The Joy of Fear | Ep. 6


This episode of Halloween unmasked is brought to you by AMC networks, shudder, the premium video streaming service for all of you creeps in goals out there who want to get spooked out this Halloween season and every day every everyday is Halloween at shutter. You can stream in amazing collection of horror movies at free. Just four ninety nine a month or forty nine dollars for the entire year. And you know what? Try for free right now go to shutter dot com slash podcast and use the promo code unmasked that shuttered dot com slash podcast and use the promo code unmasked. Now, let's get on with the show. Please, please. Laurie's in the living room with Michael Myers, and she is scared to death. It's dark and shadowy. She's petrified. And then he pops up from behind the couch with a knife. Michael stabs, the couch, and she jabs him in the neck with a knitting needle. And then he falls to the ground. And from there, Laurie does a couple frustrating things. She picks up Michael's knife and she throws it away. She should check his corpse. She should stab him again to make sure he's dead. But instead she lives upstairs to check on the children, take a little walk. Buggy man. Scare nothing scared of. Laurie nods. She doesn't see the shadows changing behind her Michael, a very alive. Michael is coming upstairs, killed him. Can't kill the boogeyman. Got to get out of the house. Instead, she hides in a closet where Michael finds her right away. We tried to get ourselves into the safest position possible, which for her was just going all the way to the back of the closet and trying to surround herself with walls that's not rational thought hiding in the closet is pure instinct, which makes sense because fear is our most primal emotion fight or flight the survival instinct that humans share with every animal from cats to dear to cockroaches, but only humans do something unique. We choose to be scared to pay money till it technicians like John carpenter, use lighting and music to hammer on our nervous system to have a blast yelling at Laurie strode to not hide in that closet market. Kerr is a sociologist who studies fear, and she's let a lot about the closet scene in Halloween about why Laurie strode does what we are begging her not to do and why lorries tear makes us scream. And I thought that that that whole scene was so well scripted and directed because it captures so many different elements of fear. And so I think about that scene a lot and just how helpless, you know, she must have. Felt in that location, you know she wanted to protect herself, but in the end ended up trapping herself essentially. And I just, I think that that all really captures the feeling of true fear. You know, when you're helpless, you can't just, you can't have any sense of control over your environment. Margaret uses what she's learned about fear, two different ways. She's written a book called scream, chilling adventures in the science of fear, and and I love this. She also designs haunted houses. Maybe I, Amy, Nicholson. The host of Halloween unmasked should not admit this, but I cannot handle haunted houses still. I am fascinated by people who love screaming for their lives as a cautionary heads up. We're going to hear a real life nine one one call later in the show from a horror fan who took his obsession with Halloween too far. They'll be later in the show, and I will give another warning then if you'd like to skip ahead or make sure that no one impressionable is listening because fear humans, most basic emotion. It's also tied to our most beautiful one empathy. Fear and empathy are intertwined. The human brain is really incredible. We are able to feel the emotions of an experience even though we may not be directly involved in it well, so then what happens in our brains in our bodies when we watch a horror film, when we watch a horror film, there's a bunch of different changes that start happening in our body. I, we're already preparing ourselves for something scary. So the patient starts to build immediately and we know something is going to happen, but we don't know when and so any startle is going to activate our threat response. And we've got a gentleman noradrenaline, cortisol, endorphins dopamine serotonin. All of these different chemicals start coursing through our body, helping us become strong fast and focused when we're scared our bodies literally prepared to run for our lives in electorally. Sure. Yeah, you know that Michael Myers. Isn't real, but your lizard brain, it isn't so sure in that makes your whole body feel alive. Plus who loves to watch horror films with a fistful of twizzlers or peanut Eminem's or giant coke junk food ads to that physical rush. Our body starts turning any available sugar into energy, getting that out to our muscles, and that's why we start to feel kind of fully energized and primal more strong and just ready to to jump or fight or flee. And so our body becomes super activated, our skin temperature goes up as our body is trying to to be the most fuel efficient that it can and we sweat our pupils dilate. All of these changes are happening to prepare us for for uncertainty to to face what danger may come. So even though you know that Michael's not gonna stab you, you're ready for him and your body feels great. You are deliberately wonderfully miserably alive like halloween's little girl. Lindsey