I’ve always been obsessed with shows and films that dealt with murder and suspense. I don’t recoil at Criminal Minds and CSI; if anything, the fictional, hyperbolic and at times, cheesy format of American dramas isn’t gruesome enough.
My favourites are documentaries; the Amanda Knox Netflix biopic was chilling (to say the least!) Or the many Netflix series about Charles Manson, nothing like a cult murder. I even find the theme of child abductions, as seen in the BBC thriller In the Dark, intriguing.
But why? Why in sh*t do humans find the darkest atrocities interesting? Is it for catharsis of our own issues? Is it the development of an interest in the unknown? Have we been so numbed by the explicit content in all our media and entertainment outlets that we can now only be shocked by the goriest of all crimes?
No, don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a rant all about how the internet and gaming has brutalised our society into mindless violence junkies – who can’t wait for their next hit of horror.
I would say, now I’m only spit balling here, it’s more likely the fundamentalist terrorists, legions of armies and hatred spread around the world and not the fictional, which I understood as a concept of as soon as I was about 5, games of Call of Duty – seriously in one of them you kill Nazi zombies – that can be deemed the cause of this ‘brutalisation’.
If anything, it can be argued that humans are innately quite sadistic. Look at classic Literature and plays, particularly Shakespeare. Anyone who isn’t an English student will easily brush off the bard as an old dead white guy who wrote some poems but didn’t make much sense. However, if you are an English student, you know that Shakespeare was the king of the disgusting. Hamlet, King Lear, the ending to this was so horrible that an edited (happier) version by Nahum Tate was performed for 200 years, Titus Andronicus, even Romeo and Juliet! All filled to the brim with death, blood, eye gouging and even baking bodies into pies. Sounds more like Saw than 16th century theatrical prose.
See, human beings have been sick pr*cks obsessed with barbarity long before old, middle-class Conservatives started blaming it on ‘today’s youth’ and our overuse of technology.
When I was learning about the genre of tragedy for A Level English Lit, the Aristotle theory of tragedy repeatedly came up. Despite not all crime dramas/documentaries being tragedies to a T, there is room for a comparison as their plots follow a similar model. Aristotle believed that due to the build-up of intensity, fear of what will happen and shock at the events in the play, at the end of the tragedy the audience will experience as catharsis. And thus, will leave the theatre feeling uplifted – almost cleansed.
Don’t think I’m the only one to say here, never have I ever left a cinema after watching a horror movie feeling uplifted, to be honest I act a bit skatty after, hey, what if the film is real? However, I do understand the theory of a catharsis, indeed, after watching thrillers I do feel like saying ‘f*ck well at least I’m not them’, my coursework doesn’t look that bad compared to the prospect of having my head cut off with a butter knife, and also a feeling you’ve got a few screams out for the month.
For me, I just weirdly like scarring myself and learning about the darkest atrocities committed by humans. I think it’s because horror and this kind of crime are, obviously, not the norm, hence their sadistic appeal. For most of us, in our perfectly normal and boring lives we will never experience what occurs in these productions. We’ll also never do any of the horrific things which occur. And yet, these performances allow for an in depth look into this world of death and gore.
So, in conclusion, why do we like horror? Essentially, we are bored in our monotonous and safe lives and watching a documentary about Charles Manson allows our twisted interests to come out, revealing themselves to our regular lives.