This is the time of year when we entertain our basic instincts with horrifying monsters, gore, insanity and the supernatural. Although considered a mostly niche genre, horror films do enjoy an avid following.
Horror is an ancient art form. Throughout history, we have tried to terrify each other with tales -- from the ballads of the ancient world to modern urban legends. Each generation develops its own monsters to reflect the times. In the 1940s, for example, while the world was living under the threat of Hilter's predatory demeanor, horror fans identified a part-man, part-wolf as their "bogeyman." In the later part of the century, Jonathan Doe, in the film "Seven" (1994), and Hannibal Lecter, in "Manhunter" (1986), "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) and "Hannibal" (2001), were entirely human and calculated in their killing styles. As we moved deeper into the 21st century, ghosts and zombies have come back in style. Eastern and Western superstitions have converged, and once more an evil that is beyond human has become popular in movies.
The first great horror classic, "Frankenstein," was written by Mary Shelly. We have several versions of this classic on DVD. Want to watch a DVD by the undisputed master of the horror thriller? Alfred Hitchcock chose the 1960s for his two main ventures, "The Birds" and "Psycho." In "The Birds," Hitchcock transposed winged creatures into some of the most terrifying villains in horror history, and "Psycho" kept many of us from taking a shower.
Horror films create tension through mystery, "Rosemary's Baby;" suspense, "The Haunting;" gore, "The Evil Dead;" terror, "The Shining;" and shock, "Suspira."
An interesting subgenre of horror films features nature "running amok" in the form of mutated beasts, carnivorous insects and otherwise harmless animals or plants that turn into cold-blooded killers. Examples of these are "Black Sheep," "Jaws," "Mimic," "Deep Rising," "Lake Placid," "Anaconda," "Piranha" and "Arachnophobia."
Stephen King once said, "I recognize terror as the finest emotion, and so I will try to terrorize the viewer. But if I cannot terrify him/her. I will try to horrify. And if I find I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud."
We have several of his movies on DVDs. In "Needful Things," a new shop is opened in Castle Rock. Anyone who enters finds the object of his lifelong dreams. In "Thinner," a man runs over an old gypsy woman who puts a curse on him to be thinner. In "Dead Zone," a former school teacher wakes up after a coma and discovers he can see people's future and past. In "Cujo," a once-friendly St. Bernard turns into a killer. In "Misery," a man is kept prisoner by a former nurse who becomes irate. In "It," a child's worst fear is realized: a killer clown. Clowns are supposed to be good, not evil. This one also eats children. In "Carrie," a misfit high school girl is tormented with a dramatic confrontation at the senior prom.
Our libraries have a varied selection of DVDs. You can check them out for a week. If we don't have the title you want on a particular branch shelf, we likely can borrow it from another.
So check out a movie -- if you dare.
Mary Jo Berkes is the branch manager of Hilton Head Island library.