Why We Need Horror

I’ve heard it said again and again: why would someone want to read horror? With so much bad out there in the world, why would we willingly choose to expose ourselves to the darkness? Why not read a nice, relaxing love story instead? Or turn on a comedy movie?

Those are valid choices, too. Sure they are. Sometimes you want something completely innocuous to fall into.

But sometimes you need the safety of a well-controlled scare. Something that opens your adrenaline taps and lets your imagination run wild. Something that lets your body experience fright, and terror, so you can inoculate yourself against the real boogeymen that lurk in the dark of the bushes outside.

Some women watch sad movies to give them an excuse to cry. They’re feeling sad already, and they know they need to let it out. The movie just gives them a concrete reason to let go. It’s the same with horror: we all have fears, and horror gives us a safe place to push our limits.

We don’t live the tooth-and-nail life of our ancient ancestors anymore, but our bodies are still wired for it. Being scared out of your mind gives you a primal satisfaction afterwards. I lived through it, and I came out stronger.

As far as your brain is concerned, the monsters in horror stories are real, and they’re threatening your very existence. Right. Now. Your mind fills in the blanks the story leaves, and suddenly you can feel the hot breath of some horrifying creature on the back of your neck.

It’s why we ride rollercoasters. It’s why we take risks, some less safe than others. But no matter how scared we get by horror, there’s still the safety of knowing it won’t happen.

Probably.

Though, come to mention it, I think I hear a scratching at the door.

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