Horror Films Reflect American Anxiety

Monday, 16 Sep 2013 10:02 AM

By James Hirsen

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The movie that captured the top spot this past weekend is “Insidious: Chapter 2,” a sequel to the 2011 hair-raising film “Insidious,” which tells the tale of a boy who is lost in an invisible demon-populated region.
 
“Insidious: Chapter 2” brought in $41 million in its debut weekend, making it the best September opening for any film. The horror sequel raked in $20 million on Friday, the biggest one-day gross in the month of September.
 
Green-lighting the film was a no-brainer for Hollywood executives. The original “Insidious” took in just under $100 million worldwide while costing only $1.5 million to make.
 
The production expenditure for the sequel was a scant $5 million, ensuring a hefty profit for “Insidious: Chapter 2.”
 
This year the horror genre has been a sizable source of profit for the film industry. Some of the box-office results for scary cinema include “The Conjuring,” which took in $260 million worldwide on a production budget of $20 million; “The Purge,” which parleyed $86 million worldwide while only costing $3 million to produce; “Mama,” which made $147 million worldwide and had an expenditure of $15 million; “The Evil Dead,” which did $100 million in box office worldwide with a $17 million price tag; and “The Call,” which collected $52 million domestically (the film did not have foreign distribution) with production outlays of $13 million.
 
Taking into consideration this summer’s string of big-budget bombs, the above ratios appear to have produced the kind of profits that will give movie business executives and company shareholders some relief.
 
As despicable as so many are, scary movies can obviously be extremely profitable. Such fare, though, seems to have been catapulted into solid gold territory in 2013. What could be behind the over-the-top appeal of the current crop of frightening films?
 
Well, people no doubt frequent horror movies to experience the fear “rush” that such cinema provides. In order to be effective in the fear-inducing realm, though, a scary flick must have contained within it things that present-day viewers find frightfully satisfying. In other words, an effective horror genre must speak to society’s innermost fears of the day.
 
As an example from the past, the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” film, which was released in the mid-1950s, resonated with a public that was attempting to work through anxiety fueled by a communist threat that was emanating from the Soviet Union.
 
With today’s unstable global situation, a domestic economy drowning in debt, mounting healthcare woes, and myriad other crises that linger and loom, Is it any wonder that folks are escaping to a fantasy world in which they can process a portion of their fears and experience some momentary release?
 
In today’s horror movies, as represented by “Insidious: Chapter 2,” fright is created in the minds of moviegoers through use of malevolent otherworldly forces, which threaten and interfere with the characters’ day-to-day lives. Victims in “Insidious: Chapter 2” lose control of their homes, possessions, and family relationships, due to the supernatural acts of evil spirits from a shadowy netherworld.
 
According to Sigmund Freud, the horror genre provides entertainment because it brings to the surface feelings that have been repressed but nonetheless seem vaguely familiar, while Carl Jung viewed the appeal of horror media as being due to primordial images that are found in the collective unconscious.
 
Today many Americans are experiencing untold fear over job and housing losses, decrease in the quality of lifestyle, escalating neighborhood violence, and on and on.
 
Even if it is only for a couple of hours, fictional demons may help people feel a little less anxious about the real evil that is plaguing their lives.
 
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
 
 

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