By SHARON K. GILBERT
October 25, 2007
WHAT does it mean to be ‘horrified’? Origins of the word are rooted in Old English, French, and Latin — particuarly, horrere, a Latin verb that means ‘to shudder or bristle with fear’ — and can even mean ‘hairy’ (which may explain those Japanese horror films). Certainly, fear makes our hair stand on end (on our arms at least — a phenomenon called ‘gooseflesh’ or ‘goosebumps’). Hearts beat more quickly; breathing rates increase, and we – the benumbed and pitiable theater-goers – stare at the film screen, ignoring all physiological signals warning us to leave. Why are we addicted to fear?
The human appetite for gore and blood is as old as mankind. Beginning with Cain and Abel, the first murderer and his victim, blood stains our history. Man is not born in innocence — we are born in sin, and we soon develop a massive need for violence. In service to their fallen angel ‘gods’, pre-flood mankind offered up their women and their lives as sacrifices. Post-flood society soon fell back into old patterns — offering children to Molech (passing them through the fire) and engaging in blood and sex rituals meant to gain power or appease angry deities (the fallen angels of old).
In modern times, such rituals take place in dark places — some hidden fro prying eyes within deep caverns or mystic hallways — others outfitted with rows of comfy chairs with drink holders. That’s right. Bloodletting and ritualistic sacrifice on theater screens may well satisfy a hungry ‘god’ just as much. Let me tell you why.
Mind-control experts have long known that fear-based trauma in the human psyche acts to break down our wills. Voyeuristic participation in the on-screen murder, torture, dismemberment, etc. of an innocent snaps barriers and sets up thresholds. Think back to ‘horror’ films of the 1960s. Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ had very little blood, but it chilled moviegoers’ spines and made millions of women switch from showers to baths. Today’s thrillers (such as ‘Saw’ and ‘Wolf Creek’) no longer suggest evil — they are evil, and they seem to take pride in showing it. Twisted villains engage in sexual, sado-masochism that would have forced the closure of a 1960s theater, but instead propels today’s films to the top of the boxoffice list.
Music and ambient sounds — some barely perceptible — combine with visual clues to heighten our sensitivities while lulling our left-brain (reasoning) to sleep. The end result is a kind of hypnotic state, which accepts instruction with very little objection. On screen, we see a crazed killer dismembering a living female — within our minds, an unnoticed message whispers ‘she likes it — isn’t this fun?’. Teens identify with killers more than victims — seeing themselves as empowered. Devils dance upon our corpus callosums, delighting in our mental bloodletting and virtual sacrifices. Violence begets more violence, and this week’s torture film soon seems tame to our seared brains — higher doses of fear and empowerment come only from increased pain (now perceived as pleasure).
We need a sequel.
And Satan laughs.
Don’t get me wrong — I am a fan of old horror films, so I can speak from experience. My writing reflects this to a certain extent, although my style is more gothic than gore. However, today’s instant torture classics, such as Silent Hill and The Hills Have Eyes, repulse me. Yes, I’ve watched all or parts of each — it’s part of that ‘peering into darkness’ call to arms that underwrites my life — but I can’t watch for long. There is no morality to these films — no object lesson — no Light conquering Darkness moment. There is — instead — only darkness. Terrifying, gut-wrenching darkness.
Do you know what films your child watches? Do you care? Do you know the content of these films? If you love your children, you’ll make it a point to know.