There are certain days – and they seem to be more common – when I feel completely out of control. Restless limbs. Renner mind. Fear of strength, seamlessly mixed with debilitating fatigue, floods me.
When I feel it’s starting, I start reaching for things that are holding me back. Napping is usually the first thing I try, and then a snack. Maybe some movement if I’m REALLY at a loss. If none of these work, I’ll break the glass on my emergency response – the only thing that will safely press my reset button and get me back on track.
I clear my schedule for a few hours, make myself comfortable on the couch, and watch a horror movie.
And not just any horror movie. I pick the best fucking horror movie I can find. Why should I do that you ask? When I watch a movie that terrifies me, I don̵
While a lot of people think that horror movies fuel fear, for me it is the opposite. By the end of the credits, I feel calmer, more focused, and better prepared to move closer to what lies ahead.
In a 2019 Huffington Post article titled “Why Some People With Anxiety Like To Watch Horror Movies,” writer Caroline Bologna (my favorite food – and yes, that’s a “ratched” reference) offers insights from mental health professionals why this works for some people.
“These films could be a distraction from their personal worries that weigh on them both physically and emotionally,” said Jocelyn McDonnell, a therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, in the article.
“Instead of worrying about making a mistake in a presentation at work tomorrow, the person would focus on anxious stimuli that have nothing to do with their life, such as being chased by a clown who lives in a sewer . “
To sink our teeth a little further into how weird therapeutic watching horror movies can be, some (perhaps controversial) horror classics have torn me from a physical or mental impasse.
I was scared of watching “The Exorcist” for so long after my mom called it the scariest thing she’d ever seen. I never knew my mom was scared of anything, and the thought of it carrying the effects of the experience with her made it the scariest movie in the world for me.
I was in my early twenties when I finally saw the movie at a friend’s house one Halloween evening. When I later returned to my apartment alone, I noticed a keen awareness of some of the darker corners. But I also noticed something more important: The almost crippling social anxiety that I had had to work through to get to this friend’s house in the first place had disappeared.
Since then this film has got a kind of liberating meaning for me.
The experience of seeing this exploration of family, grief, and ritual in 2018 can feel like a roller coaster ride in complete darkness. For this short, exciting time, your thoughts are not on what is on the ground again.
If a main character’s face is contorted in an agonized scream, or if someone else scares me by losing himself against dark forces, it sure stays with me. It also helps me relieve tension from a tight work deadline or high monthly bill for a few relaxing hours.
The found footage style that the original Paranormal Activity was filmed in seems a bit old-fashioned these days. But when this was released in 2007 it was still a new approach that scared me to some extent.
It seems fun to take a break from everyday stress by watching a hyper-realistic movie about your house being overrun by evil spirits. But damn it, spend a little time suffering (and screaming) with these poor people and you will feel like you can handle anything.
This is a film about a crazy German surgeon who kidnaps people. sews them together, mouth to bum; and forcing them into a new, horrible, poop-eating lifestyle.
I’m just going to say what you thought about before, don’t think about it now.
Whenever I’m the lowest I can remember the image of Sigourney Weaver’s classic badass character Ripley. She floats in space and only wears white underpants, a tank top and super cool Reebok Alien Stomper shoes, which I haven’t found on eBay in my size yet.
I know without a doubt that if she can get over what she did in this sci-fi horror classic, then I can seriously try to face whatever my day brings. Things may be harsh, scary, strange and unsafe, but at least no tooth-cracking, drooling aliens are coming after us (yet).
Bonus: I asked my wife which movie scared her the most and she said “Mothman”. So there is this.
Kelly McClure is a writer who has written for NY Magazine, GQ, The Hairpin, Rolling Stone, and more. Find more of their work Here.