The psychology of fear in movies

I have commented here about a supposed trend of comic book heroes series and present increasingly human characteristics and discuss some implications for the assimilation of scientific culture (Cf. The heroes of childhood). It seems to me that the film has taken a similar stance with regard to titles in the genre horror/suspense. Well, the terror was always much of supernatural elements. For many years it stirred the imagination of the public. Each movie featured a character scarier than another. However, as teaches Alfred Hitchcock, for more horrifying that the character could be what really causes terror is the expectation of the monster and not the monster itself.

A wise friend awakened my interest in the subject, which at first sight has nothing to do with science. But only at first glance. It seems that the horror films of nowadays are not as scary as those before. The public had some identification with the feelings passed by the old genre seems to have migrated to the psychological thriller type. A movie in which a character announces itself horrifying, but does not appear until the final scenes of the show no longer creates big fans. What has changed?

Filmmakers around the world have explored the special effects and animated graphics so that nothing more surprises us. The theaters with 3D technology are not so revolutionary. Contribute to some scares and thrills, but not without causing some headaches in many post-view audience. Even series that deal with the supernatural does not generate greater public. Movies like “The Ring” or “The Grudge” are nothing terrifying, but are cliche. On the other hand, when the film starts the opening scenes with the words “based on a real case“, the public is interested in knowing the contents and make conjectures about the chances of having happened. This is the case of the films “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Requiem” whose stories are based on the case of Anneliese Michel, a religious young who suffered from epilepsy and allegedly suffered demonic possession. The intrigue begins with the death of “Emily” and charges of negligent homicide of the priest who performed the exorcism ritual in Emily after advises her to stop using the drugs prescribed by the psychiatrist for claiming interference in the ritual.

The film’s plot is fantastically designed to present a confrontation between two worldviews diametrically different. On the one hand religious authorities, and even a religious researcher, openly advocate the view that the girl may have been possessed and, therefore, the priest should be acquitted. On the other hand, the family lawyer who accused the priest of negligent homicide for the reason already mentioned. The movie has a few scenes that could be considered horror, but much suspense in the air. The dispute between the two readings of the event is certainly intriguing and I should mention that worth each minute of our attention.

I really think the old horror genre is doomed to extinction. Although using the license to the supernatural, films tend to have less content extra-natural and more content that fits the scope of reality, such as exploring disorders of the mind. My proposition admits exceptions and certainly I believe that there are many who like of the classics exhibited at Cine Trash. Science apparently has shaped our taste for movies. We always will go to cinema expecting to see something fantastic, but, thanks to science, our criticism has been more exquisitely refined.

Creative Commons License
This work by Alison Felipe Alencar Chaves is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



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