1. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    Vampires, Zombies et al - what's the attraction?

    Discussion in 'Fantasy' started by Mike43, Dec 3, 2017.

    I hope this is the right forum for this post.

    Vampires, zombies, ghouls, the undead, the walking dead, the hungry dead, horror, gore and probably a lot of other nasties that I haven't listed . . . what is it about these subjects that make them so fascinating (or even vaguely interesting) to both writers and people?

    All I can find (through Google or whatever) is that contemporary interest in such 'things' is a way of deflecting attention from the generally crap state of the world, especially after 9/11 in the US, and of (apparently) many people's lives and giving them something fantastical to relieve the tensions of life, and of dreams and fears.

    Many promising, interesting and entertaining television series have been cancelled after one season or less whilst series like The Walking Dead television series goes on and on -- and on and get's an 8.5/10 rating on IMDB. So, from someone who just doesn't get it, and has lived long enough to actually witness real-life horrors, what's their appeal?
     
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  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think maybe they're like roller-coasters. It's fun to be scared, exhilarating to get the adrenaline rush, as long as it's in an environment that's ultimately safe and controlled.

    I don't really know if there's a tie in to larger socio-economic events... has there actually been an increase in sales of horror novels since 9/11?
     
  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    This probably should have gone into General Writing, but, well, here we are.

    -
    As a writer, my works are horror and I use the horror elements for either allegoric or symbolic purposes. I tend to mix real-life horror (like a parent trying to help their child overcome an addiction) with fantastical elements (Is the daughter really seeing ghosts or is it a side effect of the addiction?)

    The attractive element of this, for me, is that ambiguity that is never answered.
     
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  4. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    The zombie apocalypse--

    I can explain that one. I've always liked the idea of a post-apocalyptic world where society has totally collapsed and everyone is forced to rely on their wits. There are no restrictions or social pressures, no jobs or politics, just people trying to survive.

    In a way, it's almost like a fantasy novel. You get to create your own world with its own rules, your own gangs and factions. It's like Westworld or Game of Thrones, but with modern-day people.
     
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  5. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    There's a catharsis aspect to at least some of those. For people who enjoy being scared by fiction, it's because it allows them to experience being afraid - the adrenaline rush and the following calming endorphins - in a safe environment. People who don't enjoy that feeling might not because their brains aren't fully recognizing that they're safe, from what I understand.
     
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  6. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    I always thought the interest in TWD was the human drama that resulted from the zombie uprising. At least from what I remember, a lot of the tension came from expecting the inevitable betrayal. Zombies seem to set the stage for the true story -- the one about how humans are really fucked up. The zombies provide the tension of constant threat, but it's the decisions that the humans make under those conditions that make viewers react. At least in my experience. I don't hate or love the zombies. The zombies just are. I do hate and love characters. Mostly hate. TWD is basically a soap opera, except the melodrama is appropriate to the context. So if you combine people's secret love of drama with something as popular as zombies, then sprinkle edgy gore on top of it all, you got yourself a winning formula. That's my best estimation. I stopped watching because these kinds of shows are unending cock-teases. I think others are right to say that it's about the adrenaline rush in a safe environment. But I bet if you ask people what they remember most about the show, it's not the zombies.
     
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  7. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    I don't know if sales have increased but when I did the search a lot of the posts that I read quoted 9/11 as a big factor in people loosing their sense of security etcetera and looking for a way to 'release' their fears.

    I'm not being facetious or fatuous at all, but that doesn't sound too dissimilar to todays world. I understand what you're saying though. Self-reliance amidst chaos and ever present danger.

    I honestly didn't realize/know that anyone, other than a very young child, could experience fear by anything fictional that they might read, see or hear. I can understand a young child experiencing fear from the originally quoted sources but they wouldn't be (or shouldn't be) allowed to watch movies or television shows that are adult rated; isn't that why there are parent advisory notices and other ratings to cover that issue?

