I love movies. More specifically, I love horror films and comedy films, especially when they are all in one film, a la Tucker and Dave vs. Evil or The Cabin in the Woods. I try to see as many horror films as I can, but as I've gotten older, I find it more difficult to watch films that include body horror, disturbing content, and senseless violence.
In 2017, I watched a plethora of notably mediocre (or just plain terrible) horror films, such as Wish Upon, Friend Request, Flatliners (remake), Better Watch Out, Amityville: The Awakening, Get Out, and Temple. I found some jewels, such as Housebound, Happy Death Day, and Creep 2, but was pretty disappointed with the amount of horror movies that I actually liked in 2017.
I thought about why I liked so few of the movies that I saw, and I came to the conclusion that there were a lot of movies that I researched and just wouldn't even see because of the content in the films. Films such as Raw, The Blackcoat's Daughter, mother!, and It Comes At Night were all misses for me because of their content.
It seems to me that content in horror movies lately has become more graphic, more disturbing, and leaves me feeling depressed, disgusted, and sad.
A couple weeks ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Haunters, and saw that there was a focus on extreme haunted attractions. The people in the documentary explained how the haunts became so extreme over time, and why they thought people seek out those kind of experiences. They noticed that people were interested in having a terrifying experience that was technically "safe", but very different than your typical haunted house attraction. It seemed as if people wanted to experience simulated torture, sexual assault, verbal assault, and physical assault. I was definitely appalled at what I was seeing in the footage provided by some of the extreme haunt owners, but was also curious about why people would want to experience something that I thought most people would avoid.
I set about researching why people would crave an experience so extreme. What I found was that some people want to have experiences that make them feel that their lives are threatened, but only in a safe environment. An article in The Washington Post called "Dear Science: Why do people like scary movies and haunted houses?" talks about how people get a sense of euphoria and accomplishment when facing a seemingly serious threat and overcoming that threat.
I thought about this for a while, and thought that it was possible that the same reasons people had for visiting extreme haunts could be the same reasons that people had for seeing movies with very disturbing content. The more disturbing and more "real" the content is, that is to say, the more the viewer feels that their lives could be in danger, the more euphoric they feel once they realize that they are safe and the experience isn't exactly real.
I understand why people would seek out experiences such as visiting haunted houses, viewing disturbing content in movies, as well as visiting theme parks with rides that defy death; people want more of that sense of euphoria and accomplishment. It's a fairly easy way to get those things; you just have to (usually) pay a fee, and then you are on your way.
I do not personally like to experience those things, even in a "safe" environment. It is interesting to me that I have never liked thrill rides at amusement parks, as they are too intense for me, I do not like disturbing content in films and video games, and I get overwhelmed when visiting even tame haunted houses. It becomes too real to me. I'm the kind of person who can get deeply involved in an experience like watching a horror film and think it's absolutely real while I am watching it. I have always wondered if people who have vivid imaginations (I do) go deeper into experiences that are usually viewed as "safe" and get traumatized because they have a harder time of disconnecting from the experience.
I have come to the conclusion that if a person tends to get deep into the experience of movies, books, and video games, they will probably have a harder time disconnecting from other experiences as well. If people get too far into an experience, can that result in the brain thinking that they have experienced very real trauma? I think that it could be true. If people can experience secondary traumatization, that is, experiencing trauma from a first-hand account of trauma from another person, why can't that be true if they are so deep in a movie or other experience that they start to believe it is true?
If some people are susceptible to secondary trauma, I don't think it's so out there to think that they are not the right fit for the more extreme experiences that are becoming more and more popular. I have learned what is okay for me to experience in films, haunted houses, and video games, and I have learned several ways to protect myself from seeing things and experiencing things that may traumatize me.
The first thing I try to do is research whatever I am going to experience, and even though it may ruin the experience of being surprised, I have come to learn that I'd rather be aware of plot point earlier than I'd like than to see something that is going to make me feel terrible.
I do find it difficult to find information about specific disturbing content in films. IMDB sometimes has a parents guide, which includes information about specific scenes in films that have sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol/drugs/smoking, and frightening and intense scenes. The problem with that is people have to fill out the content, and you can never tell who might not include something that might bother someone else because it's all relative. There's another website called Kids in Mind, which informs parents of content in movies that may not be safe for their kids to watch, but not all movies are listed.
One of my goals in my movie reviews is to share any kind of information I come across about films that either I have seen or researched that includes possibly disturbing content. I personally would like to find a website that includes information about disturbing content in films, which is not just for children. I decided if I couldn't find one, that I would make one for other people like me, who enjoy horror films, but do not like the negative feelings associated with disturbing content that is not disclosed.
I may not write reviews about all the films I have researched or have seen, but what I will do is keep a list of films that are known to be especially disturbing and explain why I feel that they are in that list.
A few tips I have for people who feel like I do are:
Watch movies or go to haunted house attractions with someone who will protect you. By that I mean, if you are phobic of snakes, and one pops up in a movie, the person will tell you when the snake is gone from the scene. Similarly, in a haunted house, this person will walk in front of you and give you a sense of protection.
When you are watching a movie or playing a video game and you see one disturbing image, scene, or hear disturbing language, just shut it off. There were so many times where I would experience something in a movie or video game that bothered me immensely, but I would keep watching or playing, only to experience something worse later on. Trust me, if the filmmakers are going to show one disturbing thing, they not only will continue to, it will most likely get worse later on. If it's not for you, it's just not for you; you aren't "weak" or "pathetic" for not being able to experience something. Protect yourself, because not everyone can handle what someone else can handle.
I hope this article helps those who are finding it hard to navigate the world of movies, books, and video games and want to have a fun experience without possibly being traumatized by it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and if I don't know the answer, I will do my best to find out the answer for you.