William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Pink horror

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?

  1. Sci-Fi (soon to be Sy Fy; aren’t MBA-led decisions clever?)
  2. USA
  3. Spike
  4. Lifetime

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.

Lifetime movie 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
Fatal Affair Infidelity
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?”)
Empty Cradle

Lifetime movie guide 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?

  1. Baby Brokers
  2. For My Daughter’s Honor
  3. When Diets Go Bad
  4. Unwed Father

13 Comments

  1. D The title sounds like something Lifetime wouldn’t be caught dead showing, but maybe that’s just me. [had to respond further because first answer was "too short"].

  2. I guess “C”, since I haven’t had any diet-related problems in my lifetime so far.

    I do prefer a movie with a twist ending. One thriller (horror?) that came to my mind is Primal Fear. A predictable movie is just plain boring.

    We watched two of the four-part terrifying film series The Omen (1976) starring Gregory Peck last month. I had to close my eyes a few times because I could not stand watching any killing, bloody and gruesome scenes anymore. The music made it worse. I watched the entire series more than 15 years ago without any problems. Perhaps, it’s time for me to admit that I am getting old.

  3. The women-men movie differences are easy to understand.
    Consider that many women want the ‘bad boy’ reproductively for those alpha genes, but want the reliable provider to raise them. The bad boy need not be alpha if ‘bad’ alone can play the part well enough to appear alpha. Explains a lot of the emphasis on relationship things and shocking twists (which are not really shocking in that context) in chick flicks.

    On the male side, our ancestors were hunters, protected their females and offspring, fought hard not to be cuckolded, and fought to look like alphas so get a chance to cuckold the other guy. No surprise our movies are heavy on physical action and getting the girl in the end.

    So my guess is movie B. Sounds like there could be vengeful action in it.

  4. Can’t be C because it’s too obviously stupid and likely to be made up by a man so must therefore be true. A double bluff.
    A, probably true. Is that where you derived part of the girl’s film plot?
    D sounds like a bundle of laughs. So dull a title that can’t be made up for fun.

    B,
    typical male theme. So is probably the impostor. Probably features copious guns, mud, medieval fighting equipment resorted to because gun got wet during the mud orgy that took place in earlier scene.
    And gadgets for getting mud out of horses hooves; the thing on all Swiss army knives that never gets used in anger normally.

    It’s B, obviously.

  5. Joe Triscari

    1 May 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Somewhat OT. Evil Dead 2 is on Turner Classic Movies tonight. A true classic horror movie.

    My guess is D as well. Lifetime movies tend focus on the women in the title when a character is mentioned.

  6. Briggs and all,
    The titles sound like purest cheese.

    . It’s the demon/tiger eyes that are scary. The guy in Omen does have devil’s eyes;
    And there’s something wrong with me because none of those films listed appeal to me. I find I am an outlyer. None of the men’s films are any better. Just kill each other so we can all go home.

    It’s the creeping about in the dark that’s the scariest thing. I agree with Mrs JH that Omen is one of the scariest films. Older Dracular films were scary. Why can’t they just tell the story of Dracular.
    Men got hold of it and turned it from the romantic and beautiful, the perfect evil, to the modern thrash metal style; loud, flashy, without real dialogue of any consequence, and frankly just a bad day in a strip club.

    What is it about zombies? Definitely not a female thing; or vampires, which men say women love, but I don’t believe this, it is a male fantasy. Women liked the old Dracular style. Darcy with fangs! The exact opposite to Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Charming.

    I’d say women are more likely to enjoy ghost stories. Not so much the blood and guts. Or the mysteries about the killer on the loose.

    I used to have a thing about watching FBI files or Cold case files, still do, occasionally. My brother was over and so I watched nonchalantly something scary. “Right, I’m off now”, “see ya”. He then went home and I found I was on my own in the house, my boyfriend at the time was away. How the hell did that happen! All on my own, just watched the scariest film, imagination was running riot with every creak and click in the house. Shortly after, power cut ensues, (absolutely true) and the butch Staffordshire Bull Terrier was so brave that she leapt on my lap and shook. In true Scooby fashion, it was enough to make me laugh for a moment. “You’re supposed to bark and be fierce!”
    Of course, Dad drove over from 17 miles away to check fuse box only to find that power was out in the whole street due to the tube line over the road.
    Real life horror film. I thought my number was up, there was definitely a man in the side passageway who’d just cut the wire. What if the phone’s out too! Silly girl.

