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Clearing the Air

“I’m starting to feel quite scared.”

The words of my friend as we pull up to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show in gold sparkled suits and a full set of makeup. I should probably also add this was 2pm on a Sunday in the middle of Manchester.

Whilst I could perfectly see why this could be quite frightening for two badly built introverts who were quite frankly pacifists, I wanted to add a hopeful possibility. So, I turned to them and asked.

“Are you sure that’s not excitement?”

They paused.

“You know what, the two emotions seem so crossed wired that I’m not sure anymore.“

Janet Leigh' performance in Psycho (1960)

Fear is an absolutely terrifying concept that becomes physical as it rushes through our body and it’s something we all experience from one time to another, whether we admit it or not.

Fear to apply for the job, to ask the girl out; to put our own needs first. Now especially, it seems like ...

The world is fuelled by fear.

As someone who manages GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) I already struggled to socialise and complete mondain tasks, so when the pandemic hit, I found myself afraid to even step outside to make a simple trip to the store.

Whilst anxiety has had major surges throughout our population in the last two years it does affect people differently.

I personally interpret anxiety as a constant irrational fear that isolates me from connecting with those around me, so the cinema has always been a very comforting safe space for me; a shared experience without certain pressures.

There’s something particularly satisfying about horror movies though.

It’s as though my anxiety becomes validated by those around me, who are equally terrified; something I felt with the last cinematic experience I had before the pandemic was to shut all cinemas.

Elisabeth Moss stars in The Invisible Man (2020)

The invisible man was truly an unsettling watch which experimented with our fear of the unknown and ran with it at a threatening pace.

The film offered a refreshing but disturbing take on the horror legend which veered from universal’s plans to create a cinematic universe of monsters.

By doing so, they were able to create a claustrophobic world which prayed on our desires to feel safe. The long takes and pans around bare rooms, the eerie score and slow pace allowed us to experience all of Cecelia’s fears.

Though, I couldn't help but equally feel a little excitement.

Are my morals out of whack or is someone willing to agree that they share a certain glee?

Tim Curry stares directly down the lens in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Studies show that horror movies enhance excitement through manipulating our fears as it gears up our minds to respond to incoming threats.

Through my time in therapy for GAD we were taught to drill the idea of flight or fight into our minds and then throw it away to eliminate the intrusive thought that death lurked around every corner.

Adrenaline is something we are gifted with today to tackle dangers in the world that have evolved alongside us. Unfortunately, fear cannot distinguish danger from opportunity, so we are left to solve these puzzles ourselves.

The reason I feel The Invisible Man was so effective however, was the relevance it had to the invisible virus that was taking over the world parallel to that of the creature; therefore, we all knew what it felt like to be on the constant look out for this danger.

Concept Art for The Burglary (2021) directed by Michael Houghton

In Oxygen’s most recent developing project The Burglary, Seth’s anxious tendencies manifest into real world distortions as he ponders whether he is at fault of losing all of his possessions.

The characters around Seth dance with the uncanny valley.

And revelations tip the protagonist’s understanding of the world on its side.

We can see the pattern of the unfamiliar and strange emerge here which puts us on edge as we crave to understand how the world could be so.

It makes me wonder,

If horror is that which manipulates the unknown; maybe the excitement derives from finding out the truth.

Where the man in the mask is hiding, if the protagonist will survive to the end and when will the bloody movie end so I can go home and hide under the covers.

Fear in Inside Out (2015)

As me and my friend pulled up to see Rocky Horror and approached the large entrance doors in full gear, we were nervous that we would be the only ones in bizarre costumes; that we may look like wallies in the middle of a busy city.

But when we discovered there were so many other people inside, gender bending and glittered for the gods we could not wait for the show to start.

In the upcoming week, as I confront fears of moving to a new city and searching for fresh jobs I'm going to make an effort to hold my anxieties close and ask myself

“Are you sure that’s not excitement?”

The cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at Manchester's Opera House (2021)

Directly from cinemas reopening, horrors movies continue to flood through the gates with the likes of A Quiet Place 2, Candy Man and soon a sequel to the Halloween Franchise.

Clearly there’s a big a market for the genre and so we must share a desire to feel fear.

I know more often than not, I'm going to feel on edge as I wait for the monster to jump out but I also realise ...

If I let the monsters in, I might be in for the time of my life.

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