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Why do we love scary movies?

We asked four filmmakers who know their horror movies – including the creator of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ – why it is that audiences have always loved being scared to death

Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley

Director of ‘Sightseers’, ‘Kill List

‘Why put yourself through it? It’s a way of exercising the adrenal glands without risk, I think, in the same way you go on a roller coaster. It’s the way you watch romcoms, isn’t it? You want to have a cry. With horror you want to feel afraid, because you can do it without consequences.

‘In my films it’s about oppression and dread. You can feel it on set. On “Kill List” they all thought I was a nice guy until the point we shot stuff in the house where they torture the guy and break his head with a hammer. Everyone was like: What are we making? I thought this was a comedy.’

Scariest film: ‘The war film “Come and See” terrifies the shit out of me because it’s real.’

Kimberly Peirce

Director of the new ‘Carrie’ film

‘I scared the hell out of myself recently watching “Halloween” alone. I was motherfucking freaked out. I turned up all the lights. It’s insane. We never grow up. I remember being a kid and seeing “The Exorcist”. I must have been nine or ten, lying on the floor in our living room. When her head started spinning around, someone in my family yanked my foot. I thought I was going to split in half with fear.

‘It’s pleasing to be scared. It’s also a communal thing. You want to watch a scary movie with friends or lovers. You want to have someone close, to protect you.’

Scariest film: ‘“The Shining”. I always think he’s going to strike me with that damn axe.’

Reece Shearsmith

Actor and writer, ‘Psychoville’, ‘The League of Gentlemen’

‘You wouldn’t wish the fates of horror film victims on your worst enemy so why do we upset ourselves so wilfully? Some of the best horror films shake you out of yourself. They shock you in a galvanising way that makes you more alive than you were when you went in. You come out a bit giddy, legs shaking, hair ruffled, but exhilarated. And all from a place of safety, knowing it’s not happening to you.

‘We enjoy the misery of others. Nothing makes people laugh more than seeing someone fall over on “You’ve Been Framed”. The next step is to see them fall over and their head come off. Happy Halloween!’

Scariest film: ‘I always have to feel especially brave before I embark on “The Exorcist”.’

George A Romero

Director of ‘Night of the Living Dead

‘What scares me? Not movies! Real life is much scarier. Audiences can escape into fantasy horror. It’s a world away from the terrors that face us every day. I loved going to horror movies when I was a kid. But I was never seriously scared by them. I was much more worried by the fact that the Russians had the bomb, or the thought of going to hell if I didn’t confess my sins!

‘I don’t know why we love these movies so much. It must be an involuntary response. Why does a joke make you laugh? It’s the same thing with a scare.’

Scariest film: ‘The original “Cat People” spooked me as a kid.’

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