Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween: A Celebration of Fear

Halloween was always one of my favourite days of the year as a child.  Even as an adult, I get a small rush as the last day of October approaches; I even get to relive the experience through the eyes of my own kids - one will be Spider-man, the other a kitten.  I love it all, from the costumes to the pumpkins and candy.  But what fascinates me most about Halloween is the spookiness that goes along with it.

One of my favourite Halloween experiences as a teenager involved a viewing of "The Exorcist" with some friends in my house with all the lights off.  It is strange that I associate fond memories with that night, because I found (and still find) the film to be terrifying, even scarring.  I cannot quite explain why it is that I attach a positive rush with terror - to be sure, not everyone does (many people I know see absolutely no value in horror films).  Admittedly, I haven't gone to the theatre to see a horror film in over a decade.

[As an aside, if you are watching a horror film at home and don't want to be scared, simply lower or turn off the volume.  Without sound, no horror film is actually frightening.]

When I stop and think about it, it is surprising that I like the spooky nature of Halloween.  I consider myself to be a man of science, and am firmly against mystical notions.  I don't believe in witchcraft or ghosts.  And yet, I allow myself to get absorbed into films about demons and am intrigued when others talk about ouija boards (can ghosts exert a force?).  It is a bit of a dichotomy.

The explanation for all of this must lie in my subconscience.  Somewhere deep inside, I must have a tiny bit of doubt that ghosts and goblins are nonsense.  Or, maybe a part of me just wants to believe in things that are out of the ordinary, if only for one day of the year.

The truth is that the universe is extraordinary without sinister human inventions like zombies and werewolves.  That is why at this point in my life, a good horror film is one that is plausible.  The world can indeed be a terrifying place, even within the boundaries of science.  If the science behind the science-fiction is accurate, or at least not impossible, then I can allow my whole self to be absorbed into the plot.

Fear is a complex emotion, and it plays a major role in most of our decision-making.  On Halloween, we let loose, and celebrate this fear that typically looms over us in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.  Have a happy halloween.   

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