What Basic Need Do Sci-fi & Horror Tap?

            As someone has said “It is not about motion pictures, it is about emotion pictures.”   Good films, and I believe Midnight Reckoning (www.Midnight Reckoning.com ) is one of those, don’t just have visual, razzle-dazzle and powerful music, but they seek to tap deeply into our human psyche to awaken what psychiatrists tell us are our deepest needs:  love, recognition, security, new experience, freedom from guilt.   Drama’s and romances deal with love.  Action and crime stories revolve around strong urgent goals and are often driven by the human need for recognition.  Adventure and comedies satisfy our need for new and funny experiences.  Sometimes science-fiction takes us to new worlds and we get a ride on a really cool space ship. 

             But in a much deeper way both recent sci-fi feature movies and television (like the  Twilight Zone  Series,  Lost Season One,  the Memento   movie ) and recent horror films (like Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind, the Quarantine  movie, and the Paranormal Activity movie)  deal with our deepest fears and insecurities and the guilt which may lie behind them.   We will seek to examine the principles that horror and sci-fi feature movies use to surface our deepest fears, and perhaps suggest some ways to gain SECURITY and FREEDOM FROM GUILT that psychiatrists say we deeply need.

             It’s interesting that in film festivals that science-fiction and horror (and fantasy) are grouped together.  On one level they seem to be vastly different but on closer examination both deal with one of the deepest fears that we all have:



             It is this loss of control that taps into our deepest fear of losing the security of our familiar surroundings, or even worse having our familiar surroundings suddenly seem unfamiliar.  And not only that but we encounter people or beings that are totally unfamiliar to us and which we have no way to predict their behavior.  In horror it is some monster: human, alien, supernatural which we can’t understand and which therefore we can’t control that not only threatens our life, but our very own control over our own freedom and our very own will to act not only in this life or the next. 

             In Sci-fi it is or tyrants or monsters who control all powerful machines that threaten to undo any last shred of freedom that we have in our lives. 

             In Horror it is an organic or spiritual monster, in Sci-Fi it is a mechanistic one.  I once heard that the apparent difference between advanced technology and advanced magic is almost indistinguishable.  The technician gains omnipotence over nature by high mechanized control (the Death Star in Star Wars ), or the magician gains it by highly spiritualized control (Lord Voldemord in Harry Potter ).   Usually in good horror stories it is not enough that one be an ax murderer, but they be a demonically possessed ax murderer.   The Antagonist is possessed with extreme superhuman powers and could crush us at any moment, and so we are not just outmatched, but powerless. 

             In our daily lives this is a deeply buried fear that we all have.  We settle into a normal routine.  Things in life seem predictable and then suddenly a 9-11 hits, and the very floor under our feet is pulled out from beneath us, and we stare mesmerized at the TV watching the plane crash into the Twin Tower over and over again, maybe hoping that if we watch it one more time it will turn out differently.  We knew it could happen all along, like our own death, but just not today.  Not when the stock market’s doing well, not when crime statistics are down, not when I’ve  just passed my physical, not when I have a dinner party tonight, not when my life seems so predictable.  And yet it happens, and suddenly we feel very small, very powerless. 

             So what is the solution to the utter and complete loss of control in our lives.  That may be why we go to see Sci-fi and horror films – to see the answers they provide… in the next blog.

 (feel free to post this article on any site, but please only post the entire article including the following copyright.   Thanks.  ©2010 by Derrick Warfel )  Watch for the next installment which will be posted about week from now – AFTER MIDNIGHT.    BACK TO MIDNIGHT RECKONING