bigger % than the 1 or 2% that I've been guessing at.

adrian mckinty said...

Deb

You wouldnt believe the books I had to read when I was reviewing them for the newspaper. These were mainstream bestselling authors and the plots were routinely about young women getting stalked, tortured, raped etc.

I remember writing one review of a fairly bland mainstream bestseller where I just unleashed on the author's vulgarity. I really took this particular to task in forensic detail and of course the editor fearing a backlash from the publisher refused to print it.

John McFetridge said...

Someday the popularity of The Walking Dead will make for an intesting academic paper that no one will read (or someone in Hollywood will read and use for all the wrong reasons).

I watched a few episodes. The "human" characters were so poorly developed I almost didn't notice the wholesale slaughter.

But one thing I've always found very strange about that show is the poster - a divided highway leading out of a city. One side of the highway is crammed full of stopped cars and the other side is empty except for a sherrif on horseback heading into town Kind of cool.

But not one person thought about fleeing the city on the other side of the road?

And that really summed it up for me. It's okay to slaughter the "other," as Cary says, but don't break any rules. Social order. Even with zombies.

adrian mckinty said...

Matt

Its such lazy writing too. Lazy and lowest common denominator and vulgar and dumb. And best selling.

And speaking of vulgar...I was flipping through the channels the other night and I saw Patricia Cornwell on Piers Morgan talking about the Newton massacre. I immediately turned it off before my blood started to boil. But who knows maybe she was sensitive and insightful and didnt use the appearance to promote herself and her books...

adrian mckinty said...

John

The sound of music's great. Must have seen it 20 times.

adrian mckinty said...

John

I just did an image search for that poster:

http://collider.com/the-walking-dead-renewed-second-season-amc/

And yup that is totally ridiculous.

adrian mckinty said...

Matt

that question and answer session, here Incidentally I have zero recollection about doing this and some of those answers seem a little bit odd so it could be from years ago?

Alan said...

Adrian I think what galls me is the shear quantity of gratuitous violence that in this age of digitally enhanced media is seemingly omnipresent.They do not enhance the plot and often blur the line between fiction and reality as that mass slayer in Conn.U.S.A. demonstrated by watching endless hours of violent video games before committing his outrage.I am not advocating a "Code Of Decency", but some action ought to be taken to make the public aware that toxic substances not only in foods can do great harm. You are a very attentive parent. Best Alan

adrian mckinty said...

Alan

I dont know how we do it. I'd like the supporters of the First Amendment and the Second Amendment to appreciate that no right is absolute. But its not just that. Its being able to get the culture to ask hard questions of itself: not just the gun culture, but Hollywood too.

How is that showing a naked man or woman is absolutely forbidden on network television as is speaking such hearty anglo saxon words such as fuck or shit but you can show little girls getting shot in the head and people getting their throats cut?

trevor said...

Am a big fan of Scandinavian crime shows viz. The Bridge, Unit One,The Protectors, The Eagle, and the three series of The Killing. These are all scary to me and when my wife says 'i don't like it' i know the scary factor has just gone up a notch. Have just finished series 3 of The Killing. The politician-crime mix, not to mention the slower working through of the case, great screenplay and leading the viewer to consider different suspects one by one appeals greatly to me. Am I alone in this? I'd go to these any day long before horror flicks

adrian mckinty said...

Trev

I believe you, and I havent seen the Scandi version but I checked out the US version of The Killing and it starts with - sigh - a young woman being pursued through the woods by a mad killer. I think she is caught by the killer and then murdered? That was enough for me.

Craig said...

I like horror movies with the caveat that they need to be well-written. I also don't think the horror genre is confined to either the "Friday the 13th" slashers or the "SAW" gore porn that so many people associate it with.
I'd put horror movies like ALIEN, THE SHINING, PAN'S LABYRINTH and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN up against just about any other genre.
I've found it odd that people complain about violence in movies or video games but tend to ignore novels. If anything, a solid writer can really get into a reader's head in a story and produce an even stronger and more lasting impact than a movie can.

