Anyone who has a passion for the horror genre invariably faces questions from those who can’t understand why anyone would enjoy being scared, disturbed, grossed-out or horrified.
Conversely, those who are partial to romantic tragedies, weepies or dramas containing significant trauma (regardless of the outcome) also face questions of this kind. In my experience, those who can’t stomach tales of the macabre are often unable to abide tear-jerkers.
For me, horror and weepies are two sides of the same coin. They both deal in extreme experiences. They both contain situations that no-one would ever want to undergo in real life. They both put their protagonists through an emotional wringer, and they are both, at their best, deeply therapeutic experiences, both in books and in films.
What I love about both horror and weepies is that they are, when done well, superb ways to experience a simulation of extreme feelings. We get involved with characters we care deeply about, and then go through whatever agonies they are going through. The ensuing feelings of grief, terror, or even both together, provide a deeply satisfying, immensely cathartic release. It can even feel like an out-of-body experience.
Of course there are many weepies and horror stories that fall well short of this ideal, but I for one feel sorry for those who cannot watch, say, The Babadook, and surrender to its dark spell, or someone who can’t abide Brief Encounter or The English Patient, because they are tragic. I even encounter people who can’t bear Bambi or E.T. The Extra Terrestrial due to their sad scenes. Does it require a certain masochism to enjoy these films? Perhaps, but in this case pain really can bring pleasure.
I love stories that leave a traumatic scar. I was never the same after reading Watership Down, One Day, The Kite Runner, Life of Pi, Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, The Remains of the Day… I was never the same after watching The Exorcist. I understand temperament and personality come into play here (and I have written about horror from a Christian apologist perspective in more depth here), but honestly I pity people can only stomach the most superficial of dramas. Weepies, horror stories and all other forms of drama dealing with extremes make me feel so much more alive.