Films influenced by real life phobias

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Reported by Jessica Purver

The fear of sinister clowns, blood-splattered dolls and possessed children are popular themes in horror movies and are influenced by phobias found in real life.

The concept of fear is complex, and not just manifested in horror films. It is the unknown that is truly frightening. What is in the shadows can lead to a fear of the dark and seeing ghosts and spectres induces a fear of paranormal activities. These phobias are well documented in real life, and then adapted for people to see on the big screen.

The deeper frights of a good horror film

Gregory Holditch, a Langara English instructor who teaches film studies, believes a dynamic horror film functions on two levels.

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Gregory Holditch holding a skull during an interview. Photo: Jessica Purver

“I think that’s what makes horror exciting — it has that duality,” said Holditch.

A horror movie will entertain and engage its audience on the surface level and the hidden messages that it contains. 2014’s It Follows, about a young woman being followed by a supernatural force, and 2011’s The Cabin in the Woods about five college students in a remote cabin, are good examples of films that allow the audience to both react to and explore their greatest social and superficial fears.

“There are of course the films that I just watch and enjoy on my own, then there are the films [where] there’s something deeper and more significant that would make really good fodder to discuss in class,” said Holditch.

What’s fun about being frightened?

Darryl Gasbarri, owner of Netherworld Collectibles in Burnaby, said that people choose to be frightened in horror movies because they can experience their instinctual reactions of fear in a controlled environment. He compared watching a scary movie to skydiving because it is a cheaper and safer way of experiencing an adrenaline rush.

“Everybody wants to be scared at some point,” said Gasbarri, a horror film aficionado. “We want to be scared knowing we’re safe.”

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Many movies are reflections of real life, and that includes some scarier subjects. Photo: Jessica Purver

For Gasbarri, what you don’t understand and cannot see are the most universally terrifying factors in a film.

“The human imagination is much more disturbed than the movie,” he said.

“Your mind will fill in the blanks.”

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