Macca said...

A bloke that I work with has the "over-empathise" gene to an almost ridiculous degree. He cannot even watch anything that depicts a person being embarrassed or humiliated, much less chopped into pieces. He had to walk out of Meet The Parents because of the way that Focker was being humiliated.

As you rightly say, the American TV network approach to sex, language and violence is nutso. On Survivor, if someone reveals a millilmetre of buttcrack or a scintilla of sideboob while clambering over an obstacle, it gets pixellated out.

seana graham said...

Wow. I had no idea that your fanbase was so squeamish. Belfast Sixpack, anyone?

Okay, before anyone gets their hackles up, I mute the rising music of ordinary suspense films on television because I can barely stand the tension. But I think your empathy scale is wrong. I have no interest in horror films, but I know a lot of people who like them and even study them, and they are definitely just as empathic as I am. More, really. I really think it has something to do with being able to detach from film as something that isn't the same as seeing something horrible happen in real life. I have no idea how they do it, but I know they do it somehow.

It's interesting, too, that for all people talk about desensitization, I've had several people tell me that they've become resensitized as they've gotten older or had kids or grandkids.

I will say that one of my favorite movies has a terrible scene about the shooting of a child, but what makes the difference is that the movie portrays it as a terrible shocking thing with moral consequences even for the person who didn't intend it. That movie? In Bruges.

adrian mckinty said...

Craig

Books are far far worse. You wouldnt believe some of the stuff I had to read when I was a reviewer: rape porn, torture porn - it was unbelievable. Of course these books had a right to be published but I refused to be part of the publicity machine that promoted them. Maybe thats when I got fired in the end.

4 brilliant examples of movies that I like there. Maybe my definitional statement was wrong if those indeed can be considered as horror films rather than thrillers. Its slasher films that I hate then. Alien, The Shining, Pan's Lab and Let The Right One In - brilliant stuff, but those aren't what I meant are they? Those are sophisticated films that get their thrills from tension and when the violence happens everyone is made to feel aghast at what has gone on.

I think of the 4 you mention the only one I'm not completely on board with was Pan's Labyrinth because the villain was literally a moustache twirling fascist monster - the target was a little too easy for me.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

I think I may be reevaluating my position on Martin McDonagh too. I saw 7 Psychopaths and I thought it was all surface and it made me think about some of the problems I had with In Bruges. He doesn't really make films about real people (unlike his plays) he makes films about people who seem to know that they are in a film.

adrian mckinty said...

Macca

Actually I have a little bit of that too. I can barely watch some episodes of the British version of The Office. The pub quiz episode I find to be excrutiating and I've given up on Ricky Gervais's recent work for similar reasons.

seana graham said...

I think you're wrong about In Bruges, but if we're going to make a distinction between classic horror and slasher films then, yeah--I can't stand that stuff. I hope that women get something out of this stuff, like don't go out with that scumbag, don't go down in the basement when the lights have inexplicably gone out, but really, don't we all know that already?

Macca said...

I am a bit similar with The Office myself. I loved it at the time, and I will sit down and watch a quarter of an hour if it bobs up on TV, but I cannot watch that scene where Tim is dancing with Dawn in the office, and Lee comes in and pushes him up against the wall. If I realise that scene is coming up, I will turn it off.

Mark English said...

Don't be put off your 1-2% theory, Adrian, I like it, and your audience here is certainly no cross-section.

Your sensitivities are certainly unusual. It's common enough to find gratuitous and explicit violence in films and so on unpleasantly shocking (and to condemn it), but you seem to go beyond this.

Also, I am acquainted with someone I suspect might be one of your non-violent sociopaths. Funny thing is, she has (according to my slightly fanciful hypothesis) learned to mimic caring behaviour. In my view, she overdoes it, but it generally seems to work for her.

Of course my cynical reading of her behaviour may well not be accurate.

