Scary novels have a long tradition in literature, including children’s stories. This Halloween UWA Senior Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies Dr Ned Curthoys was asked why people have a fascination with scary stories.
“The key elements to scariness have something to do with sensations of gloom, terror, mystery – and the intense anxiety we feel from being completely isolated and defenceless,” Dr Curthoys said.
“I think we love a scary story because we’re empathetic beings who can quickly place ourselves into the situation depicted.
“I often think it has something to do with how our nightmares and fears, often lingering from childhood, are given external form and become tangibly real in a scary tale.”
Dr Curthoys said people get the same sensation when the distinction blurs between the past and the present, as it does in the time warp with the movie The Shining.
“It also happens when you can’t differentiate between sleeping and waking lives which is what happens in Nightmare on Elm Street, when the impossible becomes possible. None of us can forget the long-haired girl coming out of the TV set in The Ring.”
Dr Curthoys said to be scary, a story or film needed to tap into our fears and anxieties.
“A great scary story is full of thrills and suspense but also appeals to our imagination in producing ingenious spectacles of pure horror,” he said.
“These days we often read or watch narratives in which we can’t be sure if the narrator is credible.
“The Nicole Kidman film, The Others, about besieged human occupants of a ghost house, is a good example of that, where we just don’t know where we stand.”
Jess Reid (UWA Media and PR Advisor) (+61 8) 6488 6876