Why do people occasionally enjoy having the bejesus scared out of themselves by watching horror movies? Maybe it’s a way to relieve stress or to recall vague, primal memories of being hunted. Those regular chompings by various beasties must be wired into our DNA, so seeing an Alien bite into somebody triggers a cellular reaction. A regular squirt of adrenalin into the veins might be a physiological necessity.
Doubtless, there are psychological theories aplenty, and probably one of them explains the gory details of today’s theme. However, we can ignore all of these sophistications, because our purpose today is to document and not to resolve.
First, a quiz:
Which of these television networks airs the most horror movies?
- Sci-Fi (soon to be Sy Fy; aren’t MBA-led decisions clever?)
The shocking winner, by orders of magnitude, is D.
Obviously, more male-types watch the first three networks than do female-types, though perhaps USA comes in at a tie, but overwhelmingly more female-types than male-types watch Lifetime.
Although USA and Spike regularly rebroadcast slasher classics, like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth, and Sci-Fi has had every kind of bug, reptile, arachnid, and mutant mammal chase down, kill, and eat multitudes of c’mon-gang-let’s-separate bands of pretty twenty-somethings, Lifetime, and its sister channel Lifetime Movie Network, frighten more people than all the tax bills ever written by Nancy Pelosi.
We all know that men prefer their frightenings formulaic: dodge, preserver, chase, kill, keep possible the chance for sex. This truism is what allows Sci-Fi to commission dozens of identically scripted movies, changing in each only the creature that menaces.
It will shortly become clear that women require more from their horror. They will watch what men do, but take away from films different lessons. They will not thrill to the idea that one can, as Arnie did in Predator, cover oneself with cool mud to make oneself invisible in the near infrared and thus avoid certain death. Women will roll their eyes when Jesse “The Mind” (formerly “The Body”) Ventura announces “I ain’t got time to bleed”.
But this doesn’t mean women don’t like to self-inflict the willies just as much as men do. It’s that different themes terrify them. What are they? Let’s impute them from looking at a sample of movie titles shown on Lifetime. I apologize for the length of this list; it is tedious but necessary (this is statistics of the first kind).
|Other Women’s Children||Liar, Liar: Between Father and Daughter|
|Sorry, Wrong Number||Another Women’s Husband|
|Blind Faith (model husband accused of arranging his wife’s murder)||Gone in the Night (a couple is unjustly accused of murdering their daughter)|
|Forgotten Sins (two daughters reveal horrible truths about dad)||A Murderous Affair|
|Cheater’s Club||Ultimate Deception|
|Lady Killer||Stranger in My Bed|
|Improper Conduct||The Wrong Woman|
|Badge of Betrayal||Surviving (two youth’s suicide pact destroys their families)|
|Matter of Justice (mother vows to bring son’s murderers to justice)||A Promise to Carolyn (two sisters battle with repressed memories to bring their sister’s murderer to justice)|
|The Prosecutors (husband murdered in front of son, wife engages lawyers to bring murderers to justice)||Baby Snatcher|
|The Stepsister (father dies after remarrying, his daughter suspects new mom and attempts to bring her to justice)||Murder or Memory? (A Moment of Truth Movie : son confesses to murder under hypnosis, mother brings real killer to justice)|
|Eye of the Stalker||Wife, Mother, Murderer (with Judith Light)|
|We Were the Mulvaneys (“Has your family ever been torn apart
by a secret?”)
In case the title doesn’t immediately give the plot away, a movie guide helpfully lists its sub-genre, like Thriller, Vengeance, and, my favorite, Madness. Descriptions are provided, too. For the madness movie Hush:
Nina is thrilled when her hubby, Noah, suggests they move back to his picturesque hometown. Little does she know Noah’s crazy former girlfriend, Callie, has an unhealthy obsession with Nina’s spouse. This infatuated ex will stop at nothing to get Noah back — including impersonating Nina! Fans of “Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?” will love this flick.
Incidentally, a poll on the site suggests that more Lifetime viewers prefer a movie to conclude with “a shocking twist” and than do those who like happy endings. Keep this in mind.
As we know, a man-centered horror film has the star battling monsters, while the list makes it clear that a woman-centered horror has the star battling infidelity or rife waywardness, dangers which are less fantastic and certainly less tangible. Lifetime movies will contain many minutes of scenes of the heroine looking pained, or concerned, or fretting, all as the camera moves closer to her face.
And so, anti-climatically, we can conclude that man-centered horror is mainly about physical stuff, and woman-centered horror is mainly about feelings.
We can, therefore, construct from our evidence the perfect female horror movie. Titled How Could He Do This To Me?—starring Sally Fields as wife and lawyer ‘Sally’, and Eric Estrada as car salesman husband ‘Vic’—it’s the saga of how Vic, after having seduced and then sold his only daughter to baby brokers to fund his drug habit, abandons the family, absconds with the bank book, then later returns with his mistress to stalk and kill the family dog.
The daughter, suffering from the trauma of being brokered and therefore thought to be slightly bonkers, is unjustly arrested for the crime, but battling Sally sees to it Vic is finally brought to justice. We see Sally triumphantly standing over her broken husband as he sits in his cell, a small, sad smile on his face. The scene fades to black.
As the credits are about to roll, we see Sally back home. She is taking a call from her doctor, where she hears the fateful words, “You’re pregnant.” She never should have made that jail house visit!
Now for our second quiz, a final exam to see if you have been paying attention.
One of the movies listed below is not a genuine Lifetime movie. Can you guess which?
- Baby Brokers
- For My Daughter’s Honor
- When Diets Go Bad
- Unwed Father