Horror movies play a huge role in my life. I’m not just a genre fan, it’s literally my security blanket and homeopathic medicine. And it’s time to take it again.
Latest studies have shown that over 40 million adults in the United States alone suffer from some form of anxiety, and I myself swim in that vicious pool of what seems like endless paranoia. Last week in my hometown of Las Vegas, our community suffered through a reign of unspeakable terror and the horrifying ordeal that cost innocent people their lives has shaken us to our very roots. In the aftermath of such a heinous act, thoughts of the fear that my neighbors at ground zero felt during this violent event bring tears to my eyes for the victims and their families. And realistically speaking, it will take an extraordinary amount of time to emotionally heal from.
The reason I bring this up is due to the heightened fears and anxieties I’ve noticed from people around me, myself included. Most are wanting to stay indoors, and avoid populated areas in general; and while that may not be the perfect solution, I can understand why.
I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder that at times leads into full-blown panic episodes, and it just so happens that one of my triggers is the open space and crowds of people; particularly so in downtown Las Vegas. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but I stay away as much as humanly possible to steer my brain from hyping into overdrive and paranoia that some drunk driver is going to plow into me and my loved ones, or an unsteady individual starts blasting people with a powerful gun- which is exactly what happened this past weekend. I gotta be honest, it sure as shit doesn’t help given I had that fear already planted in my amygdala.
The only solace I have found in finding some relief from this past week of true horrors (besides focusing on efforts to help the victims in this time of sadness) is , of course, one of my greatest passions: horror movies.
As shown in the picture above, the recently released Cult of Chucky offered more than just another fan’s excited first viewing of the newest film in the Child’s Play saga. It became an escape into a familiar fantasy world of horror that was indeed welcomed given the recent horrors of reality. And this type of escape into horror fantasy has always been my own way of coping with my anxiety issues; in general, horror movies shroud me with a sense of comfort and familiarity. While I, and I’m sure you, have possibly run across this discussion before regarding horror and anxiety coping, I can’t speak for everyone on how it exactly works, but only offer my own personal experience on what the horror genre of films does for me in times of need, and not purely when it’s just for the fun of it.
Horror movies, especially those of the slasher genre like Freddy and Chucky, are also considered fantastical horror to me- as in, “ this shit would never happen in the real world. ” I don’t even know if that’s a real sub-genre, or a word ever used to describe these films. But, for the sake of explaining things here, we’re going with it for now. The more fantastic the premise, the easier it is to escape into this wonderful world of imagination of talking killer dolls with the voice of the Gemini Killer, or an unstoppable force of brutality that dons a hockey mask. It becomes a security blanket for me as someone who grew up on horror movies from the tender age of 2. I also believe because of my allegiance and undying love to the genre, sentimental reasons come into play as well.
The physical viewing rings into the nostalgia of remembering the first time, at four, I saw Silver Bullet, or my first introduction to Haddonfield’s finest maniac and how it reduces any lingering anxieties that run like a hamster on a wheel in my noggin to a minimal, if not disappear altogether. When those feel-good fuzzies hit, it’s hard to feel nothing other than a calming sense of relief and peacefulness I can only describe as my phantom Valium.
However, as with most of these films, the villain comes face to face with the main protagonist who gives them one hell of a time. In my own personal experience, facing your anxiety head-on by welcoming it, telling it to do its thing, and then fuck off for the day, can be beneficial. In a way, while trying to ease the nerves, I compare the hero and the evil force to myself and the anxiety monster. And seeing the horror hero go against the odds by facing their fears not only encourages me to maybe go have fun at a concert with friends that night but often empowers me to take control back.
Of course, it doesn’t always come as easy in the heat of the moment to remember to turn your back on your anxiety, the way Nancy memorably vanquished Freddy.
While I’m no doctor here (and everyone who suffers from some sort of anxiety alignment has different remedies that work for them), I simply offer my own story of taking something I cherish deeply and turning it into a therapeutic refuge in stressful times. Maybe I’m a nut, but maybe someone else can relate as well, and take another look at the wonderful world of the horror genre as a way to escape and free yourself from the anxieties of the world that is more horrifying than any film you can put in front of me.