I'm not sure why some of us are drawn to horror. As a naturally anxious person, you'd think I have enough worry and fear in my life. I even write in the thriller and horror genres. Why? Perhaps I need a distraction from the very real things in this world that are frightening. Illness, physical threat, and accidental dangers provide compelling reasons to never leave the house. I avoid the news when possible because I grow weary of the frustration I feel towards my fellow humans. Regardless of the reason I am drawn to horror, I have watched countless horror movies and some of them are more effective than others. The horror that plays most to my deep-seated fear deals with demonic possession*.
Horror movies play off our assumptions and fears. Slasher movies capitalize on our distrust of fellow humans and ignorant assumptions. Urban legends and even real events come to life in many of these (the example that jumps to mind is The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which was loosely based on tragic events in Texarkana). There are many movies with sharks, snakes, spiders, and clowns--all common phobias. Ghost stories play on our fear of the unknown, and many are also purported to be based on true stories: The Conjuring, Annabelle, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Amnityville Horror, and even The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
Why does the concept of demonic influence and possession terrify me? I find it frightening that a being could shove what makes us human individuals out of the way and wear us like meat puppets. The need to rule out all other explanations before accepting the supernatural gives an entity time to take root, building tension. The subtle changes in the individual are horrifying. The demon's intent to destroy the human it occupies along with as many souls as it can take with it along the way seems oddly plausible. The thing that tickles my reptile brain and gets that fight or flight reflex really going is the thought that dark influences are always waiting for a weakness that will let them in. I find that worthy of a shudder or eight.
I accept it would be much more rational to be afraid of spiders or scorpions or even fellow humans. That doesn't change the fact that possession scares the crap out of me, even if all of the movies fall in category A or B. Category A: Introduce priest/pastor with shaken faith, add teenaged victim inflicted by demonic possession, and procrastinate for forty-five minutes by searching for any other explanation for why the kid can rotate his/her head 360 degrees. Category B: Introduce a happy family to a new household, add an escalation of unexplained events, then introduce a matronly woman who specializes in hauntings. Either way, I'm squirming in my seat with my ears plugged and one eye shut.
Do you have any fears that make the difference between a horror movie scaring you and being laughable?
* If you have read All the Pretty Bones and Blood, Spirit & Bone you're probably wondering why I write about demons if I'm so scared of them. I write about a biological series of species that are known as demons because many of them feed on the chemicals produced in large quantities by humans when they experience terror, rage, envy, and (more fun) lust. There's a difference between those demons and the kind that can inhabit a human.