    I still don't get it, I'm sorry to say. I have experienced fear in real life and for good reason, as I'm sure very many others have too, but I've never in my life felt even remotely scared by anything fictional that I've seen either at the movies or on television. I mean, it's a fiction. There's no risk and no reason to feel fear.

    I'm also still at a loss to understand why movies or television series that center around zombies or vampires and the like are so very popular. I'm obviously missing something for I just don't see what qualities (or lack thereof - like not being alive, bad haircuts, no epicurean tendencies and zero sartorial elegance) they have that apparently makes them so frightening to an audience.
     
  8. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    But isn't this the basis of the generic thriller -- or most stories -- conflict, repeated crescendos followed by repeated resolutions, to end with the final crescendo and the final resolution. I understand the structural format, just not the popularity of the subject.
     
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Do you like rollercoasters? Do you get emotionally involved in other forms of fiction?
     
  10. Primordial Knight

    Primordial Knight Member

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    That's easy, though to be fair. It's different for each monster.

    Zombies, it's simple. For one, Apocalypse is almost ALWAYS the scenario with zombies, and people love them. It draws out the most... REAL you, so to speak, thanks to the Tense and dangerous events within. Then there's the gore factor, and also the ability to Kill something that looks enough like a person, that it can get a good amount of aggression out, while also having the moral superiority to say, it's not a human, So you don't need to feel bad about it. It's a combination of Exhilaration, Desperation and Moral Ambiguity, Along with straight up gore factor that makes the Undead in my opinion at least.

    With vampires, it's combines the "Oh he's so sexy, But he's dangerous! But only to other people not me" Fantasy trope for many girls. If at least they go with the more Cliche of them. While also giving a power fantasy, of well super powers, being the dark edgy loner trope for guys.

    That said, I love vampires and Zombies. But looking at it to an objective level, MOST popular stories about them go with these things. At least from what I can tell. I prefer werewolves to them both, But they are also favorites of monsters for me.
     
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  11. izzybot

    izzybot (unspecified) Contributor

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    Well, I think you may be lumping together things that don't really go together here, to some extent. A lot of modern vampires aren't scary or meant to be - maybe they have moments of it, but they're mostly the sexy tantalizing vampires. There may or may not be any sense of danger but it's certainly not coming from a horror starting point. It's intrigue, maybe thriller-y tendencies, interrogations of what makes a human a human, whatever. But it's not really horror. Not in the way zombies are. (Warm Bodies notwithstanding ...)

    It seems like you're probably just not particularly susceptible to horror stuff. I'm not either, and I don't think there's any way to train yourself into feeling it, but you might be able to at least understand it if, as @BayView is I think getting at, you do have other emotional reactions to different types of fiction. It's an empathy vs sympathy thing, I think. I don't have great empathy so I'm not prone to feeling what the characters are feeling whether it's fear, tension, whatever - you might be the same way. If you have a general certain emotional distance from things you read/watch, I reckon feeling fear by proxy is one of the toughest ones (and one of the most apparent ones to lack because the enjoyment of so much horror hinges so heavily on being afraid, while you can still enjoy, say, a romantic story without actually empathizing with the characters).

    I only really get uncomfortable over eye scream, which is something that freaks me out enough in real life that fictional depictions freak me out too. But there are other things that I'd find horrifying in real life that I enjoy on a screen or page, because it lets me observe it without being freaked out and sort of condition away the fear. There can be a sort of morbid fascination aspect too, I think - something that might be horrible in real life but is a really interesting idea can be safely enjoyed and considered without internal or external moral condemnation so long as it's fictional. Well, some people do get weird about it if you like gory movies or murder mystery novels or whatever 'too much', but certainly there's less moral condemnation for the fictional stuff :p


    I'm running off a long night and one hour of sleep at the moment so hopefully this isn't disjointed and I made some sort of point.
     
