As the leaves darken and the days shorten, a haunting sensation materializes in the woods of Durham. With the goosebump-inducing weather comes a craving for terror, almost as if people can sniff out Halloween lurking around the corner. To satisfy these desires, there exists a simple solution, one which the college students know all too well: horror movies.
At the University of New Hampshire, horror movies are a fall go-to, much like football or apple pie. “Everybody likes to watch bad horror movies because they’re dumb and hilarious,” sophomore mechanical engineering major Davis Cole said. “The cliché archetypes of a horror movie are established, but it’s always a good laugh.”
In addition to providing laughter at the expense of horror movie tropes, scary films fulfill a darker craving. As Kevin Loria reported in Business Insider in 2017, horror movies often tap into primal parts of our brains, triggering very real fears.
“Neuroscientists have started studying people when they watch films, and filmmakers are consistently able to trigger similar emotional reactions in viewers, especially with scary movies,” Loria wrote. Horror movies essentially take the audience out of their seat and place them in a life-or-death situation, creating a real feeling of fear.
While simply watching horror movies is entertaining enough, to imagine living within the universe of flying machetes and unusually dangerous suburbs is even more exciting.
On the surface, college students possess all the attributes one would need to survive a fall murder spree: a solid knowledge of horror film clichés; athletic bodies; quick wits. Yet, when asked how they thought they’d perform in a slasher movie setting, UNH students doubted their odds despite what they’ve learned every October from binge-watching “American Horror Story.”
Sophomore mechanical engineering major DJ Simoneau verbally juggled his chances of survival, eventually admitting that his kind demeanor would be his downfall. “I think I’d do well because I’m resourceful, but I’d be too nice and my niceness would kill me,” he said. “Or I’d just leave and everybody would die and I’d feel guilty.”
On the other hand, Peter Hunt, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, doubted every ounce of his abilities to survive a night with a homicidal maniac.
“I don’t think I’d survive to the end,” Hunt said. “If you’re in a suburban area like Durham, then the creature is like Freddy Kruger and he just kills you in your dreams or something. I can’t deal with that.”
When asked about his weapon of choice, Hunt revealed a sharp answer: “Hand pruners; Shia LaBeouf kills the guy with them at the end of ‘Disturbia.’” However, Hunt noted, “Real weapons never work. (A) gun is going to jam if we’re following clichés, it always does.”
Although Hunt remained opposed to mechanical weapons, Simoneau held his stance that a loaded shotgun would keep him alive, regardless of horror movie banalities. “I’d definitely wield a gun,” Simoneau said. “If there’s a f****** Sharknado coming at me, I want to be in Bass Pro Shops with a gun. … But (the monsters) would have a lot of guns too, I guess.”
While Hunt and Simoneau preferred to argue over the merits of weapons, Cole stuck to the finer things; specifically, stenciling out a clear-cut plan to outwit whatever monster was currently on hand.
“Stay together… or just leave. Cars never start, though, so that’s an issue,” Cole said. “It’s stupid how the road is always blocked or the car doesn’t start, but I’m either staying in a big group or getting out of town.”
Even with a thought-out game plan, Cole still doesn’t like his chances.
“I think I’d do well but I’d definitely die very soon because I’m pretty arrogant a lot of the time,” he said. “I’d like to think I know what I’m doing, but considering I’ve never been in that situation, I’d probably mess up.”
At the end of the day, these scenarios are extremely far-fetched; having to battle a Freddy Kruger-esque murderer is either very unlikely or altogether impossible. Yet, this is exactly what makes the particular fear that horror movies induce so enjoyable.
As Hunt said, “There’s either one or no survivors… and I don’t think I’d be that one, so I’d rather just watch.”