Wallace who will not done off the scary movie on TV. Spoke to your window. Turn off the lights. Away here. Why sitting here with all the lights off? I don't know. She doesn't know, but she knows she loves it. A lot of people feel almost a sense of euphoria and part of that is because endorphins and neuro transmitters like dopamine and serotonin are also released during those high arousal states. And in the absence of real threat we can, you know, use those in a way that feels good. That makes us feel, you know, kind of relaxed and even a little just kind of chilled out. Margie has even hooked up people to electrodes to measure the changes in brainwaves before and after doing something scary. And she's seen firsthand that that is why you leave a horror movie feeling awesome in that is part of what keeps you buying tickets them in the first place. I mean, we live pretty safe lives safer than our ancestors, at least, but scary flicks let our body chemicals have a blast even if you're not consciously thinking about dopamine and serotonin, you're aware that going to a movie, like Halloween is great. If you have a crush is any of this at all connected to why people pick out horror films for like. Dates? Yes, yes. So scary movies can be really good for dates because when we're with people that we like in a highly intense situation, like a scary movie, we bond more closely to them, and so it is true. You know, you really do kind of bond with the people that you're with under these high stress or fun. Scary activities. All of your chemicals are working to create that high arousal experience. And if you're with somebody that you're like or your tracked into it can intensify those feelings, Michael, Myers, matchmaker, and that bonding sensation is also Ihor movies are way way way better in theaters when you're surrounded by people, instead of just at home on the couch, it does intensify the emotional experience. So you hear your friends laughing or just even strangers, laughing or screaming, and you start doing the same and it really does bond people and create a sense of of solidarity. Sense that you know, you're all in this together and it is dark hyme called it the collective effervescence. You feel that that shared emotional kind of bonding that makes me think we could solve the world's problems of. We just put everybody in America in giant horror movie. Yes, yeah. I mean, you know, when we asked people how close they feel to each other afterwards, people do feel more close. You've shared this highly emotional experience and you've been bonded. You've been brought together. Of course, some movies are scarier than others. I'm sure you've seen horror films where you really just bonded with your friends over how boring it was. Filmmakers have tricks. They used freak audiences out, and John carpenter uses them a lot better than a lot of movies. I am not gonna bother to pick on. So let's analyze why Halloween is so scary. The technical choices that John carpenter made the head people losing their minds because when you think about it, this is a movie without that many murders Michael kills his sister, Judith, Myers, at the beginning, and then a full fifty minutes goes by with babysitters. Talking about boys before Laura's curly haired friend anti-gay stabbed in the car, and even then there's no shocking gore. There's nothing off that makes us flinch. There's also almost no jump scares that. Scary movie cliche of walking down a quiet dark hallway, something so overdone, that even the sitcom community made fun of it. Just a cat. Let's keep moving. All the. Off with that task. Throwing. Not keep moving because there is an insane cat down here. But what about the Samis backburner Troy. This cat has to be dealt with when you're scare tactics, work best on community. I am not abreast. Halloween has to proper fake out. Jump scares one when Laurie bumps into sheriff bracket on the street. And then again, when the rain gutter smashes through the window of the old Myers place in Dr Lummus freaks out and grabs his gun. I do. Seems to me of just playing scared, jump scares work, the way that hitting your funny bone with a hammer works, but I'm glad that Halloween only has two because I think they're often a little cheap compared to that pleasurable rollercoaster of tear that Margie describes. Jump scares are more like someone kicking the back of your chair. When I see movies that are just, you know, jump scare after jump scare. It is exhausting. You know, you do kind of get saturated from it, and it doesn't really feel like a fulfilling. Scare. It just feels like, okay, I get it. You know, lots of jump scares. Instead, John carpenter chose to build suspense. Michael Myers says knife and John carpenter has his opinion. That is what a good horror movie is. When you buy a ticket to scary movie, you know that something bad is coming. The fun is that you don't know when the slow burn is is where you become invested in the story, and you start carrying about the characters. And when it's slow, you do get more invested. And so the scares feel more more real really, and then the payoff is is is bigger that patients isn't just about the plot. It's also in the camerawork picture, the shots in Halloween picture, Lori, walking to school and walking home. Think about how far away the camera stays from Laurie John carpenter and his director of photography Nin Cundy talked