There is Nothing to Fear but the Scary

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Kevin Chiang, Photojournalist

Fear is a powerful, primal instinct, passed down through the ages since the dawn of time. But what is fear? What makes someone fearful? Why do we experience fear?


Fear is a natural part of being alive. Just like pain, it tells the body that a situation is bad and to bug out. If you fear going into the cave, that’s your brain trying to keep you alive by avoiding what could be in there. It makes sense, then, why fear has stuck with humanity for so long: it has kept us alive, safe from lions and tigers and cliffs. Still, in a world where the average American does not have to worry about random lion attacks, why do we still get so scared?


It turns out that fear is caused by two things: physical threat and ambiguity. For the former, it’s really sensible: you fear what harms you. As for the latter, if you don’t believe it, ask yourself this: Which is scarier, knowing that you are alone in the dark or knowing that you are not alone in the dark?


And boy does Hollywood play on fear. They’ve figured out how to take advantage of fear’s two causes—body horror and ambiguity—to scare the living daylights out of the audience. Shooting film as if it’s from a handheld camera? Ambiguity: the viewer doesn’t know what is going on outside the limited angle of the camera. The dark? The viewer doesn’t know what’s there. Hollywood then follows up with absolute, gross-out gruesomeness. Someone explodes, tears into pieces, becomes an eldritch abomination, so on and so forth.


Outside of Hollywood, there are still a lot of scary things in the world. Spiders, for instance. A lot of people find spiders terrifying, such as junior Jessica Dorf, who said, “Spiders are scary.” Makes sense. Nasty, creepy little things, leaving butt-strings everywhere, catching and then wrapping up their prey in more butt-string before finally liquefying their innards with venom.


People find man-made things scary too. “Clowns in masks that are really tall are really creepy,” said sophomore Bret Worrell. “They’re just really weird and creepy.” Some researchers believe that people find clowns creepy because of all that face paint. It makes you unable to tell what the emotion of the clown really is, and your brain flips out because of it. Or it could just be that god awful smile…


The supernatural’s still spooky, as shown by freshman Alexis Frausto’s fear of Ouija boards. “They make me feel that a ghost’s going to come and haunt me,” she said. And truly, what could be scarier than being stalked wherever you go by an invisible, intangible force that you can neither see nor punch nor get a court restraining order on?


Still, there’s some really weird ways to make something scary. “Adding strobe lights to anything makes it terrifying,” says senior Connor Borden. Add to that a chorus of young English girls singing “Ring around the Rosy” and the right soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself the next Hollywood horror blockbuster.