[It occurs to me that she may read this, and I'd hate her to be offended, or worse, start having violent thoughts...]

She's actually a very nice person, now I come to think of it.

adrian mckinty said...

Mark

I've met a couple of sociopaths who I suspected were mimicing normal human emotional behaviour. Fortunately they were all non violent. I dont think sociopathy and violence necessarily go together, of course when they do we're all in trouble.

Gregrhi Love said...

I'm not sure what the hell is the matter with everyone else but my problem is my own mind and the memories that are locked there. I have been watching a lot of horror movies lately and I often do. Mainly it's to put my own life into perspective - after it all it is really hard for me to be afraid of anything so I go looking for something that will scare me, sort of like the old folk tale about the boy who left home to find out about the shivers.
However, I can't watch rape scenes in film (torture porn is not my thing at all) or read them in books unless I know the victim (male or female) is going to exact an equally pathological revenge (e.g. "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Sleepers"). The most disturbing show I can think of is COPS, especially when the focus is on female convicts.
My wife and I watch horror movies at night after our seven-year-old is asleep. They never affect my dreams which to me means they did not affect my subconscious so instead I have taken to going to sleep at night listening to the audiobook of "Dead I Well May Be" on my ipod (tucked beneath my pillow). Mr. Forsythe is a man I can relate to and he calms my nerves. Perhaps you know him.

Sheiler said...

Just wondering what is the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath. One exhibits a false charm and the other is devoid of it?

Also I believe Bacon lost his money thanks to Bernie Madoff.

My partner loves the Following. Which is how I know about it and know that I hate it. She's an interesting study on the right brain, according to some friends whose days jobs involve listening to people talk abot their problems.

adrian mckinty said...

Greg

Yeah I think yours is the normal reaction re horror films. I think I am in the minority and it seems to be me - not you - that has the abnormal reaction. Most people are able to say to themselves - this is just a stupid movie. For some reason I am not able to do that.

adrian mckinty said...

Sheiler

They've started showing ads for that show here in Australia now and there's no one I'd watch that thing in a million years.

Kevin Bacon does not need the money. His residuals alone must bring in a high 6 figures a year and his wife is bringing home the, er, bacon with the back end money on HER tv show.

John McFetridge said...

Well, you know, Kevin Bacon is just an actor who wants to work. Every pilot season a few dozen shows make it through from development and get their shot and a guy at Kevin Bacon's level gets to choose from a few of those.

What I want to know is, out of the five hundred shows that were pitched last year, how did this one get picked? Some idiot (like me) pitched a show about a social worker or a legal aid lawyer or... Well, hundreds of them. But the serial killer with the internet following got picked.

Why? Most shows fail, why make this show instead of all the others that might also fail but might at least be a little more, I don't know, noble failures?

seana graham said...

I don't think nobility figures into the equation, John. It's just, what's the surest thing? And of course a lot of people WILL check it out for the Kevin Bacon factor. So that does put it ahead of the pack in the beginning.

What I don't understand is why, with so many channels now, there isn't more room for shows to hang on a bit longer before they are axed. They have very little time to grow a following.

adrian mckinty said...

John, Seana

You guys might like this angry guy's review of The Impossible:

http://badassdigest.com/2012/12/05/movie-review-the-impossible-is-deplorable/

seana graham said...

Wow, that was pretty bad. I thought we had at least moved on to tokenism by now. At least a loyal Thai friend who sacrifices himself for the rich white people. I guess not.

Sheiler said...

I think I would really love seeing a Thai film based in New York revolving around 9/11 events but showing only Thai people. Depending on how it was made.

I rue the day that "Life" was cancelled - very intelligent and interesting series about wrongly accused cop who did time before being let out and having his life crash in completely. And also "the Riches" even though Adrian I think you're not an Eddie Izzard fan.

John McFetridge said...

Pretty much what I expected The Impossible to be. I'd heard that line about it being a movie about some people who lose their luggage.

