Keep Calm and Horror On: A Harlequin Editor Discovers Horror Movies

By Katie Gowrie

My love of horror movies came at a strange time. In fact, it came within the last eighteen months, when the world started to feel like a scarier and more chaotic place. As a kid, horror movies were for preteen sleepovers and the occasional Halloween marathon. They were group entertainment, so I could scream and clutch the person next to me during the jump scares (and hope not to lie awake at night in the months following). As a teen, I got into the genre a bit more. I found I liked zombies, aliens, vampires and Hitchcock, but I still didn’t know horror films—I had barely scraped the surface.

Then a friend of mine, a big horror fan, introduced me to the genre properly. She made me realize that horror isn’t just about fear—it’s about trauma, grief, love. All those universal things we’d associate with any other story we can connect to, including romance.

My real introduction came when my friend and I began watching horror movies together virtually, once a week, in March last year. We started with a 2017 film called It Comes at Night—about a family battling the horrors around them after an illness spreads through the population. (No, I didn’t know the premise when I pressed Play.) Despite the topic, I found the movie thrilling! And I was hooked.

Since then, my eyes have been opened to all kinds of new and twisted films—historical horror, dark comedies, classic black and white films, foreign horror cinema, dark thrillers and suspense, slashers, and ghost stories.

I realized that horror movies are about more than cheap scares; they’re about fantastic storytelling. Pacing so tight you can’t breathe (Little Monsters, Train to Busan, Ready or Not). Tension you can cut with a knife (A Quiet Place, The Lodge, The Invitation). The creation of moods and atmospheres that pull you into a new world (In Fabric, It Follows, Thirst).

While these are all pillars of good storytelling, I’d never taken the time to pay attention to them within this specific genre. And learning the standards of a new genre has made me fall in love with storytelling and filmmaking all over again. There’s catharsis in committing to an experience wholeheartedly, which I now let myself do every Thursday night—screaming at the top of my lungs when I’m scared, sobbing during the sad parts, laughing out loud alone.

Somehow, these movies (which can be menacing, terrifying, grotesque—but also thoughtful and touching) have helped anchor me during a confusing time. They’ve given me a routine, and helped expand my world when I was stuck in my living room. I am late to truly experience the horror genre, and there’s a lot I have left to discover, but I’ll be a fan for life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *