I love old horror movies so much, it’s scary

Published 9:38 am Thursday, April 27, 2017

I enjoy horror movies.

OK, I should clarify that. I enjoy certain horror movies — not all of them.

I don’t like movies that focus on gore, grossing out the audience, torture, etc. I love the old horror movies like “White Zombie” with Bela Lugosi, or “Horror Express” with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and the 1962 film “Carnival of Souls.”

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“Carnival of Souls” focuses on a young woman who is the sole survivor of a car accident that claims the lives of her friends. She is haunted by the experience, and nothing seems quite real to her after. I know after 55 years I shouldn’t be concerned about spoilers, but if you’re into old black-and-white movies that focus on suspense and mystery over jump scares and such, and you somehow haven’t seen this one — I don’t want to spoil it for you.

One thing I like about “Horror Express” is its focus on the triumph of good over evil, God over Satan. Most of the story takes place on the titular train and has kept me interested every time I’ve watched it.

Some more recent films also make my short list of loved horror. “The Others” with Nicole Kidman — the story of a woman taking care of her children who are allergic to sunlight as she waits for her husband to return from war — builds slowly, but has some great twists and stands up to repeat viewings. “Signs” starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix — a story of a family still dealing with the loss of a wife/mother/sister as mysterious sightings of presumed aliens take place around the world and nearby — is fully about trusting your instincts, as well as good advice from others, and not giving up on faith.

And then there’s “Cub,” a 2014 Belgian film that is dubbed in English. The tagline for the movie is, “Over-imaginative 12-year-old Sam heads off to the woods to summer Scout camp with his pack convinced he will encounter a monster … and he does.” Building on the timeless campfire story that a Cub Scout once wandered off from camp and became a wild boy who terrorizes campers to this day, “Cub” asks the “what if” question of what would happen if somehow this were true.

It’s not without the trappings of modern horror movies, but the story centers on the character of Sam, who is unsure of his place, purpose and value. It’s a film that makes you think.

So why do I, and millions of other people, enjoy horror movies? We like the scares, the adrenaline pumping, figuring out the mysteries, knowing whodunit before the heroes do … and we like seeing the bad guys get their just desserts.

“White Zombie” and “Horror Express” both see the bad guys get what’s coming to them, in rather poetic ways. “The Others” and “Cub” make viewers reevaluate who the bad guys really are. And “Signs” makes us think about how we can work together with those we love to see that good triumphs over evil.

With all the bad things in the news today, and all the bad that’s never even reported, why would we want to see bad things on film?

We want to see justice. We want people to get what’s coming to them, for bad guys to get it in the end.  But for ourselves, if we were suddenly the star of one of these movies, we would want mercy.

I think we like this kind of story because we have a deep inner desire for justice to be served, and mercy to be received. Ultimately, we all will receive one or the other. As a Christian, I believe it when the Bible teaches that God is the god of justice and of mercy. He will have justice from everyone who acts against him (sins) and that justice can come in the form of an eternal hell or in a Savior who stands in our place and bears the punishment for us. It’s our choice.

For those who choose the Savior stand-in, mercy is what we’ve gained. Add to all of this the grace that God gives by making us his own child at that point and giving us eternal life, then we’ve gotten way more than we hoped our story would contain.

Grace is my favorite word. And, believe it or not, that’s why I like horror movies.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.