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2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Give horror a second chance

Dong Woo Im
A student watches a horror movie in the Campus Center. Photo by Dong Woo Im / Mass Media Staff.

**Trigger Warning: this article discusses dark themes, including mentions of bodily harm and suicide.** 

Despite the days finally lengthening, we’re still caught in the dead of winter, and seasonal depression can be a real hard-hitter before the relief of Spring Break. It might seem like doom and gloom is the last thing you need when the sun sets at 5 p.m., but horror exists to let you experience those negative emotions of anxiety, depression and trauma in a safe, confined space. In fact, there’s scientific evidence to suggest that watching scary movies can help you get less anxious by releasing a controlled flood of cortisol and adrenaline into your system. [1] With that in mind, here are some cathartic horror movies that can help you process your mental health and stress.  

“The Shining” is a classic, and very in-season. Although it’s not my favorite movie—of course, I liked the book better—the visuals, suspense and, of course, Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance, make up the difference. “The Shining” follows married couple Jack and Wendy Torrance as Jack gets a new job, and they move into the Overlook Hotel with their five-year-old son Danny. The three are completely alone at the Overlook, and the hotel itself slowly drives Jack insane. The movie explores how physical and social isolation affect mental health; as the Torrances become increasingly cut off from the world, Jack and Wendy’s relationship also begins to disintegrate.  

Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” also involves a crumbling relationship, although a more deadly one than in “The Shining.” “Midsommar” is a vibrant, psychedelic film about a group of friends who get trapped in a Swedish cult after protagonist Dani’s sister kills herself and her parents—or it’s about a bad breakup: depends on who you ask. It’s an undoubtedly dark movie, despite its bright and sunny setting, and the opening scenes will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The scare factor petered off toward the middle for me, but there’s a sadistic sense of satisfaction as Dani’s crappy boyfriend is tormented by the cult. 

Coincidentally, “The Ritual” also takes place in Sweden, and it deals with themes of trauma, grief and survivor’s guilt that can hit all too close to home despite “The Ritual’s” supernatural elements. After protagonist Luke watches his friend Robert die in a gas station robbery, he and three of Robert’s other friends plan a several-day hike in his honor. The four get lost in the woods, and quickly realize they’re not alone. Each of Robert’s friends struggles with the grief of losing him in unique ways; Luke is overwhelmed with guilt, and faces his trauma and rage in a climactic encounter with whatever’s been following them in the woods. More grim than “Midsommar, but less claustrophobic than “The Shining,” “The Ritual” is a good-quality thriller that will keep your heart pumping the whole time.  

Finally, if you’re more of a TV person, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is the best TV series of any genre I’ve seen in years. The show, which is explicitly inspired by and draws from Edgar Allen Poe’s poems, takes a fittingly gothic tone. It follows the life and memorable death of Roderick Usher, patriarch of the ultra-wealthy Usher family and CEO of the wildly successful Fortunato Pharmaceuticals. Roderick suffers from a heart condition that causes him to hallucinate, mimicking the symptoms of schizophrenia, and as his heirs all begin to die of mysterious causes, he slowly loses his mind. “The Fall of the House of Usher” manages to balance its more fantastical elements with a gritty story about the downfall of the Usher family, and the pacing and suspense never felt forced.  

Even if you’ve never considered yourself a horror fan, there’s something in the genre for everyone. From thrillers and slashers to avant-garde psychological horror, horror of all kinds reflects the biggest fears and conflicts that people deal with, and mental health is no exception. Next time you’re trying to de-stress, give horror a second chance—you might find that it’s more cathartic than anything else.  



[1] https://www.cnet.com/health/how-scary-movies-can-help-you-de-stress-according-to-science/  

About the Contributors
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor
Dong Woo Im, Photographer