- Driving in the rain.
- Make barbecue.
- Happy hour discounts.
- Opening a package of Scotch.
- Taking a shower after camping.
- The sound that pasta makes when you stir it.
There are reasons beyond the taste of the American moviegoer that horror flicks and especially horror flicks like Bug or Hereditary poll so badly with general audiences. Horror films are especially susceptible to poor averages when it comes to Cinemascore and the like. Think of it as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” When a bunch of audience members go to see a movie like Hereditary or It Comes At Night, you’re liable to get three distinct opinions. You have folks that think A) it’s good and/or scary, B) it’s not scary and thus lame, or C) it’s scary, jolting and disturbing in a way that makes them feel bad.
So instead of a straight good/bad scale, you’re dealing with a genre where the folks who liked it, disliked it because it was ineffective or disliked it because it was effective in a disconcerting fashion. That skews the polling. It’s essentially giving any horror movie a 2/3 disadvantage. It’s not unlike the debate over the Affordable Care Act back in 2009. Again using the Goldilocks example, Obamacare was often seen as unpopular because you had people who disliked it either because it went too far or didn’t go far enough.
“What if instead of calling them fears, we called them stories? Because that’s really what fear is, if you think about it. It’s a kind of unintentional storytelling that we are all born knowing how to do. And fears and storytelling have the same components. They have the same architecture. Like all stories, fears have characters. In our fears, the characters are us. Fears also have plots. They have beginnings and middles and ends. You board the plane. The plane takes off. The engine fails. Our fears also tend to contain imagery that can be every bit as vivid as what you might find in the pages of a novel. Picture a cannibal, human teeth sinking into human skin, human flesh roasting over a fire. Fears also have suspense… Our fears provoke in us a very similar form of suspense. Just like all great stories, our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next? In other words, our fears make us think about the future. And humans, by the way, are the only creatures capable of thinking about the future in this way, of projecting ourselves forward in time, and this mental time travel is just one more thing that fears have in common with storytelling.”
Karen Walker Thompson is an author and public speaker. Check out her hit novel The Age of Miracles.