about leaving big blank spaces, wide streets, giant front yards exposed windows, so that. We the audience would have to nervously scan all the corners of the screen to see where Michael Myers might be coming. It is mental torture. It is delightful, mental torture, and only in the last ten minutes when Laurie finally meets Michael, when we know exactly where Michael is, does the camera lettuce spend time with her up close to stare right into her face as she screams dean Kunde who helped design. Those shots was producer Debra hills higher. She'd met dean while he was doing the cinematography for a bunch of sexploitation thrillers with names like creature from black lake and Elsa harem keeper of the oil sheiks. They both worked on a movie called Satan's cheerleaders, where after playing sexy tackle football, a pom pom squad gets interrogated to see if any of them qualifies to be the devil's virgin brides. She the unspoiled maiden. She the one chosen to be bride kidding me in a maiden, a cheerleader for three years. They they were, what would I call something that they wanted for drive in theaters projector fodder because there had to be something running on the screen to semi entertain the the couple in the back seat and they were not scary when dean I got hired to be the cinematographer for this babysitter murders movie. He figured it might just be more of the same. But then he met John. John was the first rector I met who had the same sensibilities as I, which is to use the camera to tell visual story to tell the story. He was very much about using the camera to take the audience on this emotional journey. How you use the camera is what can create. This is pants how you compose a shot, creates suspense. If you put a character way off to one side of the frame, your eye. Tends to look at the empty part and say, what's going to happen over there in your? I always goes to the part of the frame that's got new information incoming, especially at night when the sun goes down, dean didn't turn on the lights, the way that you are. I might when we come home and we feel a little spooked instead he let the screen fill up with shadows. He knew that with the audience couldn't see would drive them insane. If I can't see there what could be there who could be there and what kind of knife would he have? It's always about manipulating what the audience sees are what you want them to see and how you want them to feel picture. That scene right after Lori, discovers Annie and Linda in Bob's dead bodies. She's sobbing in the hallway next to a dark doorway where Michaels white masks slowly patiently agonizingly emerges. It seems like good, nothing lurking. And then slowly John. Description was it's like the audiences is are getting used to the dark. So you know, I, I put a little light with a dimmer and turned it all away off and then very slowly brought it up a little bit a little bit a little bit till the audience could see. Michael Myers lurking. It was this intake of breath, an intake of breath. And then a screaming release. Dean use the science of our is adjusted darkness to intensify our fear and he doesn't again in that closet scene, it's dark when Lori hides in the corner clutching only a wire hanger for protection, but then dean and John did something wonderfully cruel. They had Michael Myers reach into the closet and turn the light on so that we get temporarily blinded by the bright swinging bold and then Laurie turns. The light back off just to the audience would have to spend more time. Blinking adjusting is freaking out about what we can't see, but even so get this when John carpenter showed his first rough cut of Halloween to the studio, they were not abreast one executive called it boring. Why John had an added the music he needed that stinger that meal job. You just heard to tell the audience to be alert here. Let's put on the opening credits of the film and really soak in his score. Go ahead in fixture that flickering Jekyll intern, if you like. It's a deceptively simple song, but listen for a few things I listened to the layers. Pull them apart. And then if I, what each one does to your nerves. It doesn't get talked about that much, but there's that insect zone that scratching at your brain making you feel anxious and itchy. Then after a few measures, the heavy hotting cords come in the sound of something for lent Lewis, something that you can't escape. And then the song it's fuller. Synthetic psycho esque strings. The up all the space. They're suffocating. And then John kills them. He kills the cords and he strips the song back to suspenseful simplicity to return your focus back to that PNO melody. That unusual bizarre rhythm is written in five four time, which means five beats per measure. Most songs have three beats or four beats or six beats per measure. So when we hear five, it's six out it sounds weird. Put us on edge. John learned that strange rhythm from his dad, a music professor. I got a pair of Bongos for Christmas, so my dad's let me teach you five four time. We sat down and he did pop up pop up about Papa Papa, banged it out on the Bongos. And then that was the beginning of the idea for the Halloween team. John is one of the only modern Hollywood composers to us five four time, but he wasn't the first. That will be this theme song that I bet you'll recognize immediately. And it's no coincidence that the mission impossible