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What does the horror genre say and teach us about ourselves and the human experience?

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Actress Jamie Lee Curtis starred in John Carpenter's 1978 horror film classic <em>Halloween.</em>
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis starred in John Carpenter's 1978 horror film classic Halloween.

From demonic possessions and creepy clowns to serial killers, hauntings and otherworldly apparitions, the horror genre has some kind of an allure that causes people to go out of their way and even pay money to watch or read — especially during the Halloween season.

Why are so many people obsessed with the horror genre? Do we just love a good scare or is there something deeper at play?

Maybe it's the physiological response like a rush of adrenaline. Maybe it's the opportunity to feel part of a frightening situation while taking comfort in the safety of home. Maybe horror allows us to explore darker parts of ourselves.

Horror can convey social commentary, as well. In recent years, filmmakers have used the genre to reckon with the traumas of racism such as in the popular films "Get Out," "Us" and the "Candyman" reboot.

Horror is a divisive genre. Some people love it and others hate it. Stephen King's 2017 "It Chapter One" didn't win any awards, but it did earn more than $700 million at the box office.

What is the psychology of horror movies? Why are people so fascinated with them? Do they have real-world impact?

What do we get out of watching them? Are horror fans more psychologically resilient?

What can horror films teach us about ourselves and being human?


"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, October 27.

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