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  12. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    Hi. Rollercoasters per se, not really. In my early years I lived just a few miles from the biggest yearly fairground in Europe and of course had to try everything out. I liked the speed and the 'flyin' and 'dumping' effects I felt but that's about it. I couldn't call it a thrill.
    I have the same issue with reading fiction which is why I don't read much fiction. I can empathize with certain character situations but I don't think that qualifies as a real answer to your question. Simply put, I cannot immerse myself in fiction and feel anything other than very superficial emotion precisely because I know it is fiction. I do feel emotional however when I read any of the more heinous stories of cruelty, wanton or planned violence against an individual (and such) that make the news.

    This is how a professional soldier who has seen combat feels -- killing is not the real him, and what he kills is a real living person -- but he doesn't need to feel any moral ambiguity to feel okay about killing -- he is doing his job. Afterwards he doesn't feel as if he's 'let go' of aggressive feelings because they were never there in the first place. He just feels very tired, or more usually, completely exhausted. I understand the real-life feelings of combat experienced soldiers, but they aren't feelings that are easily expressed. It's hard to care even slightly about the color of the curtains or what Bob said to John while they were on their way to wherever. Perhaps there is a dividing line here between those who have seen horror first hand and those who haven't. I don't know. But it seems likely.

    I've heard that girls like bad boys and find them appealing because they are 'bad' -- I can understand this from the Darwinian perspective -- they cannot help but choose a male to mate with who will produce 'strong' offspring and ensure her and her children's survival. From any other perspective it doesn't make any sense to me and I'd guess it'd be the same for a lot of other men.

    I'm sorry, I don't understand what this is saying.

    @izzybot : thanks Izzy, I could really follow what you were saying. I do understand the 'sexy mesmeric' vampire trope. Always found it to be unbelievable but I DO get what you men -- it's not horror -- more a fantasy story.
    I had to quote the whole of this section because it all resonates as being true for me. Believe it or not (sounds trite but ...) I am an emotional person, I do feel compassion and I am very empathic, or so I've been told. I hurt like a wounded cat or dog or human, I feel their pain and agony, so much so that it's that which drew me to caring for people and animals. We can't really afford to, but we take in strays, often pregnant ones, and see to their needs, veterinary and otherwise -- right now we have 14 cats and two dogs in the house and they eat better than I do :) I value life -- all life -- period.
    Fear by proxy just doesn't happen to me -- if it isn't about tangible, real creatures I just feel, well, little to nothing -- as in 'what's there to feel - it's not real'. Don't know if that makes sense - I hope so. As always there is a but, and it is this: if the characters portrayed are human or animal and not something totally unbelievable to me (i.e. vampires, zombies, monsters etcetera) then yes, I do feel emotions when viewing them in a story although the emotion ends when the story ends -- there's no hangover of feelings afterwards. I care about the MC's in my own small effort of writing, if I didn't I couldn't write a word or even care to try. I care, but I don't feel fear, and I'll possibly fail in writing a story because they don't feel fear to any great extent. Other emotions, most certainly, but rarely fear as such.

    It's unnerving to me that so many books and movies sanitize issues and events that really can't be sanitized, and the result (for me) is that the work lacks authenticity, so much so that I can't watch the whole thing -- it makes light of some things that cannot be lightened or seen through rose colored glasses. There have been some genuine attempts to portray horrific events and human situations and they get to a reasonable approximation of the truth but never nail it.
    I hope you don't mind my italicizing the first part here. Fully agreed and this is (IMHO) the foodstuff of writing -- the inclusion and expansion of an idea in fictional terms. Here again though I still come up against the big question (for me) of why people find the idea of vampires and zombies to be good foodstuff for a book or movie. Sure they're an easy to access ready made source of blood and gore waiting to be tapped, but believable? There's nothing that can be done to change the utterly unbelievable into suspension of disbelief -- at least IMHO. And that is still the mystery to me. A cartoon movie about a talking brick with a machinegun yes, I can buy that because it's meant to be fun, but how can I take a vampire or zombie seriously -- I can't. And although you and many other members have very kindly offered their opinions on the subject -- and I have understood them all -- I still have no firm answer about what it is specifically about vampires and zombies that makes them so appealing to authors as well as to the public. It's not about the human condition although as one member did point out -- zombies just are -- it's about how humans handle the situation. My problem, if I might call it that, is that if there are many realistic issues that can be used as a base idea to satisfy that question (how humans might handle something terrible) why use something so completely unbelievable as V's and Z's as a transport mechanism.
     
