I have to admit something. Something that, with me being a huge horror fan, you wouldn't think would happen to me. I have only ever found one horror film scary. Nothing has managed to create the feeling of relelntless terror and fear that I used to get watching this movie. I will never forget walking around our local video store (who always seemed to store the horror movies where children couldn't reach them) and seeing a pale white mask on the cover of a film called Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. I then saw the trailer for the film, and remember how scared I got just by the music alone. I even remember what video label I saw the trailer on (it was Braveworld) even though I can't remember the name of the film I was watching. Anytime from that moment on I saw I had rented a Braveworld video, I would forgo the trailers to avoid putting myself through nearly having a heart attack (which is what it felt like whenever that damn theme would begin).
Move forward a few years, and my family recieved a load of videos, and many of them contained two horror films which had been recorded from when they were shown on TV. One of them had John Carpenter's Halloween and The Alchemist on it. My stepfather, who seemed to enjoy stopping me doing things I would enjoy, told my mum not to let me watch Halloween as it was 'supernatural' (this was a sure-fire way of making my mum not allow me to watch a film, as she is Christian). Amazingly though, when my stepfather went out and my mum was cleaning, I asked if I could watch Halloween, and to my surprise she said yes (perhaps me telling her it was no worse than Friday the 13th part 6, where Jason is obviously a reanimated corpse went someway to allowing this). As soon as that sparse theme began playing, my heart pounded in my ears and I felt feint. I had heard metal bands that made me sit up and feel nervous, such as Kreator (Toxic Trace), Venom (In League with Satan), Slayer (the entire Hell Awaits album) and Celtic Frost (The Usurper), but never had a single instrument made me feel so fearful. I managed to watch the whole film, but did make numerous trips to the bottom of the stairs to ask my mum if she was ok.
John Carpenter's Halloween scared me for many years. It made me anxious. I would walk up stairs, jumping the last two steps and slam my door behind me. I would refuse to look out of my window at night, thinking I would see a man in that pale blank mask that allowed me to project my fear upon. Each year, on October 31st, I would watch the original Halloween. It was tradition, and it was damned fun being scared. It was only last Halloween, after viewing the film when it was shown at our local cinema that the fear went away.
It then made me realise how disappointed I am that no other horror film has managed to have that effect on me. I began asking myself questions. Why do I watch horror if it doesn't scare me? To answer this, I began my quest to watch different types of horror film. Not just the slashers/gore fests/Troma films I had grown up with. I explored Hammer, Italian cinema and German splatter fests. I watched possession films, films about hauntings, films about true to life murders. I also noticed how these films made me feel very different emotions. While splatter films made me laugh and cheer at the sheer blood and guts they provided, Hammer instilled a very strong feeling of dread, of something very wrong on screen. Italian Cinema was unnerving because of its non-linear storytelling and operatic violence. The supernatural films made me feel uneasy, again feeling like I was watching something that I should not be (and it is arguable that this could be because of the way my mum reacted to supernatural films throughout my childhood).
It then came to me. Horror isn't there just to scare you. Horror is an umbrella term. Not only can it scare you, it can make you feel uneasy, disgust you, provoke anger, disgust as well as joy, excitement, stimulation, empathy, humour and shock. It encompasses so many different emotions, and gives us a release of things that might be playing on our minds. It also allows us to stare death, monsters and pure evil in the face safely and without harm.
What other film genre can stir up so many emotions?