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February 26, 2024
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UMass Boston professor discusses Halloween and horror films

Silence+of+the+Lambs+movie+poster
‘Silence of the Lambs’ movie poster

Halloween is just around the corner, which means an onslaught of horror movies in theaters and on television. So, is this genre only used as a way for the film industry to make money during the Halloween season, or do these movies offer something more to cinema than just gore and blood?
The University of Massachusetts Boston professor, Ginger Lazarus, who teaches courses in playwriting and screenwriting, isn’t a huge fan of the gore, but does believe the horror genre has a few redeeming qualities. “They are a safe way of exploring and expressing our deepest terrors. They put characters in unthinkably awful situations and test their fortitude [and] their ability to survive.”
Lazarus also talks about the importance of horror films’ focus on “transgression and consequence.” Sometimes the horror is a result of “neglect” or “broken rules,” which are seen in movies like “Carrie,” in which the killer is a lonely teenage girl who gets revenge on the classmates who bullied her.
An element used often in horror movies is the punishment of sexual promiscuity. A significant amount of story lines fall into the cliche in which girls or teenagers who are sexually active die, while the lone survivor is the virgin girl. This is a method that Lazarus dislikes and enjoys when horror filmmakers challenge it.
“’The Cabin in the Woods’ did a great job sending up that trope, which is long overdue for a gruesome death, in my opinion.”
Due to her aversion of gore, Lazarus prefers horror films that focus on psychological terror. Her all-time favorite is “Silence of the Lambs” and she is also a fan of “Alien,” “28 Days Later,” and “Poltergeist.” She also finds films that crossover between comedy and horror to be entertaining, such as “Shawn of the Dead,” “Zombieland,” and “Dead Alive.”
“Although, that last one made me permanently unable to eat pudding.”
So, what makes a horror film worth watching? According to Professor Lazarus, “like any good film, it has something provocative to say about human beings and our relationship to the world and each other: our collective fears, our worst failings, and our heroisms in the face of unspeakable adversity.”