As Stephen King once said, “We make up horrors to cope with the real ones.”
Stephen King has been influencing people for nearly 40 years, starting with his classic novel “Carrie” in 1974. Nicknamed “The King of Horror,” King has overall proved that fame can be a possibility for a Mainer.
I grew up in Bucksport, which is only a few towns over from King’s home in Bangor. Even before I had picked up one of his books, I listed him as my top influence, for the most part because he was, like me, a Mainer who loved to write.
Horror has been the subject of controversy, and some people are convinced that watching or reading it can cause harmful behavior. I am against this theory. I have been watching horror since I was 8 and if anything at all, it has made me extremely creative. The fact is that while some killers may take their cues from horror, the genre has little if any effect in the world of crime.
My first favorite horror movie was “Stephen King’s It.” I can remember watching it in my room like it was yesterday. It truly terrified me, but I loved it. I was immediately inspired, and began writing my own horror stories. Some even included Pennywise, a form of the antagonist from “It.” Whenever I got a chance, I would watch horror movies, despite my mother’s wishes. Soon, my horror collection began to grow. In no time at all I must have had 10, which included “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Freddy vs. Jason.”
My grandmothers were among those who believed the lie that horror causes children to commit crime, and I remember one instance where one of them actually blamed Stephen King. She had this opinion even though she had never actually sat down and watched any of them. My mother got yelled at by them for allowing me to watch horror films. They were convinced that if I watched a killer put a knife into someone’s chest, I would repeat his actions.
If you look at the history of serial killers, you’ll see that most of them are mentally unstable in some way and don’t watch horror movies. A good example would be London’s Jack the Ripper, one of the world’s most notorious killers. He put fear into the hearts of thousands of people. And at the time, there were no horror movies to inspire him to kill; he just did it.
Whether you like it or not, the genre of horror is popular, for a number of reasons. One is that people like the rush of being scared. People enjoy being scared because it gets the blood pumping and therefore it makes the movie more exciting. It creates an internal high that no drug could ever produce. People go to movies so that they can enter a new world and forget about their troubles for a couple of hours.
Another reason people enjoy horror is that it can bring people together. Upon the release of “Paranormal Activity” in 2009, fans came together to get the film shown at their local theaters.
The scariest part of horror is the thought that someone could go to an entertaining movie and come out wielding an ax. As Stephen King said, in his essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies”: “I think that we’re all mentally ill: those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better.”
Making up horrors to help us cope with our own helps us with everyday life. Everyone has a dark side, and some of us turn it into writing. Writers have a certain knack to play God, in a sense. They can create a world of their own and make their own rules. I used to say that I was a killer because of the number of people who were murdered in my fictitious world.
It doesn’t matter if you live in Bucksport or Castle Rock, the setting of Stephen King’s “Cujo,” it is apparent that the dark side of the human condition is to blame for violence, and not horror movies.
Kenneth Emerton is a freshman at the University of Maine at Farmington. He has enjoyed writing since he was in second grade.