  13. Primordial Knight

    Primordial Knight Member

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    Yeah, sorry. I let my internet slang speak for me there. Basically for guys, it gives the power fantasy, of being the 'badass' that is misunderstood, Most likely having a hot girl/s to have as well. And of course, Super powers, Such as the basics, super strength, speed, durability, probably regeneration, claws, fangs, ect.

    Basically Vampires are the perfect Power fantasy for our present Culture. You get the victim points of being misunderstood, and the powers/looks of basically a super hero. With usually few weaknesses that can be easily avoided(such as sunlight, or holy objects/substances). While with girls, they get the bad boy, with a caring heart for her alone and such. (Not saying all girls want this, They don't, But it's obvious with so many well selling books, and movies that take this approach, that Many DO.)

    Again I love vampires, I even like the present form of generic vampire, who struggles with humanity. However, I enjoy it more when it's far more well done. Then just some guy with super powers, who sometimes drinks human blood, because before going vampire vegan and drinking animal blood. For instance Witcher does it well, where blood isn't a NEED, for survival, but basically like a powerful drug, that gives them a great high, while they are immortal, (Without being killed by an outside source) so it's difficult for many to see the worth of human lives, when they End naturally.

    But in the end that's all my opinion.
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Agree here, at least as far as the fantastical is confirmed. Supernatural things have nothing on humanity as far as fear goes. Not even close. I would disagree if you're also referring to fiction where humans are doing scary/disturbing things... those turn my bowels to liquid if done well.
     
  15. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    There are two questions here: why is horror popular, and why are stock supernatural beings popular. I can't answer the latter because I find no attraction in werewolf/vampire/mythical-being stories. They don't scare me and I find them dull and overdone.

    But horror? As @BayView said, it's the rollercoaster effect (FWIW I don't do rollercoasters as I'm terrified of heights. But I love the rollercoaster crash scene in Final Destination). Good horror gets my heart thumping and the adrenaline flowing, and, unlike real fear, it's exhilarating because I know nothing bad can actually happen to me.

    There's also a kind of drug addict effect, at least for me. You know how nothing matches up to that first high, but drug addicts are constantly seeking it anyway? That's me and horror. I'm always looking for the next thing that will scare me, and the more I look the more desensitised I get. It's thrill seeking.
     
  16. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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  17. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    Very interesting replies all. I've done a lot of thinking on this subject and have drawn a possible conclusion. Having lived with PTSD for over 40 years I had to learn to 'handle' day to day life which wasn't easy -- and still isn't in many ways. However, to get to the point, I found that many people like myself react in an unusually 'odd' manner in one particular area related to this discussion : when things are tense, fast paced and most people freak out, I get calm. Time seems to slow down.
    Anyone else here have PTSD and care to comment on this possibility? Hyper vigilant all the time but contrary to expectations, calm in a tense situation.
     
  18. Adenosine Triphosphate

    Adenosine Triphosphate Member Contributor

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    I suspect zombies spring partly from the fear of death. Humans are smart enough to reflect on their own mortality, and most of us aren't looking forward to it. Real corpses can't move or attack you, but decomposition already turns them hideous, no matter how beautiful or robust they were in life. The most capable human forms become broken and bloated, until their flesh rots away altogether. The appearance alone is enough for a horror story, but the fact that they were once alive makes it even worse, because most of us will end up the same way, unless we're cremated. They're bacteria-ridden proof of our eventual fate. For all these reasons, dead bodies are unsettling to most people, and it's easy for them to become monsters in fiction (or even myth).
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017
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  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    I would like to think that such things are most comical. :p

    After watching both seasons of Exo Squad, it would be more terrifying
    to create a superbeing that decides to revolt and create other much better
    versions of it self. And no we are not talking like the Terminator series,
    since time travel and robots are not part of the equation in such terms.
    While the show is pretty heavy on the violence it does not have any gore,
    but I think if it had the more gritty elements the show would be a bit more
    gruesome on the consequences of what both sides go through in their war.

