Where did it all go wrong?
I wasn’t always wary of horror, and as a child of the 1980s, I watched all the slashers. A favorite was “Nightmare on Elm Street.” I thought it was particularly hilarious when Johnny Depp got sucked into his bed, which then spit him back out as a geyser of blood. That being said, another scene in that movie left me unable to take a bath for years.
As a teenager, I bought a ticket for “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” and snuck into “Scream” instead, because the cashier was a stickler — I was too young for “Scream’s” R rating. Maybe that was part of the appeal back then, the knowledge that I was doing something I shouldn’t.
I can almost pinpoint the moment everything turned. I watched about five minutes of “Saw,” a movie so popular it spawned several sequels. But instead of feeling some kind of thrill, I was nauseated by the twisted game involving amputated feet. Was this a sign I was evolving into a more empathetic person? Or was I just merely turning into the wimp I was destined to become?
In some ways I blame the rise of torture porn, which many find difficult to watch. (My underage accomplices who joined me for “Scream” had similar experiences, although their transformative films were “Hostel” and 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre redux.”) But maybe there’s another explanation for why people age out of horror.
“I think what’s happening in late adolescence is that kids are trying to find out who they are and what they’re about, and so they experiment more widely both in presenting themselves in certain kinds of ways and getting into certain kinds of situations,” Oatley said. “I think movies and other kinds of fiction then are ways of doing this.”
Some predilections remain unexplained, but one thing is certain: There are more horror films headed our way.
First up is “Insidious: Chapter 2,” the sequel to the 2010 surprise hit, which comes to theaters, appropriately, on Friday the 13th. The movie was co-written by Leigh Whannel and director James Wan, the “Saw” masterminds, and follows a family haunted by terrifying spirits (see review on page 30). The English language adaptation of the 2010 Mexican movie “We Are What We Are,” opening later this month, tells the story of a family whose members follow ancient rituals, including consuming human flesh. And the highly anticipated remake of “Carrie,” starring Chloe Grace Moretz as the outcast with supernatural powers, arrives Oct. 18, just in time for Halloween.
A large group of filmgoers will be drawn like magnets to these movies, and I genuinely hope those brave souls enjoy the petrifying experience. I’ll be hiding under my desk from my editor, who is looking for a reviewer.