by Erick Phill
With the rising popularity of the 2017 horror film “It,” the University of Northwestern-St. Paul students have been talking about the film, and a question was raised: why do people go to the theater to spend two hours in one seat, in the dark, terrified?
The film which started the conversation had a strong reason to do so. With a 123 million dollar opening weekend, “It” broke the box office record for biggest weekend opening for an R-rated horror film, according to Box Office Mojo. It is one of the most successful horror films of 2017.
The movie about a demon clown who hunts a group of kids was well-received by audiences, who gave it a 4.2/5 on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite this, the campus reaction to the horror phenomenon was slightly more diverse.
For some, the horror genre adds little to society. Ethan Anderson, a PSEO student in marketing, said, “I don’t see any point in being scared on purpose.” After all, the horror genre is not typically associated with creating memorable characters, compelling storylines, or morals. “If the point of the movie is to scare your audience, I am not a fan of the genre,” said Anderson.
Another factor is the commitment the viewer gives to the film. Along with the 10 dollar ticket, the viewer will sacrifice two hours of their lifetime in hopes of gaining something from the filmmaker. However, a fear-fueled adrenaline rush is not what all viewers want. Amanda Gattorna, a public relations freshman said, “Life is too short to spend it being scared.”
In contrast, a genre whose primary goal is to entertain cannot be entirely unnecessary. Sarah Bengtson, a public relations junior, explained, “I like them because you usually can’t predict what’s going to happen.”
Filmmaking is a form of art, and the artist can use many different techniques to get their point across. Joe Smith, professor of Art and Design, said, “Ultimately, art is trying to make a connection that is meaningful.” In the medium of film, many people with many different talents work together to create something the audience can connect with.
“In a media-saturated experience, it feels like people have to push the envelope to feel,” explained Smith. Audiences have seen characters die many times in many different ways, so the filmmaker tries different methods to earn investment from the viewer. “Primal emotions can create a real experience,” Smith added.
There is an art to scaring the audience. “Modern horror is just entertainment, but it’s tapping into the contrast of something beautiful and something horrifying,” explained Rick Love, chair, Art and Design. A certain amount of artistic beauty goes into crafting an antagonist such as Pennywise the Clown in “It.”
Horror also has the ability to disturb the viewer psychologically. Since media has a prevalent place in our everyday culture, it is possible to watch a scary movie expecting a quick thrill and nothing else. In the case of “It,” the terror is supernatural.
“People are interested in the uncanny, and the uncanny tends to be different than a slasher movie,” said Smith. The viewer is drawn in by the strangeness, wondering what to expect. This not only gives the filmmaker a chance to scare them, but to create the atmosphere and buildup required to leave a lasting impression.
The artist’s dedication to their creation can result in an engrossing journey. “It’s cool how they can encompass you in their world and you can experience it with them,” said Kourtney White, a junior film student. This is true for every genre, not just horror.
What does the Bible have to say about horror? Verses such as 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Philippians 4:8, and 2 Timothy 1:7 made it clear that believers should avoid evil, meditate on what is good in the eyes of God, and that fear is not an emotion to seek.
Understanding spiritual goodness and demonic evil comes with living as a Christian, and there is a responsibility to bring the Word to every aspect of culture, including media. “If we want to make a difference, we have to be in the conversation,” explained Smith.
In the end, “filmgoers go to the movies to feel something: love, sadness and even fear,” said Ann Sorensen, professor of film. Horror flicks have been a part of cinema for decades, and with the massive success of “It,” the genre doesn’t seem to be losing popularity.