Tal Zimerman is a writer, film critic, and unabashed fan of all things horror. From as early as he can remember he has been fascinated with the dark and bloody nature of the genre. Similar to most horror fans, Zimerman is at a loss when it comes to explaining why he finds the macabre so fascinating. The desire to understand why so many individuals enjoy the genre is the basis of Nicolas Kleiman and Rob Lindsay’s captivating documentary Why Horror?
Speaking with filmmakers (George A. Romero, Eli Roth, John Carpenter, Karen Lam), writers (Chris Alexander, Elvis Mitchell) and scholars (Dr. Susanne Ford, Dr. Noel Carrol), the film explores how horror has become a prevalent part of modern society. Tracing its roots back to early war images by artists like Goya, and literature that predates Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Why Horror? does an effective job of showing that the genre has been ingrained in our culture for centuries. Horror films are more than blood and gore. They are tools that reflect whatever the prevailing fear of society is at that time. It is why each generation has their own defining film. In the 1930’s it was Universal Studios’ monster films that ruled the day. Godzilla captured the nuclear paranoia of the 1950’s. Hitchcock’s Pyscho had people in the 1960s fearing the boy next door. By the time the 1990’s rolled around mainstream popularity was solidified with The Silence of the Lambs, a horror dressed up as a thriller, winning the Best Picture award.
Though the artistic merits of horror, especially on a global scale, are well examined, what elevates Why Horror? above other comparable documentaries is the way it delves into the science of it all. Exploring everything from the way our brains are wired to the “snuggle theory”, which looks at how horror can be an aphrodisiac between the sexes, the film uncovers some truly fascinating facts. A perfect example of this is the section revolving around the way video games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill have made horror, and zombies in particular, popular in mainstream culture. Whether you are a hardcore horror buff, or a novice who does not like to be scared, there are plenty of insightful things to chew on in this captivating film.