    Science does not credit the possibility for Zombos and Vamps, but at some
    point we may be able to make a species based off our own that could revolt
    against us. That is much more terrifying, than trying to make things that are
    not possible to even create in reality. Sure you can add electronics to reanimate
    a corpse, but it just can't be done on a biological level. And Vamps, well the
    closest you will get to that is when we can manage to advance far enough medically
    to keep the living body alive for a much longer period of time than is possible at
    the present (Also you would not gain any powers other than living longer). :)
     
  20. Laurus

    Laurus Disappointed Idealist Contributor

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    Hi.

    Semi-retired horror movie fan here. Got any recommendations? For reference, the last good one I saw was The Babadook. Before that, Paranormal Activity. The first one. Only the first one. The other horror movies just kind of...blur together.
     
  21. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I used to be big horror fan, but I watched so many horror movies I got kind of numb.

    CREEPY MOVIES:

    It Follows (2014): A supernatural entity begins stalking a girl after she loses her virginity. Honestly, this is hands down the best horror movie I've seen in a long time. I would really recommend it. 10/10 scary.

    Sinister (2012 movie): A novelist looking for his next story moves into a murder house. The person who murdered the previous family is still around. This one had so much hype I avoided it for a long time, but I recently watched it and it's actually pretty good. If you liked the first Paranormal Activity movie, I would recommend it. It has a very similar vibe. 7/10 scary.

    The "Conjuring" series was also pretty good. 7/10 scary. Excellent storytelling.

    NOT CREEPY, BUT INTERESTING:

    Devil (2010 movie): Five strangers get locked in an elevator. One of them is the devil and keeps killing the others off. They've got to figure out who it is to defend themselves. Good movie. Not scary, but interesting.

    Creep (2014 movie): A videographer is hired by a man on Craiglist to come film him. Good acting, well made. Very tense, but didn't feel frightened. Liked it a lot.
     
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  22. Mike43

    Mike43 Member

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    @ATP: Thanks for your input.

    I can vividly recall my very first anatomy lecture at medical school when our lab coated lecturer came into the classroom with something slung across his shoulder. When suitably positioned in the room he eased the 'thing' he had carried in from his shoulder and dropped it onto the podium/desk -- it was a human arm and shoulder complex from an adult's cadaver. Nobody in the room said a word, but everyone reacted to the sight -- not shock or horror but a numbed sense of credulity -- the reality was too real to be real -- it was surreal. Something that had been part of a human who had lived a life was just lying there on a table like a discarded piece of a mannequin. The precarious line between life and death had never before been so evident, mortality so undebatable.

    Over the years it did, of course, become commonplace for us to dissect body parts in the morgue and for many students it was simply a necessary step in the whole learning process that would eventually lead to a medical degree, but for some of us the fragile connection between life and death remained a powerful emotional/intellectual consideration. A dead body is one thing to contemplate, but seeing all the component parts of a human body spread out over numerous stainless steel dissection benches was something else. The practical aspect was ho-hum, learn how the Lego bricks connect and it's off to work we go, but the metaphysical aspect of what was there was always present in one's mind. The question became how could something so incredibly complex, so perfect and so beautiful be nothing more than a sum of parts, something that had just evolved from the chance collisions of complex organic molecules. Just the right elements, just the right organic structures and super organic structures, just the right incredible biochemistry and so on -- too fantastic an entity to attribute it's existence to chance -- but what were the alternatives? Some other, even bigger fantastical intellectual constructions?

