5 Stages of Fear

Buckle up for the equivalent of a cinematic roller-coaster! Horror fans know the torturous emotions that await, but they keep coming back for more. While plot twists and scare tactics change, the viewer’s horror movie experience usually follows a familiar pattern. Who hasn’t fallen victim to the tranquil opening scene, only to be dragged through blood, guts and a hellish villain for the following two hours? If you’ve sat through a few horror films, you’ll recognize the anticipation, fear and defense mechanisms associated with horror movies. Get your popcorn and relive the stages of watching a great horror movie. Of course, this is, by no means, any definitive list but it’s a good start– I think.

Pre-Movie Fear

You’ve read the reviews and talked to your friends. The consensus: you might not make it out of this one alive. Sometimes the anticipation is worth it than the real thing. As you buy candy and sit through previews, you’re preparing yourself for the worst. By the time the opening credits roll, your heart is pounding like you’ve just seen a ghost. Don’t worry, a nice opening scene will ease the tension.

The Calm Before the Storm

Pleasant, blissful and free of monsters, these opening scenes soothe your senses before putting them through the ringer. Consider the opening scene in the 2012 horror hit “The Cabin in the Woods.” Five friends pack their bags for a fun-filled trip to a cabin off the beaten path. With drinks, food and the outdoors, what could go wrong? In a word: everything. If only those friends could have had an uninterrupted weekend relaxing, but that’s not what we came here to see …

Sheer Terror

Midway through the movie, you notice your fingers hurt from gripping the armrest too tight. If you love the horror, you’ve probably managed to forget that you’re in a movie. What’s happening on the screen is real, and it’s spine-tingling. You take on the identity of the main character. It’s you chained up in Jigsaw’s labyrinth, and you feel every excruciating act. By now, the hair on the back of your neck is standing, and your body can’t handle the emotion. Why do you do this to yourself?

Inappropriate Laughter

Bad horror instantly becomes good comedy, and horror directors usually find a way to slip in a few laughs. Horror fans find reasons to laugh even without a punch line, though. It’s a defense mechanism against all stress and trauma on screen. We laugh to keep from crying, shouting or covering our eyes. When you feel like you haven’t taken a breath for a few scenes, it feels good to burst our when the monster from “The Ring” makes a funny face.

Euphoric Relief

At long last, it’s over. Even die-hard horror fans appreciate the relief when a terrifying film ends. Now is the chance to claim you knew what was going to happen the whole way and deny jumping when that shadow popped up. While your vitals return to human levels, you still might want to double check your home security system before you go to bed. If the movie left its mark, you’d be extra sensitive to sudden movements and noises. And after you consider the consequences of these traumatic films, you’ll be left with one question: When is the next one?

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