Sheiler, are you being sarcastic about probably liking a Thai film about 9/11?

Seana, the thing is, there is no "surest" TV show. Especially at the point of pitching. One may have a 1 in 98 chance and the next a 1 in 99. Why chose one over the other?

The TV business is populated by people whose number one job is to please their boss - and they're not given enough information to ever be sure what will please the (often inconsistent) boss so there's always a lot of insecurity and doubt. It's a fairly common management strategy, isn't it? It's certainly a good way to keep people feeling powerless (that, and they get fired pretty regularly).

So, we always fall back on William Goldman's, "Nobody knows nothing," and this idea that it's just about the money.

But maybe we need to amend Goldman's line to, "Nobody knows nothing, but serial killers sell and we love the status quo."


John Halbrook said...

You certainly succeeded in starting an interesting conversation, Adrian, which is what I suspect you wanted to do. I have similar sensitivities, what should you call them, empathy problems? Are we Emopaths? It put serious holes in my movie going.

Lester Carthan said...

I hope Adrian's theory isn't proven true because if it is it opens up a whole can of worms. If you have people that are naturally born saints or good then you are going to have people who are naturally born monsters. Then good becomes synonymous with pure and evil becomes synonymous with impure then the next thing you know you have in-groups of pure people eliminating out-groups of impure people. This would in theory be worse than using religion as an excuse for genocides because in theory once the science into explaining rather than mapping the human genome progresses you can actually prove who is good and evil or rather who has and doesn’t have the empathy gene and whether or not that gene is activated.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I'm with you on the slasher movies, but really because I find them completely moronic. My wife, and it seems many others, love The Following. I lasted about 10 minutes, before I threw in the towel. Same thing with Revenge, and all the others. Network TV is a joke.

seana graham said...

I don't think an empathic response necessarily is equivalent to a saintly response, Lester. In fact, I was just reading a novel by Arthur Phillips in which the conman is described as a super empathizer,which makes hims that much more able to size up his victims.

Picklenose said...

I think there are many more empathetic people than you realize. However, different things trigger the empathetic response. I enjoy mystery shows for the thrill of seeing how the puzzles are put together and solved. I kind of ignore the violence and concentrate on the why it happens and how it is stopped. Interestingly however, the violence in books can really affect me to point where I have to put a novel down for a day or two because of the pain. I felt the pain for days as I read Hidden River. I am currently reading Freshwater Road, a story about the American civil rights movement and the scenes where activists are beaten really shake me up. Even emotional abuse can be hard to take when I am reading and visualizing it.
As an aside, I don't really do horror much because so much of it is so pointless. What is the use of sitting through some blood and guts when all you get is the chance to see even more blood and guts. (This may explain how I could sacrifice animals and do necropsies in my research work, but would carry a spider outside and refuse to use mouse traps.

adrian mckinty said...

John

Empathetically challenged?

adrian mckinty said...

Lester

Well I dont want to bring evil into it. I've actually heard the reverse argument being made that but for the cathartic release of horror films, video games etc. sociopaths would commit even more violence.

I dont really buy that argument but its out there.

adrian mckinty said...

Sean

I dont even have the patience to sit through the so called smart ones like cabin in the woods. Maybe its good. I will never know.

adrian mckinty said...

Picklenose

Yes I think it can be worse from books. Blood Meridian traumatised me for years. I think its a masterpiece but maybe it should come with some kind of warning label or something.

I remember going to Yad Vashem when I lived in Jerusalem. I lasted about 2 minutes in that place.

Sheiler said...

John, I was being half-in, half-out of sarcasm. Just a different perspective is something I welcome. But I know it would never happen. OK, that makes me a sociopath!

Also, shameless plug, we're running an Indiegogo campaign to raise some funds to make 2nd illustrated book and a tv pilot. Kids science humor. The video is funky in terms of production but only because my computer broke. And, I'm more of a wisenheimer than a proper video editor. http://igg.me/at/profblue/x/2779899

staying healthy said...

i just get nightmares after seeing horror movies.

bookwitch said...

