Is There a Less Frightening Way to Watch Scary Movies?

The upcoming movie It is receiving rave reviews. I love coming-of-age movies, especially when they’re steeped in ’80s nostalgia, and that appears to be a big part of It. The trailers also make it look gorgeous.

As curious as I am, I won’t be watching It. I can’t. I just don’t have the constitution for scary movies.

A brief history of my experience with scary movies:

  • I watched Arachnophobia at a sleepover when I was 12, and I was scared of spiders for years afterwards. (Fine, I still am!)
  • I’m still haunted by a brief moment in Signs when, as shown in shaky camcorder footage, an alien walks directly in front of the camera.
  • I tried to watch The Ring in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon, but after 2 minutes I ejected the DVD.
  • I saw The Cabin in the Woods in the theater and loved it. After that I figured I didn’t have to watch scary movies anymore, because it explains all of them.

I like tension in movies, but I genuinely don’t enjoy being scared. While it’s thrilling for many people, it doesn’t feel good for me. Also, I don’t want a movie to impact my sleep or (like Arachnophobia) my everyday life.

That brings us back to It. I’d love to be able to watch this movie, but I know I can’t watch it in its current form.

However, what if there was a less scary version I could watch? A “mild cut”? Like, what if I could watch It without jump-scare sound effects? I plugged my ears during certain parts of 10 Cloverfield Ln last year, and it really helped.

That leaves some terrifying, haunting images, though. I feel guilty and disrespectful to the director for even suggesting this, but what if the “mild cut” of the movie gave viewers a warning about upcoming images or if they were skipped over entirely, focusing more on a character’s reactions?

As silly as this sounds, those two changes would open up a world of excellent films to me.

Do you like scary movies? If not, what would your “mild cut” require?

17 thoughts on “Is There a Less Frightening Way to Watch Scary Movies?”

  1. Try turning the subtitles on and the sound off. So much of the tension comes from the soundtrack and sound effects that I think that would help.

  2. I used to love horror movies. Somehow, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become trepidatious about watching scary flicks. A couple years ago, my wife and I were at Target around Halloween. We thought it would be fun to watch a scary movie, so we picked up “The Conjuring.” We brought it home and put it in the DVD player and, after about 30 minutes, we both looked at each other and admitted we were too freaked out to finish it. So we turned it off.

    A few weeks ago, I was invited to a new 4D movie theater, which uses pneumatics to rock the chairs around and has little punches to add another layer of effects to movies. I went in for a demo where they showed a scene from “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It was kind of neat. After the demo, the rep asked me if I wanted to stick around to experience the system during a showing of “Annabelle,” a sequel to “The Conjuring.” I couldn’t get away quickly enough.

    My teenage daughters now love horror movies, which means I will likely be going to see “It,” which I am sort of looking forward to. I’m also more than a little nervous about seeing the film. Maybe I’ll take a page from your book and close my eyes and ears.

  3. What can help is watching on a phone (so you have a small screen), and pausing every now and again to do something else for a while (like even an hour or two), so any build up of fear goes away.

    (I watched Cabin in the Woods two days ago like this – was definitely an interesting take on things, I’m not a big fan of horror normally!)

  4. I second Jeff’s suggestion! I sometimes mute the sound it even if I’m just watching a tense or scary scene in a non-horror movie/show. Or I find myself flicking backwards and forwards with another TV channel to get over the awful suspense part (I am a total scaredy-cat).

    Since I avoid watching any kind of scary movies, my husband has formed what I call the “Lonely Hearts Horror Movie Club” with some of our friends – they get together occasionally for a movie night without their non-horror-movie-watching partners!

  5. (Still getting that weird bug where post comment is scrolling off the screen, not getting that on the Kickstarter Lessons blog)

    I tend to enjoy them, though what specific horror subgenre has a lot to do with that – Far prefer supernatural horror to slashers, and if it’s more of a psychological bent than your general things that go bump in the night, even better.

    I’d be curious how you are with horror aimed at more general audiences – the more horror focused episodes of Doctor Who, for example, or comedy horror such as, say, American Werewolf In London or Gregory Horror Show for a surrealistic comedy horror vibe instead. Also horror novels rather than screen horror.

    • However, in general, things that potentially hurt immersion might help, as previous respondents have been focusing on – stuff like smaller screens, lower resolution options, subtitles and low volume, watching in a bright room, watching with others around, for games I know some people are fine watching someone play them but not playing themselves so not watching alone, and so forth, and for IT specifically, maybe giving any clown only screening of it in your area a pass.

      Ultimately, it comes down to not every film being for every person, and if you don’t enjoy horror not because you don’t want to but simply can’t handle it, that’s no different from enjoying the tastes of spicy food but there being a certain threshold for which you just can’t handle more spice than that (And, if you do decide to expand your pallet, going slowly is the way to go.)

      • Stephen: I have pretty much the same response to all horror–it unsettles me to the point I can’t watch it, even though, as a movie lover, I want to watch the best horror movies.

        “maybe giving any clown only screening of it in your area a pass.” I absolutely agree. 🙂

  6. I really enjoy horror movies but my wife can’t handle them. I think the biggest thing is to remember it’s just a movie. As previously mentioned, anything that makes the movie watching experience worse will help with reducing how scary it is.

    If you liked Cabin in the Woods you should try Tucker and Dale vs Evil. It’s the best horror comedy I’ve seen.

  7. I don’t enjoy being scared although I’ve watched plenty of scary films. Thanks to the original Jaws, I still won’t go into the ocean beyond my waist. I think a great way to watch a scary movie would be if it was reviewed by Mystery Science Theater 3000. Then they would not only warn the viewer when things occur, but they would also add a humorous commentary to the movie. “Look out! Jason is right behind you walking at a snail’s pace.”

  8. Jamey, I can totally relate with you on Arachnophobia. I watched it when I was young too and still to this day spiders creep me out! While I don’t really care for the slasher-type movies, supernatural flicks like The Ring or The Conjuring definitely make my skin crawl if I watch them alone in the dark. guess it’s the thrill-seeker in me that wants to make the experience more intense.

    And I definitely second Nik’s recommendation of Tucker and Dale vs Evil! It really turns the genre on its head in similar fashion to The Cabin in the Woods. Very funny stuff!


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