The Problem With Horror
Few in Hollywood understand horror anymore. Granted… few, if any, in Hollywood are trying to.
When you’re young, you fear being eaten by your bogeyman of choice. For the shamefully better part of my youth, my own personal bogeyman was the classic werewolf, thanks in no small part to having seen the opening of the Thriller video at a formative age at the prompting of a couple of cousins who also happened to circumstantially introduce me to Ray Stevens music videos.
But, it’s okay. Like most well-adjusted people, you get older and tend to naturally learn that your particular bogeyman of choice never actually existed, right?
That’s great news. In my case, Michael Jackson didn’t eat me (which allegedly turned out to not be the worst thing I could fear from him as a child). But all that’s left after the recognition that your pet bogeyman didn’t, doesn’t, and won’t exist is the remaining fear that it wouldn’t even really matter (weepy funerals aside) if your pet bogeyman had actually eaten you.
This is why, for me, A.I. is an infinitely scarier film (regardless of its makers’ intentions) than any horror film in recent memory. I’m looking at you, “cat in a trashcan” trope. While likely being touching to most, watching the ending of A.I. took me straight back to being told by a brilliant-but-a-bit-unintentionally-insensitive science teacher that one day, the sun would eventually and inevitably burn out. Entropy is a real bitch like that.
We all die. We all know it. None of us like it. And I contend that the thought of an insignificant life is far more terrifying a proposition to swallow than most any death.
Carl Sagan, as one of history’s most celebrated astronomers and astrophysicists, arguably “mattered” to humanity. And by my reckoning, the point of his famous “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam” quote was that none of us (himself included) actually matter.
That, my dear friends, is the horror of horrors. Beyond the teeth and claws in the dark of any number of monster movies, the refrigerator doors opening mysteriously in every Paranormal Activity, or the endless parade of nightgown-clad children of recent Japanese horror.
Understand, I’m not saying we actually are insignificant. I’m simply saying that the thought of insignificant existence is far more terrifying than premature nonexistence. “I’m nothing in the expanse of the universe” has a much more haunting effect than “Unfriending someone will get me killed by their vengeful ghost”, “A light turned on in the empty kitchen”, or “the rubber-suited monster is going to bite me”.