    Through those years I obviously saw a great many human bodies, and whilst I found the unavoidable question of mortality to be unsettling I could never imagine this creation as a monster, but quite the opposite. A human being, whether alive or dead, is an unbelievably complex and magnificent organism. I have difficulty in understanding how it would be easy for them to become monsters in fiction (or even myth) as you suggest, although I can see from empirical evidence that you are correct. I think it reasonable to conclude that perspectives will differ, more than slightly, according to an individual's experiences.

    When I was young I was invincible, everlasting, and knew everything; now that I am old I fight to tear off a piece of toilet paper at the perforations, know my sell by date has expired and realize how little I know. ;):confused::(
     
  23. MythMachine

    MythMachine Active Member

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    Honestly, reading a horror story, watching a gory flick, or playing a scary game is not about the scares. I have a lot of flaws, but one of my strengths is that I don't scare easy, and I have yet to find a fictional medium that accomplishes that. (I don't count jump scares, because you could just as suddenly throw an adorable baby panda in my face and I'd react the same way.) Despite this, I still play horror games and thoroughly enjoy a well written novel. I think fear, as strange as it might sound, forces out the most hidden areas of our personalities. When people are afraid, they act and react differently than they would if they weren't. Someone might break down under the stress of fear, while another might put on a show of bravado, in denial of their fear. It may be that this exposure of one's mental state in such a tense situation is what draws me to seek out horror. Seeing how other writers and creators depict fear and its aspects is interesting, because in some sense, to make something truly horrifying, they would have to be afraid of it as well wouldn't they? I could be wrong, but then again, it might be different for everyone.
     
  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Vampire, zombies, etc., have the common characteristic of being once-humans who have lost critical parts of their humanity, and who put other humans at risk of losing their humanity. My guess is that that's a large part of the core.

    Of course, that just shifts the question. But we are in a societal place where we're staring at each other across a lot of different philosophical and cultural divides, sometimes wondering if the people across the divide are entirely human. Making them NOT human, and then sometimes pasting some humanity onto them, may be helping us to explore that.

    That may also be why there are so many stories exploring characters that have a wide, wide streak of evil.
     
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  25. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    Oh man, I wanted that kid to be murdered SO HARD in Babadook. Whiny little shit.

    I know you're not the only one and so many people rave about this movie, but I just don't get it. Why did you like it so much? I feel like I'm missing something because I found it completely average and even a bit silly :/

    Off the top of my head, horrors I've enjoyed recently:

    SLEEP TIGHT: It's Spanish and subtitled, but well worth a watch. A caretaker of an apartment building has a mission to make everybody miserable, and targets the relentlessly-cheerful woman in apartment 3B. Very creepy.

    GET OUT: I believe this got the highest ever rating for a horror movie on Rotten Tomatoes. A black man meets his white girlfriend's parents for the first time, and finds out they aren't quite as welcoming as they first seem.

    WOLF CREEK: You might have seen this as I think it's older than Paranormal Activity. Much more violent than the previous two, but the villain is incredibly creepy and it's *really* tense.

    EMELIE: A couple hire a babysitter so they can go out for an anniversary dinner, not realising she isn't who she claims to be. The ending was a bit disappointing but I enjoyed it until the last 10 minutes or so.

    INSIDIOUS: A couple move into a new house where strange things happen, and when their son falls into a medically-inexplicable coma, they have to try to find out what's in the house. Subverts some of the classic horror movie cliches, which is nice.

    THE VISIT: Two kids go to meet their grandparents, who've been estranged from the family for a decade, and find their behaviour distinctly odd. I have to confess I'm a fan of Shyamalan, even though everybody thinks he's a joke since The Village, but this seems to have fairly good reviews. I loved the black comedy.

    HOUSEBOUND: A New Zealand horror, with typical NZ black comedy, where a juvenile delinquent is ordered to her mother's home under house arrest and hears strange noises in the house.

    WAKE WOOD: Two grieving parents move to a new town where the residents can offer them three more days with their dead daughter - but at a price.
     
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