A Scaredy-Cat’s Guide to Surviving Horror Films

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There’s always that one person in the uni house or friendship group who thinks that suggesting a horror film marathon is a great idea and there’s always that one person who most certainly does not agree. I am the second person. I just don’t see the joy in torturing myself psychologically. I don’t want the shock-scare of some bloodied nun coming out of nowhere and I don’t want to spend an hour worrying about some girl (who looks unfeasibly attractive for someone experiencing the worst time of their life, by the way) who has decided to go off on her own when there’s an axe-murderer wandering about. Most of the time though, horror films end up being unavoidable; maybe it’s Halloween, maybe it’s anti-Valentine’s day…at some point in the year a horror marathon is likely to be suggested.

I’ve had to find myself some tactics for dealing with horror-films over the years, and if, like me, you consider yourself a bit of a scaredy-cat then you might find they come in handy as well…

Tactic: Talking through the film and making light of it

This one really depends on the kind of viewers your friends are. If they’re the type of people who like to really focus on films then I wouldn’t suggest it. If, however, they’re more casual viewers then this could be a great way to distract yourself. Poking fun at something will always make it seem less intimidating and if you’re chatting with your friends then you’re less likely to get drawn into the scary plot. Remember: the best way to deal with a boggart is to laugh at it.

Tactic: Paying more attention to your phone than you do to the film

Again, you might want to test out the atmosphere in the room for this one. If everyone else is really into the film then they might not appreciate the glare of your phone constantly in their peripheral vision. Also, if your friends invite you over to do/watch something together they might not appreciate you giving them and the film no attention at all. If the atmosphere is pretty casual, though, you can always watch the film with your phone handy to distract yourself just at the points when things get a little too scary. This way you’re not completely ignoring your surroundings but you can avoid the truly horrifying scenes.

Tactic: Analysing the film

This is my go-to tactic. In first year I took a module that required students to learn the basis of film analysis (such as considering lighting, sound, camera angle etc). You don’t have to be a director to appreciate these different aspects of film-making and if you’re someone who likes films in general or appreciates art then it can be an enlightening experience to watch as a critic rather than as a general viewer. It detaches you from the experience; you’re less likely to be focussing on the jump-scares and psychological trickery when you’re appreciating the soundtrack, the costumes, the lighting and everything else that goes into a film. Granted, this might be more effective if you enjoy analysis but I’ve found that tricking myself into objectively watching something works a treat.

Tactic: Choosing the film

Possibly the best way to make watching horror films easier when you hate them is to become actively involved in choosing the film. If you know that films about ghosts and hauntings scare you then choose something without ghosts. If you hate stories about people doing evil acts then go for something more fantastical. If you hate clowns then, please, stay away from IT. Of course you probably still won’t find the experience particularly enjoyable but it won’t be nearly as bad as it could be. Personally, I always choose classic horror films because 1) I appreciate the directing and 2) special effects weren’t exactly top notch back in the day.

If all else fails you could always try to convince the group to watch something else entirely. Try sending subliminal messages to your friends in order to convince them to watch Mamma Mia instead. Hum ABBA tunes in the preceding days, slip quotes into conversation (“you know, I wish my lecturer would ‘Take a Chance on Me’, something like that) and maybe start wearing your more garish outfits. This tactic is not highly effective if I’m honest but, you know, it’s always worth a try. Take a chance.

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