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The Only Thing That's Real
by James Shafie

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I hear he's nice after you get to know him.

I hear he's nice after you get to know him.
Good horror movies make us afraid. They put fear into us, so much that we won't want to go to bed without a nightlight. Fear is manifested in thousands of different forms: insects, drowning, the killing of a loved one, and so on. There is one specifically though, that is pretty much universally abhorred and unwanted. Pain. The aspect of being hurt, emotionally or physically, is immensely unappealing. And that's why it is used so much within the genre of nightmares.

Pain can be divided into two subgroups, physical and emotional/mental. The horror genre makes use of both extensively, and will employ both simultaneously if the director is feeling a little frisky.

Physical pain is utilized more often, because the thing, be it a person, animal or what have you, does not need to have a great intellect or cleverness. They just need to know what hurts, and how to do it. The TEXAS CHAINSAW
I feel like saying more, but I don't want to ruin the surprise.

"I feel like saying more, but I don't want to ruin the surprise."
MASSACRE's main character, Leatherface, is a big oaf and is most likely mentally retarded, but he can harm you in ways you never thought possible.

Emotional/mental pain requires something that has cunning sense and is able to plan their methods out. Take the character of John Doe in the movie SE7EN, or Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal movies series (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL, and RED DRAGON). These men don't just kill or inflict harm all willy nilly, they put thought into it. They show you that pain can also be created in an artful way, one that evokes a perverted sort of reverence to its method. The character of Asami Yamazaki in the Japanese film AUDITION especially shows the care and delicacy is takes to cause immense pain.

That sort of pain is the one people most fear. Masochists usually like physical pain, but tell them that their child will be attacked by rabid dogs, and you
This is by director Takashi Miike, check him out if you haven't already.

This is by director Takashi Miike, check him out if you haven't already.
won't hear them squealing with joy. This type of emotional pain hurts all, no matter what. When something close to us is harmed, we will do anything to stop it. The horror genre shows us that pain to oneself or to what we care for, or the threat of it, can make a person do almost anything. Not being in pain is worth more than money, and perhaps even our lives. Most would say they would like to be killed quickly, than to endure a life of agony

Horror movies do their best to show us what the characters feel; to make us understand what they are going through. They want us to empathize, not sympathize. Horror wants us to become the kidnapped girl, the sobbing child, the abandoned father. When we see the characters in pain, we feel it. We actually clutch the area that is being injured, or wince at what is on the screen; we imagine it happening to us. This is when the genre has succeeded.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

The Time of the Beasts

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and itís thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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