theme and the Halloween are the most instantly identifiable scores ever. They're weird. Rhythm just makes you nervous. It says that something strange is going to happen. Led into making something that would make audience just anxious. Yep. Repet- repetitive little phrase over and over again and it would get you, oh, dear. What's going to happen? And tell me if you're surprised by this fact to John unsentimental John who made this movie forty years ago and very loudly wished he wasn't so good at freaking people out and had instead gotten famous making westerns has the Halloween theme as his ringtone. It's touching on us Louis even a little sweeten vulnerable. And of course, when I call him on it, John does his best to sound cool. Actually, it's my wife's hate cellphones. Because you're waking. Does it ever get annoying? The phone meets too much. Yeah, yeah. No, I don't know. It's a whole fine. Everything is good. I have no complaints life. I'll be honest having a Halloween ringtone on my cellphone would stress me out hard pass, but maybe John has built up immunity for the rest of us. After this quick break, we're gonna talk about the side effects of scary movies and ask if our love of horror flicks can go too far. Once again, this episode of Halloween unmasked is presented to you by shudder, the premium video streaming service for all you creepy cats out there. Now, shuttered has the largest fastest growing human curated by very smart hor experts selection of thrilling and dangerous entertainment. It is the Netflix for her, and it is so good. You're gonna love everything that you find on there. You're going to discover old horror films. You never saw, and you're gonna hear about the new way of war. They got to start surfing right now. Now, shuttered, as you know, one of my favorite things about it is there curator's like Timmerman who you heard, they put together these programs of films based on themes. So if you're in a certain type of horror mood, but you don't know, you wanna watch. It's awesome. One of the questions they have now is called school's out forever. And that is if you're a person who likes watch horror films with school connections, we're talking about over yell. We're talking dead girl, which is super creepy. Of course, we got Jamie lease prom night, but you also have problem night to there's dial agendas phenomena, which if you're in a dial gentle mood because we're just talking non stop outside in the real world, you gotta check that out. And even cuter stuff like Heather's Winona, Ryder Christian Slater who does not love Heather's. Another collection they have right now is called get red, and that is dedicated to awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Eighties horror films. This is going gonna. Find your show to this is where you're gonna find your beyond you got your sleep away camp. You got your gate. Oh, you're going to have the best best best movie marathon shutter wrecks on everything I phone works. Apple TV works on Amazon fire TV works on your Android. So just get started today. It's four ninety nine a month or forty. Nine ninety nine a year. And if you wanna try fourteen days for free, just go to shudder dot com slash podcast and use the promo code unmasked that shutter dot com s. h. u. d. e. r. dot com. Slash podcast promo code on messed and get spooky. And we are back, and as I'm thinking over our conversation with fear expert Margie ker, it seems that the pleasure of fear only works when you know the Tepe down, you're safe that all the bad stuff is on the screen, but every so often fear goes too far and horror movies are accused of inspiring real life violence to that human empathy that makes us care about the victims. It sometimes makes us empathize with the villain to some. They look at the killer at their lack of fear as a personal dare. Could they be capable of killing as well? I don't believe that every person who loves Michael Myers is twisted. I don't believe most of them are by far, but we do have to talk about why some critics are afraid of horror, movies, afraid of why we like them and afraid of what someone who takes them too far might do, who can movies inspire people to kill. Yes, the give shape tune the scripting so it's a cocktail of things. It's never one thing. You might recognize the voice of Peter Vronsky the author of sons of Cain history of serial killers from the stone age to the present from episode three, where we talked about the psychology of Michael Myers as he points out this argument that horrible images inspire, horrible crimes is ancient in compasses everything. Put magazines, pornography, fairytales, even old violent would cuts. The bible has influenced serial killers as much as pornography has. So this kind of condemnation of female sexuality is deeply in green, of course, in in the Christian faith as as well. Historically is they're all Halloween. If you know fairy tales or you aware Halloween starts. So as so, you know, certainly that's not the solution, nor is, you know, necessarily taking guns away because serial killers will kill with their hands. So Franchi doesn't see the point in banning horror films win the bible is. Legal, but psychologist, Dr. Toby from that same episode does agree that when we watch Halloween, our minds aren't as innocent as wanting to save Laurie strode. I honestly think that when we watch these at an unconscious level, we