  7. My guess along with some reasoning (well I call it that anway),:

    A. Baby Brokers – I imagine this is the ultimate horror. What woman doesn’t want a baby to be protected at all cost? Selling one’s baby or grabbing one to sell must be just awful!

    B. For My Daughter’s Honor – who wouldn’t go all out for family?

    C. When Diets Go Bad – There’s no such thing as a bad diet besides it’s third on the list. Old schoolboy wisdom: when in doubt pick ‘C’. Some blogger has been teaching too long and has fallen into obvious patterns. (hmmm… does that schoolboy wisdom make ‘C’ the top random choice?)

    D. Unwed Father – The juxtaposition is delicious

    I can’t stand suspense and see no point in having access to a database without using it so I now know what the right answer is.

  8. These titles are too good. I had to look these up.

    Baby Brokers — Con artists sell ficticious babys to couples that advertise in the penny saver. Juno in reverse.

    For My Daughters honor — Bill Lundberg (Office space) is a school teacher accused of knocking up the girl from the nanny.

    When diets go bad — Satcy Hammilton (Fast Times) is suffers form anorexia because of her troubled home life and problems at school. Her bickering parents must put aside their differences to help her recover before her condition kills her.

    Unwed Father — The girl from the nanny, fails in her scheme to take down Lundberg, and has moved on. She hooks up one night with David Silver (90210) gets knocked up and leaves the baby in a basket on his front door.

    Some of these synopses are more accurate than others. One is the synopsis of an equally bad sounding movie.

  9. OK. I guess the cat is out of the bag. According to IMDB:

    Baby Brokers: (1994) Cybill Shepherd; Debbie is an LA doctor keen on adopting a baby. She is ripped off by a couple who at first appear willing to sell their child to her

    For My Daughters Honor: (1996) Gary Cole; In Tate, Oklahoma a popular coach, Pete Nash, is accused of having a sexual relation with 14 years old Amy, one of his school’s pupils. (A pedophile of the week movie — or more accurately, an ephebephile movie)

    Unwed Father: (1997) Brian Austin Green; A carefree college student has his life turned upside down when his out-of-wedlock baby is suddenly left on his doorstep.

    When Diets Go Bad: — not listed in IMDB

    I wouldn’t have thought any of these good enough for a remake although there is a 1974 version of Unwed Father also made for TV: Joseph Bottoms; A teenage boy fathers a child with his girlfriend. He then fights his parents, the girlfriend, the girl’s parents and the courts in an attempt to get custody of the child. (1997 version got 6/10 at IMDB). Not exactly a remake I suppose.

  10. “when blogs go bad”
    Three things,
    1:
    None of these films are horror films, even pink ones. Most are simply drama or possibly “thrillers.” Once suspense and creeping about ensues, it becomes a thriller. Horror films must involve the supernatural, ghosts, monsters.

    2:
    Teach said,
    “only one of the following list is not a genuine lifetime film, which one is it?”
    So if it has been shown on a different channel, it doesn’t count.

    3:
    I typed into the search bar the titles of the films and only one comes up, making that one the only genuine lifetime film if their search dubrey works.

    Did Briggs ask the wrong question?

    “only one of the following list is a genuine lifetime film”

    Was this the twist?

    This was statistics of the first kind, a close encounter with the webpage reveals the answer. We do not need to speculate or form theories, we just look at the data!
    To be fair, we were asked to ‘guess’, which lead us up the garden path.

  11. Joy not oy

  12. “only one of the following list is not a genuine lifetime film, which one is it?”

    hmmm. Interpretation is everything. Just what is a “genuine lifetime film”?
    1. A film shown on the Lifetime channel?
    2. Funded and produced explicitly by the Lifetime Network?
    3. Made primarily for the Lifetime market — but not initialted by Lifetime?
    4. A film portraying a genuine probable lifetime experience?
    5. a film, which after seeing, you’ve seen everything so little point in going on. All I can say is that after just viewing the synopses I fell a need to watch 8 hours of “South Park” to cleanse my mind. :)

  13. Briggs

    3 May 2009 at 4:15 pm

    All,

    You’re too clever for me. The answer is, When Diets Go Bad, a movie title I thought that I had made up. This demonstrates, once again, the dangers of satire.

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