Shared Experience: I Want to See You Scared

The Halloween season has had me watching a lot of horror movies, but unfortunately there hasn’t been a singular film I’ve wanted to talk about. There is one exception, but I’ve yet to watch it, so I’m putting writing about it on hold until next week. What I have been thinking about, however, is my feelings about what I’m watching when it is with other people.

There is something exciting about watching horror movies with others for me, because I fall into the camp of people who love watching other people get scared. I grew up on horror, so it takes a lot for something to actually scare me in more meaningful way. Naturally, it makes it more fun for me to watch with other people, but I’d never really sat and considered this before. I’ve started to consider why I want to see someone else who I know is more sensitive get scared. There is a playful fun aspect to it, to be certain, but I’ve started to think there’s something more to it.

When you watch something with someone else it becomes a shared experience. What is happening on screen is happening to all present at the same time, linking you together. I don’t just want to watch a scary movie with more sensitive people because I won’t be scared, but because I can’t be. I’m not immune — P.T. scared me so much more than any horror video game has in a long time — but I’m desensitized to the experience.

Watching a horror film with someone else allows their experience to be shared with me, and I relish in it. A couple of years ago I showed my girlfriend Alien for the first time, and she found it so terrifying that it reinvigorated my love for the film. It reminded me that once upon a time the creature on the screen wasn’t an icon of horror and popular culture, but a creature the likes of which nobody had seen before, conveying a compelling blend of science fiction and body horror that is still truly frightening. I appreciated the alien not just as something well designed, but something scary.

I don’t know if this phenomenon only applies to myself or not, but personally it extends beyond the realm of horror and fear. Interspersed with the horror movies my friends and I have been watching has been a lot of Doctor Who. I think the show is brilliant and is fantastic at telling clever, funny, inventive, and moving stories. Such has been the case with a number of my friends as well, who have been brought to tears by some episodes’ storylines. It has yet to do so for me however, despite how affective I have found the episodes to be. Be that as it may, I love sharing the experience of Doctor Who with them because even if tears have not been invoked in me, I admire and even envy the experience being shared. It moves me in a way that I may not have been watching it by myself.

Though it may not work so well with mediums like novels and comic books, sharing the experience of a story can be a wondrous thing that should be taken advantage of more often. Sharing the experience can bring something into a whole new perspective for you, and affect you in ways that you wouldn’t have been while alone.

In the rush of analyzing, studying, and simply experiencing an array of stories I find it is easy to lose track of why I love them in the first place: their ability to make you think and feel with just ideas and narrative. Sometimes I fear I’ve dissected so much that I’ve become almost numb to it, but sharing the experience with my friends helps to keep that sense at bay.

Before Halloween has passed, gather your friends, grab some horror classics, and share some scares.


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