For my son's 14th birthday party I offered up the original Assault on Precinct 13, which I discovered was an 18 rated film... But I felt it was age appropriate for this audience.
However, when son was six he had to sleep in our bed for a week due to something he had seen at school. I went in to ask the head what on earth they had shown the children. It turned out to be a film from the fire brigade about not playing with matches.
So you never know what will scare children.

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Mark said...

I know I am a complete stranger so I hope you don't mind my posting on your blog, but I found your theory compelling. I am a 37 year old man and a Texan so I'm supposed to be tough, I guess, but I have the exact same feeling about horror films and the CSI-like shows that you do. I am not a squeemish person, was a biology major in college, did all sorts of dissections, blood and guts don't bother me at all, but watching someone be terrorized, even when I know it is fiction, affects me profoundly, sometimes for weeks afterwards. I don't understand how people can enjoy that, I worry about the mental health of the kind of person who does enjoy making or watching such media. Here in America people get so up in arms about sex in the media and yet so much of this violence is given a pass. I would much rather deal with my daughter accidentally seeing a depiction of a man and a woman, or a man and a man or woman and a woman for that matter, having loving, consensual sex, than seeing a woman get tortured, terrorized, and murdered. I can explain the sex as something normal when done between two adults who care about each other and protect their physical and emotional health, but even "it's just a movie" never satisfies me when it comes to the violence and gore, so I don't know how to explain it to my 6 year old daughter.

Mark said...

I should also add that I don't completely give sex a free pass. I am deeply disturbed by the media and free market's contribution to increasing sexualization of younger and younger people. Casual sex, especially between teens who haven't fully formed their identities and self esteems yet, can be a very unhealthy thing, but media gives the idea that it is what you are supposed to be doing. Giving every kid a phone with a camera on it when they are become preteens only makes this worse, and girls end up sexting pictures of themselves that spread like wildfire and have led to girls being humilated. I have canceled cable at my house partly because it is such an easy passive conduit for all these violent and/or sexualized images. Having less than 10 channels, and knowing they have to at least meet govt standards of decency (better than nothing) for broadcast channels makes keeping up on which shows I should allow or forbid my daughter to watch a little easier.

adrian mckinty said...

Mark

I heard Peter Dinklage being interviewed on NPR a year or two ago and the interviewer was banging on about the nudity in Game of Thrones and at the end of interview Dinklage reflects upon the sad fact that people get so worked up about nudity but no one seems to care less about the violence when in a healthy society it really should be the other way around. Or both.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll weigh in on the sex side of the discussion. I was astonished some time ago when watching an episode of the Inspector Montalbano television series on DVD to see Livia and Salvo sitting in bed talking the way real men and women sit in bed talking: without the nonsense of the woman pulling up the sheet to cover her breasts (which is today's equivalent of couples always wearing pajamas, sleeping in separate beds, and keeping at least one foot on the floor when in the bedroom).

Would such a scene appear on American television or even in an American movie? I think not. Even where partial or complete nudity is shown, it will be leering and salacious or else titillating. The Montalbano scene was just so ... natural. Sure, the actress had beautiful breasts, but you know what? It was nice to able to enjoy seeing them without being made to leer at them. Many moviemakers, at least in America, don't seem to know the difference.
====================
" Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
Detectives Beyond Borders
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Breasts are tricky though aren't they? I've found myself occasionally watching an art movie with a French or other European actress topless in bed smoking and having a conversation and then it'll cut to the next scene and I'll find I have no idea whats going on because I didnt read the subtitles and spent the whole thing staring at the woman...

Peter Rozovsky said...

That's what the stop and rewind buttons are for.

Rob James said...