identify with the aggressor more often than we would like to admit. And when that happens, we figuratively and literally see aspects of ourselves projected onto the big screen. And I think that resonates with some people. I mean, talk about identifying with the aggressor, John carpenter, literally opened Halloween with putting us inside Michael Myers his head in that long tracking shot and it rob zombie, Halloween young, Michael Myers is this bullied kid from an abusive home. He's very empathetic up until the moment he begins to kill. We're about to hear a nine one one call from a seventeen year old boy who saw how that Michael Myers could murder without emotion, and then he decided to find out if he could do that to the call is real and if you'd rather not hear it is absolutely. Okay. Just to skip ahead a couple minutes Parker county. Now we're one, where's your emergency. My house. Okay. What's the emergency. I just killed my mom and my sister, right? I just killed my mom and my sister just killed your mother and your sister. How did you do that with a gun after watching the rob zombie remake of Halloween, three times, this is what he wrote in his confession quote, I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders and how little remorse he had afterward. I was thinking to myself, it would be the same for me when I kill someone. So when the boy finished watching the movie again, he put the Halloween DVD back in the case and he threw it in the trash cans that people wouldn't find out that it influenced him. I thought the quick, you know. I, I didn't want them to feel anything. That's why use the gun. But as it is like everything went wrong, this whole call which is hard to listen to and really impressive as the nine one one operator stays on the line, keeping the boy calm away from the gun until the cops come. It sounds like someone emerging from a trance like he'd gone so deep into the movie screen that it didn't really think death was real. I don't mean to sound like a once or anything, but you know, this is. Wow. I've never done anything violent in my whole life. You know you don't sound like a violent person. No, you don't. But his mom and kid sister were dead and he's now in prison. In that confession, he also wrote about snapping back from fiction into reality. He said, I know now though that I'm done with killing, it's the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience in what happened. Last night will haunt me forever, but the people who argue that scary, movies. 'cause crimes have one more case to point to around ten million people caught the Halloween remaking dealers and millions more solid at home. Only one kid picked up a gun and blamed it on Michael Myers, but we are living in a time of fear inside the theater and out in the world. Would I I met John here in my town of l. a grocery store manager had just been killed that we can in a shootout. And so in between talking about the movie and bowling green and everything else, we were both so rattled that we couldn't help talk about that too. We gotta fix this somehow. No, and your generation's gonna do it buying screwed up. We fucked it up. Pardon me? We did. Everything seems motivated by this fear. This giant fear. It's one of the two scary stories that we, we can tell. One is the evil is inside or the evil is outside right wing. Evil is always outside. It's them different color skin different way they talk is different. Now that goes way back to us tribal. We're sitting around the campfire and we've just come out of the trees. And the wish doctor says, I'll tell you where evil is it's out there in the woods in the darkness. It's the next tribe. And they're gonna come in here and things will be impure and they'll take you over. That's right. Wing left wing. He'll same situation were sitting around the campfire which doctor gets up and says, I'll tell you where evil is. It's right in here and he points to his heart. It's an each of us. We have the capability to commit evil. The good man shoes is not to and fights against those impulses. The good fight back against fair through your neighbor. Like you wanna be treated that that's a whole Krit. I don't wanna be hateful person. I don't let out maybe you to feel like you've spent most of your life like Laurie strode, innocent oblivious until suddenly the news has turned into a screaming nightmare. I really interested to see how changes in the upcoming years because we have as society Ben through this, this just slow burn of crisis of not knowing who to trust. And I think that there is a a crisis of fear. People want to reclaim their fear. That's what I talked to. A lot of my students about reclaiming their fears so that they, they know what to to truly be afraid of an have more confidence in themselves to know that they are capable and competent and that while the world might be scary. Philby they'll be okay, reclaiming our fear that something that's been on my mind a lot, although not until Margie said those words that I have the right phrase in my head, turning that fear into action, knowing that we can survive this, horror films are minus of that too. You know, we're ancestors of the humans who had the wit to strategically kind of a void danger, but also the bravery, really the courage to to seek out to to go and explore to be curious. But also, you know, have the this threat response that would allow us to