Halloween is something that has never been celebrated in my family. I’ve always thought of it as a peculiar American tradition. My apologies to the Americans. No insult intended!
It’s an intriguing notion don’t you think? The allure of wanting to be scared. Which is what I equate with Halloween. Well, having done a bit of googling on the subject, I discovered that there are several theories about it’s origins. A strong one links it to the Catholic celebration of All Saints Day. Some say Halloween’s roots stem back to Celtic traditions and pagan rituals. Be that as it may, Halloween is now creeping its way slowly but surely into Australia. The shops are full of Halloween paraphernalia. Pumpkins abound in the supermarkets. They were on special today for $2.40. Parents are dressing kids up in horror costumes and taking them trick or treating in the neighbourhood. To date none have come doorknocking here. It would have to be a trick as I don’t keep a stock of lollies in the house just in case someone comes calling.
Even in our house this year, the kids (adults really) decided that they just had to watch a horror movie in honour of Halloween. Mind you, not one that was gory or too scary. I didn’t join them. I am not a person who has ever aspired to making myself scared on purpose. What for?! It makes no sense to me. I would much rather watch a good comedy, a romance, or even a tear jerker. Yet one of my sons watches zombie movies – during the day mind you, because it’s not as scary in the light of day!
So just why is that some people love to be deliberately scared? I did a bit of research on the subject:
“Your eyes are glued to the TV screen and you’re biting your nails down to bits as you wait to see what happens next. Your heart is pounding and you’re paralyzed with fear…..
’Horror films are unsettling films designed to frighten and panic, cause dread and alarm, and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience,’ said Tim Dirks of filmsite.org.”
“Even for people who like horror movies, the habit causes negative emotions that often linger. Because distressing feelings are stored in the brain’s amygdala, which is particularly resistant to letting go, the scariest films can continue to spook people for a long time.
After seeing the movie Jaws for the first time, for example, many people refused to swim in the ocean. After watching Psycho, a lot of viewers couldn’t take a shower without peeking behind the curtain first. And The Exorcist scared people so badly that they had to be hospitalized for psychological fall-out.
And yet, dedicated horror fans keep coming back for more. One reason is a phenomenon known as “excitation transfer.” When scared, the body undergoes spikes in heart rate, breathing rate and muscle tension, among other involuntary responses. And that kind of arousal is not necessarily pleasant.
But when the extreme sense of excitement wears off, it is replaced by an equally intense sense of relief, and those positive feelings are stronger than they would have been otherwise – a sense of mastery can also come from enduring a frightening situation and emerging triumphant.”
I have never set out to deliberately watch scary movies. However, writing and researching Halloween has brought some vivid memories back. In the days when we used to date by going to the cinema and holding hands, my then boyfriend (now husband) and I went to watch ‘Deliverance’. Forever etched in my memory is the scene of the hand rising out of the middle of the lake. My hand had to be prised off his at the end of the movie, I was clutching it so tight. Clever as the Duelling Banjos music is, it takes me straight back to that experience. The scene of where the body in the bath rises up in ‘Fatal Attraction’ is another. I don’t scream at the movies. I did in this one. The other is the scene from Exorcist where the little girl’s head spins around. I actually did not set out to scare myself by watching these movies. They were advertised as the latest and best ‘must see’ movies. So we did. I am happy to report that these days I’m more discerning about what I watch! My favourites? Just about any Pixar or Walt Disney animated movie gets my vote.
Halloween, as far as I’m concerned, is over-rated. I for one am happy to leave it to others to celebrate.
© Raili Tanska