I had a discussion with a Year 10 class about this recently.
They all love slasher movies and things like the SAW series.
I love to be scared but I prefer movies like The Haunting, The Others and the ghost stories of MR James and Algernon Blackwood. I like to be scared by my own imaginings rather than what is explicitly demonstrated to me.
I think we are becoming, as a society, more prurient and less able to focus so the idea of a film telling you 'this is the scary bit' and showing you why it is supposed to be scary fulfils both ideas.

Rob James said...

If you want real scares, this traumatised me as kid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNPMYRlvySY

adrian mckinty said...

Rob

Oh yes remember it well. In fact when I went it over there I stopped it after three seconds. That shit is terrifying. It was always on on Saturday mornings before Tiswas for Chrissake or just after Magpie or something.

You're lucky you never got this one though:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTWXDY1lJMY

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

the pause button...

oh yeah to read the ST...

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

I find that the pause button helps me to gather my thoughts and follow the plot thread, yes.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I was watching Trading Places last night and if you know the movie you'll know where the DVR pause button got a work out.

Rob James said...

Jesus. Central Office of Information does Taxi Driver

Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, go on. Trading Places is in English. You don't need subtitles for that..

PJ Garcia said...

Adrian - People today watch scary movies to frighten themselves for the thrill (I'm not one who does). It's not a new phenomena. A few hundred years ago, people took their children to the festival-like atmosphere at the beheadings or hangings on Tower Hill. You express outrage at people who watch murder mysteries. I've read both "Dead I Well May Be" and "The Dead Yard" and found both to be extremely violent, full of murder and mayhem, and - yes - even the brutal killing of women. Sherlock is a nursery story compared to those. So, when you ask your last question, "What the hell is the matter with you?", my response is, "Ask whoever wrote this."

adrian mckinty said...

PJ

I'm not sure you quite got the ironic tone of the last paragraph of the blog. I'm from the British Isles so pretty much everything I write is in a tone of self mocking irony. Sorry if that doesnt always quite translate across the Atlantic...

It also might be helpful if you read the comment thread before jumping in there with a comment which might make you look a bit foolish. Just a thought...

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

But you might need the pause for Jamie Lee Curtis getting her kit off.

Brendan O'Leary said...

I don't need a video - that scene where she whips the jumper over her head is indelibly imprinted on my memory.

I don't like horror movies because they give me nightmares.

I used to worry about the scores of nameless henchmen who had to die in action movies but Austin Powers addressed that issue.

adrian mckinty said...

Brendan

I remember Terry Pratchett coming to talk to the University of Warwick Science Fiction Society and one of the things he brought up back then (1989?) was the death of the nameless henchmen and how it used to bother him. He went to right Guards! Guards! which also addressed that issue.

Peter Rozovsky said...

But you might need the pause for Jamie Lee Curtis getting her kit off.

Adrian, you missed the tone of ironic self-mockery in my comment. Either that, or I missed it in yours.

I looked the scene up online, and seeing her take off that David Johansen wig was only a prelude to what came next.

PJ Garcia said...

Adrian - Sorry, you must have missed the irony of my comment...that's really unfortunate.

adrian mckinty said...

Peter

if you do a google image search on True Lies about 2/3 of everything that comes up is the paused scene where Jamie Lee Curtis gets her kit off.

Men are pretty creepy. And yup that includes me.

adrian mckinty said...

PJ

Well played, sir, well played...

Peter Rozovsky said...

No, search engines are pretty creepy. Sure, I did a search for "Trading Places" and "breasts," bit ----le let me do it.

seana graham said...

Yes, men are creepy. Luckily, their entertainment value has kept us from eliminating them.

For now.

Martha said...

I have that same "What the hell is the matter with all of you?" feeling about freeways. Eight lanes of 80mph traffic and everyone seems to feel fine about it, but to me, to not think it's crazy dangerous and scary is not rational.

adrian mckinty said...

Martha

I'm ok on freeways but the on ramps and exit ramps terrify the living crap out of me.

adrian mckinty said...

Seana

And then the sentient robots will replace all of us.

seana graham said...

That will be creepy too, but gradual, so we won't really notice.