get away and survive to to fight another day. Wait, that sounds like you're saying that we as humans are all the final girl. Yes, yes, we really are. And it's it's something that has kept us alive. We really are capable of of so much and watching scary movies. Is a nice way to be reminded of that horror movies do inspire us for about an for good, and we inspire them. For example, right now I've seen a lot of the upcoming movies focus more on the revenge horror. And I think that that really is reflecting where we are right now with movements like black lives matter and time's up me to all of that is now being translated through our horror movies into something that we can have a sense of feeling like we have a sense of control over it feeling like we have a cathartic way to deal with it translating current day concerns into monsters that we can defeat onscreen. In fact right now you wherever you are, you are joining me in participating in something beautifully human are, you know, obsessive reading or listening to podcasts and stories, and all of these different ways to to understand mass murderers and killers is really are tempt to try and understand something so unimaginable and it is. Through engaging with things that are repulsive or where violence that we are reminded of our humanity that we're reminded of love of compassion and it's kind of a paradox. But I think it makes a lot of sense that we can be reminded of our own humanity through the inhumane actions of of others and takes over that empathy and extended to Laurie strode. Even when we're screaming at her through the screen, we do see a lot of characters doing the exact opposite of what we think they should be doing. So they're running up the stairs when they should be running out the front door. And part of that is because when we are truly terrified, all of our resources are focused on our bodies. So we're not thinking rationally we're not thinking strategically. It just is kind of total bring shutdown so that we can focus on getting away. But unfortunately, we do see that that is sometimes utilized. That sounds like a defense of Jamie Lee throwing. The knife away after she stabs, Michael Myers twice, yes. Yes, I know, yeah, it's really, you know, we we hope to to think that we would make better decisions. And I think that you know, watching scary movies and practicing being scared, can maybe contribute to better responses in the moment which also to fair one of the reasons we yell at Lori for throwing away the knife when she's downstairs on the couch is not actually her fault. It is dean and John's fault. When Jamie Lee played that scene, she was reacting to the fact that the knife is covered in blood up close. The knife was super gross, and she thought that the audience would understand her revulsion. But Dana, John kept the scene so dark and shadowy. And so far away that we can't really see the blood or the expression on her face that is their bad, not hers. But the second time she throws away the knife come on still unless we've been chased by a guy with a knife who are we to judge actually meet Joe Scott tall bearded a strong. Looking guy who on the scariest night of his life, a night with a really was a guy with a knife thought of Laurie strode. At this year's Comecon he stood up and told his story. First of all. This really grateful for moody, Halloween, it's for years ago saying that light. Situation where someone. Wires, Ana guy was running around with ninety, scared on my mind. The nowhere this inside me went will. What would change Curtis. Our touches it up, the knitting nails, insulate grabbing the tracks, and I saw the gun at the night from one said the house Iran down, ran down the David start screaming link. You did. The guys, what's your hand? Just Neal's oppose ills that you are house. But to me belongs assured I'm here today because the way they knew portrayed lowering strove. I'm Victor today instead of a victim of just like most people that give your time. And as Joe started to cry, Jamie Lee, Curtis got off the convention stage to give him a powerful hun. So for movies, save lives to our attraction to fear is good. So when we watch Halloween a theater and we squeeze someone's hand, or we share a gas with some next to us, we might never see again. But his right now, our neighbor when we make eye contact with a stranger afterwards and we trade grins. Let's just come out and say we are doing something good for humanity and to hear Joe in the Comecon crowd fandom is good on our next episode of Halloween unmasked. We're gonna hit into the heart of phantom at the h forty fortieth anniversary hollowing convention in Pasadena, right? Where the murders magic. I happen. You just walk over. I will probably drive, but join us as we meet our fellow creepers. Hopefully all of them will be wearing pants. In the watch excuses, excuses shut up, jerk shirt. That's all you ever think about you. Episodes. Halloween unmasked is a co production of the ringer and neon home media. It was written and hosted by me. I mean a consent in our producers, our Jonathan Hirsch Zach, MAC in Greta, Weber, but action assistance from KAI McMullan in car in Nevada and additional support in the special. Thanks to Bill Simmons, Sean, fantasy, Juliet limit. And in Otis special, thanks to you creeps for listening to Halloween on messed.

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