Saturday, March 19, 2011

Horror and Hair

Like Harrison, I too am not a great fan of horror movies. He may have had an active imagination as a child, but I still have one and imagine all sorts of scary things. That being said, I think it will be instructive for me to watch horror movies in an academic setting rather than being tricked into seeing them, as friends of mine have done in the past. We discussed in class why people like horror films- and I agree with our consensus that people enjoy the adrenaline rush it gives them. The fear makes life sacred; so watching scary movies makes us feel alive, happy to be alive. I’m a big rollercoaster person and I know there’s nothing like that rush of facing your fear and then seeing it through to the end. In addition, although I think we’d probably not want to admit it, humans have a sometimes macabre fascination with death. It’s the last adventure we will all take. Horror films and films with gore and murder can take us close to imagined, painful deaths which we hope we never meet with.

On a different note, I did some research online to see if hair actually grew after death, but I believe in actuality hair just seems like it does. While I’m not a biology/anatomy major, I think some sites said your skin contracts, tightens, therefore lengthening your hair. (I apologize if this is nowhere close to the real truth.) However, it is very interesting that hair and nail growth after death seems to be a prevalent feature in many books and films. I looked up the record for the person with the longest hair and the title is claimed by a Chinese woman. While Kwaidan recounts Japanese ghost stories, I thought it was interesting that the longest hair belongs also to an Asian person. Long hair seems to be connected in Asian culture (and other areas too) with youth, beauty and even sexuality. (I’d like to write more later, even though I’ve reached my word limit…need to go somewhere)


  1. Like you, I am also not a fan of horror movies…in fact I refuse to watch them, along with movies that are gory (Saw, etc). I do think a lot of people enjoy the adrenaline rush that accompanies many scary movies. Personally, I have always thought watching a movie should be an enjoyable experience. I hate feeling drained or frightened by the time a movie is over, but for others, this is not the case. Like we discussed in class, fear is a subjective experience. It seems like many horror movies focus on themes the majority of people would find fearful (the unknown, death, spirits, etc) in order to appeal to a large audience. Though I can’t provide any additional information about hair growth after death, I thought the mentioning of this in class was interesting because I had never heard that before.

  2. I feel like I'm a closet horror film watcher. Like Lindsay mentioned in an earlier post, I sometimes find myself sneaking glimpses of a horror movie that's on tv even though I know I'll be haunted by its images later that night. I'm a wimp when it comes to scary stuff, but sometimes I can't seem to turn away--it's something I can't really explain about myself.

    While I agree that adrenaline plays a role in many people's (including my own, perhaps) fascination with horror, I'm not sure that explains the repetitive nature of such films as we discussed in class. In other words, why do films continue to scare us when so many themes appear again and again in these films? (ie- the dumb blond chases after a strange noise, the black person dies first, etc) I think that scary movies feed some sort of morbid desire we have. Death and gore remain somewhat out of reach to the living and (relatively) sane population so I think that scary movies may be able to temporarily satiate a thirst to see that sort of thing. While horror movies do get your heart pumping, I think part of the thrill is based in some peripheral desire to witness human suffering.

  3. I'll start out by saying I do like watching horror films. I'll watch anything from psychological horror to zombie movies-if they look they're well made. Not really into Predator v Alien, or the mutilation plot-lines in body horror movies like Saw. I think horror appeals to a more primal sense of ourselves. Like Margaret said, some part of it is that you want to see the blond get killed, whether she deserves it or not. The fear of being trapped-in the ocean, by a monster, held captive, kidnapped, without a phone, bound and tied, whatever it may be-is one of the most basic fears I think I have, (which I'm sure many other people share). The horror genre, no matter what context the film puts it in, is usually one that weaves tales of survival and 'escape'. This struggle to make it to the end is what we enjoy watching, safely from our seats.

  4. I must say that I agree with you Kaitlin, in that watching movies in an academic setting is beneficial for me. I am able to concentrate on or try to figure out what elements are important for class and not spend time imagining the events of films actually happening to me.

    I also would say I am a "roller coaster"person in that the rush from that huge, slow climb being translated into a very short and breathtaking drop is definitely one of my favorite feelings.

    Also, as I'm sure you remember from class, I had a hard time the whole hair thing. I still am not quite sure what the significance in relation to Asian films, but I find the idea of hair, its prestige and link to sexuality, to be very important, and it is definitely distinct. I feel that the hair is something in which the Asian cultures have 'idolized' or captured as a symbol or respect, beauty, etc. I believe it to be significant in determining class as well. If hair wasn't especially significant in Asian culture, then I don't think it would be spot lighted in almost every Asian horror film, in which the hair has been dismembered or damaged in some way. I am interested to learn more about that, as you are.

    Where I must disagree with you is that I am not at all fascinated with death. I'm ashamed to say this, but death scares me. I think it scares everyone a little, but it doesn't fascinate me in the slightest. I avoid the topic at all costs (well, most). :)

  5. Kaitlin, it's interesting that you brought up the nail and hair thing- I remember my 5th grade teacher reading us scary stories on Halloween. Once was about a man who was going insane thinking about a body rotting- one specific part talked about how his nails would begin to curl as they grew. It blew my mind and scared me at the same time. I believed it until around middle school our science teacher told us that your skin just shrinks up so it appears like they grow.

    But on a totally different note- Good Hair is great documentary about hair- India's largest export is hair! They shave their heads for religious rituals and then some one sells it to make hair pieces.