Textual Critique: “Why We Crave Horror Movies” By Stephen King
In the essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies” by Stephen King, the main point of the essay is explaining why people enjoy horror films. King is pinpointing an audience who is intrigued by horror and those who question why people like it at all. Some people wonder how horror movies can be enjoyable to others. Those types of people are the ones who are more likely to read this, searching for the answer. He is able to persuade the audience into agreeing with his points by using examples of everyday happenings that could dub us as somewhat insane and making us really think twice. King starts his essay by claiming “we’re all mentally ill; those of us outside the asylum only hide it better” (298). His purpose is instantly clear: we’re going to discover what makes us all mentally ill in one way or another.
King is well known for writing horror novels. The first sentence of the essay sounds just like Stephen King: “I think that we’re all mentally ill” (298). He knows how to draw in an audience. Already, the reader is interested to know what comes next. King’s effective use of a hook makes this essay one worth reading from the start. King continues on by introducing the idea of horror movies into his essay. It’s now clear that King is going to use horror movies to help explain his idea. He starts off by simply putting it as, “we go to have fun” (299). Quickly, though, the thought changes a bit to adhere to the reader’s thoughts. King knows exactly what the reader is thinking. Why would you go to have fun? Aren’t horror movies supposed to scare you? King agrees: “this is a very peculiar sort of fun indeed” (299). When thinking about fun activities, going to watch people die in a movie isn’t exactly the first idea that comes to mind.
King explains “horror movies provide psychic relief …because this invitation to lapse into…outright madness is extended so rarely” (299). He uses society as his way of explaining this even further: “Love, friendship, loyalty and kindness—these are all the emotions that we applaud” (300). King continues by explaining that negative emotions and actions are never praised. He uses the imagery of children at a family party. King describes the scene in two ways. He portrays the older sibling as faking kindness towards the younger sister to gain all sorts of praise and affection from the family members at a party. On the other hand, King says if the older sibling were to “deliberately slam the rotten little puke of a sister’s fingers in the door” there would be a much different reaction (300).
Based on society’s rules and the fact that negative feelings aren’t necessarily welcome, King has clearly stated and convinced us of his point that horror films are a gateway to freeing those unwanted, insane thoughts like regularly expressed emotions. King explains that these “anticivilization emotions don’t go away and they demand periodic exercise” (300). It makes sense. All of our emotions, whether they be happy, sad, anger, or “anticivilization emotions” as King says, must be expressed equally and regularly. That’s why we have horror movies. King creates an image in our mind by writing that horror movies open “a trap door in the civilized forebrain” (300). Beneath that trap door are “hungry alligators swimming around in that subterranean river” (300). The alligators represent our uncivilized feelings. King continues on by agreeing with Lennon and McCartney “that all you need is love” (300). King concludes his essay by putting a twist on the sensitive feeling of love: “As long as you keep the gators fed” (300). While love is a wonderful emotion to express, we can’t all feel loving towards everyone. As long as we keep our grotesque thoughts accounted for, we can easily keep ourselves sane for the sake of others.
King’s essay is intriguing, vivid, and twists the reader’s mind by making them ask questions about their own sanity along the way. He uses imagery by creating and describing scenarios such as the scenario of the siblings fighting at a family gathering. Starting from the beginning, there was never a dull moment. Each sentence and was crafted in a way that forced my mind to think a certain way and even agree with the majority of what he was saying—and I’m not a big horror movie fan. The point of persuasion is to make someone really think about your side of the argument. King is known to be a horror person, which allows the audience to already know where he stands. Yet, he knows that most of his audience isn’t as big on horror as he is. He takes his understanding of his audience and uses it to his advantage. King wants the reader to agree with his ideas by showing them that he is trustworthy in what he’s saying. To establish trust between author and reader, he acknowledges the readers’ thoughts. He assesses his ideas as a potential reader would. By placing himself in the readers’ shoes, he is able to make a strong connection with his reader. It’s comforting to know that someone understands you and King is doing exactly that. He knew his audience and all ideas were focused. The focus of ideas is important in allowing the reader to understand his thoughts. Instead of being thrown around carelessly, he organized his ideas in a way that was understandable. Organization also gives the reader a sense of trust. A good writer would never allow their work to be published unfinished and sloppy. He took his vision, gave it a voice, and presented it to an audience that he already knew. This essay will make the reader truly wonder: Am I actually insane? No one will really ever know, since we’re all just so good at hiding it.