Friday, November 19, 2021

Mathias Clasen's "A Very Nervous Person's Guide to Horror Movies"

Mathias Clasen is Associate Professor of Literature and Media Studies at Aarhus University. He is interested in the paradox of horror and researches the psychological underpinnings of horror from an evolutionary perspective. He has also conducted empirical studies on the psychology and physiology of haunted house visitors. Clasen is the author of Why Horror Seduces (2017) and associate editor of the journal Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Deplorable: The Worst Presidential Campaigns from Jefferson to Trump, and reported the following:
My book is addressed to a person who is nervous yet curious about horror movies, and page 99 is the last page in a chapter called “I’m Nervous that Watching Horror Makes Me Look Stupid.” The chapter is about the bias and prejudice that surround the horror genre, which is often perceived as a stupid or even dangerous kind of fiction, and so somebody might legitimately be worried about condescending looks if they admit to being a huge slasher fan, or a torture porn buff, or a connoisseur of zombie apocalypse movies. Toward the end of the chapter I briefly talk about literally looking stupid, like when you’re watching a horror movie and a powerful jump scare makes you jump out of the seat with a piercing scream. To illustrate that idea, there’s an image [inset left. click to enlarge] on page 99 showing a young woman in a Danish haunted house, Dystopia Haunted House, who is so powerfully startled by an actor that she falls off a couch to her companions’ great amusement. The image is from a surveillance camera that was mounted in that room as part of a research project conducted by myself and my colleagues in the Recreational Fear Lab at Aarhus University. So, yes, somebody opening the book to page 99 would get a fairly accurate idea of the tone and subject matter of the book—a light-hearted yet serious attempt to explain in accessible terms what science tells us about horror movies and their effects, and what a nervous person can do to mitigate those effects. (The bad news is that there’s little you can do to shield yourself from a well-executed jump scare, but that’s the topic of a separate chapter in the book.)
Learn more about A Very Nervous Person's Guide to Horror Movies at the Oxford University Press website and follow Mathias Clasen on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue