Are horror films essential to psychological health?

I have a few new thoughts related to Dr. John Sarno’s (and Freud’s) ideas about repressed rage and fear. Sarno argues that we live in a society that does not allow us to properly express the rage and fear we experience. So we repress those emotions into our subconscious. When they threaten to spillover into our conscious mind, our brain attempts to distract us by making us feel physical pain.

Now, how can we experience fear in an “acceptable” way? By watching horror movies. There, we are allowed to experience and perhaps release some of that stored fear. If this is true, horror films are a important tool for releasing negative emotions, and as opposed to being condemned, as they often are by nanny state finger waggers, they should be lauded as an important component of our psychological health. I would argue that children should be exposed early on to a steady diet of ultraviolent, terrifying horror films.

But do horror films release only fear? I suspect they release elements of rage as well. When you’re in a fit of volcanic rage, you’re possessed with the desire to kill everyone who annoys you — exactly what the villains in horror films do! The great movie villains — from Dracula to Freddy Krueger to Leatherface — are perfect examples of an un-repressed id. They do what they want and satisfy every desire, with no thought to the needs of society or their super ego.

Let’s explore this a little deeper. What is the main source of frustration for the average man? It’s the fact that all these super hot teenage girls are running around and refuse to have sex with him. Wouldn’t you like to, oh, I don’t know… saw them in half with a chainsaw? Lop off their heads with a machete? Impale them on a pair of mounted deer antlers (as seen in the classic “Silent Night, Deadly Night”)? Of course you would — it’s a perfectly reasonable response. And violent horror movies allow us to express this rage in an acceptable manner.

Interestingly, horror film director Stuart Gordon (Dagon, Reanimator, From Beyond) made a similar point when I interviewed him.

I actually think the argument is stronger in the other direction, which is that horror movies are a way to get violent impulses out of your system. It’s a way to express these things in a manner that doesn’t hurt anyone.

2 Responses to “Are horror films essential to psychological health?”


  1. Larwence

    Dagon was pretty good. I didn’t know you interviewed Gordon.

  2. John Saleeby

    Yeah, that was back when Forbis was busting his ass trying to create the illusion of being A Happening Guy so I would become involved in his sleazy schemes. I bet he gave Gordon a big cut of the money he’s made off of my Writing.