I watch a lot of horror movies. However many you’re thinking right now, I regret to inform you that you have woefully underestimated the number of horror movies that I have watched in my lifetime. I watch a lot of horror movies. My earliest cinematic memories involve horror movies—Alien when I was three years old, sitting on my uncle’s lap in the living room of our old apartment; The Blob after a midnight trip to the emergency vet to have a cattail removed from my cat’s eye; Critters in my grandmother’s living room, elbows buried in the plush beige carpet, dreaming of marrying the handsome red-haired boy in the lead role. So many horror movies. The only form of media that has arguably had more of an influence on me than the horror movie is the superhero comic book (which is a whole different kettle of worms).
The standards of horror have changed with time, of course. The things we’re afraid of now and the things we were afraid of fifty years ago are not the same, and neither are the avatars we choose to face those fears. We’ve gone from jut-jawed heroes to final girls to clever kids to slackers who somehow stumbled into the wrong movie, and when it’s been successful, it’s been incredible, and when it’s failed, we haven’t even needed to talk about it, because everyone knows. But there’s one ingredient to a really good horror movie that has never changed—that I don’t think ever will change—that I think we need to think about a little harder.