EVERYBODY loves a scary movie. In my own desire to catch up with the trend, I decided to watch The Nun, the recently released prequel completing James Wan’s super popular Conjuring saga.
In waiting to purchase my own ticket for the show, I realised that the proverbial long queue has never ceased and will perhaps never end.
People will always show up not just for James Wan’s flicks, but also for other horror movies of diverse emotional variations, such as the Dracula series, Salem’s Lot, The Omen, or recent local productions Munafik 2 and Hantu Kak Limah.
A quick glance through my archives of WhatsApp group chats brings back memories of how excited so many family members and friends were when Dain Said’s widely controversial Dukun (which was said to be based on Mona Fandey’s life) was finally projected on the silver screen.
In short, the ongoing support for the wild, chaotic and scary begs the question: why do horror movies continue to drive community interest?
Why do people love making and watching horror movies?
The tropes of “good versus evil” and “the triumphant glory of faith” that backbone the plots of most, if not all, horror movies, are not new.
This is why Hollywood, the champion of champions in the global film industry, keeps on churning box-office returns after box-office returns, even if we’ve all seen those quirks and heard those screams before.
In his article for GQ Magazine titled “How We Ended Up in the Golden Age of Horror Movies”, writer and culture critic Scott Meslow found that these films are Hollywood’s safest bet, despite not revered by industry titans and elites.
The same can be said about the Malaysian film industry, and this is because the emotional tropes that spin our living and being (which include wanting to be scared) remains universal at the core.
Producers and moviemakers have been scrambling to please audiences who, time and time again, will always pay money to be scared off their seats.
The plots need not even be revolutionary, as proven by most horror stories (both local and international) showing in our local theatres. (Of course, cleverly weaved ones will always have their place in my personal book, but that is another article for another day.)
It is therefore not far-fetched at all for me to believe and say that horror movies are considered the film industry’s easiest money-making scheme.
Now, the fact the horror genre is a reliable shtick for the film industry to steadily make a quick buck says a lot about their audience.
As I have said before, people, including our fellow Malaysians, just love to be scared, so much so that they would pay for it.
This universal desire seems deeply rooted in the fact that feeling intense emotions from watching extreme emotional concepts can make one feel alive.
In retrospect, scary movies — and the cultural narratives that spin their plots into being — truly reflect our intrinsic village culture, community spirit, and exciting reenactment of superstitions.
Remember those early Hari Raya days when you and your cousins would all hunch together around a favourite relative who never seemed to run out of cerita hantu (ghost stories) to share?
Or those many sunsets you spent playing outside as a kid, only to have your mother or grandmother hurriedly calling you in because anyone at all should know better than to risk encounters with so-called paranormal entities?
Perhaps you, like me, had also loved reading the ghastly and horror-filled magazines like Mastika and Persona once upon a time.
The truth is, it does not take much for one to feel the euphoria after a shocking jolt.
In effect, we Malaysians love being scared out of our wits because we look forward to the familiar rush of blood to our heads, and the laughters that would soon follow, after a shocking emotional jolt.
So while it is a long way to go before horror movies can be a gravity-defying meaning-making movement on their own, they are definitely a fascinating lens through which the cultural likes and disdains of our society can be observed, understood, and appreciated.
The writer is News Editor
(Weekend/Probe/Special Report) ‘New Straits Times’