October 30th, 2009
01:02 PM ET

A tale of horror: producer and reporter bare all

Producer Jack Hannah hates horror films.

October is not a month when I like to go to the movies. Hollywood's push to scare people into theaters with a slew of horror films around Halloween doesn't interest me whatsoever.

Why? I simply don't like scary movies... because, for me, they work. Horror/thriller/slashers really do scare the crap out of me. There, I said it (or wrote it). We recently interviewed Jason Reiss, a psychology professor at Wheaton College who teaches a class on horror films. He told us the reason some people "...don't like the horror movie is because they can't detach from it. They keep re-living and re-visiting the scenes. Visually they see it over and over again in their mind. So it isn't the beginning and ending experience that it is for a lot of other people." Well, I'm one of those people.

It all started when I was a kid and was forced by my peers to sit through "The Exorcist" at a friend's house late at night. We were all freaked out... but when the credits finally rolled, all my friends were somehow able to shake the vision of "Regan" doing the crab-walk up and down a staircase. I, on the other hand, had to sleep with the light on for months.

However, I cover entertainment news for CNN. And when you cover entertainment news, you're required to screen a ton of movies. For the most part, I've been able to dodge the occasional horror film land-mine... but recently, the editorial powers that be dropped a bomb on me: I was forced to go see the much-hyped thriller and box office darling "Paranormal Activity" for a network story.

Interestingly, our reporter who was assigned the story with me, Kareen Wynter, loooooooves the horror genre. It's common knowledge around our office that a good horror film on DVD makes the perfect gift for Kareen around the holidays. I was nervous and filled with anxiety on the day we had to watch "Paranormal Activity," but at least I had a trusted ally at my side who could ease my fear when the spooky stuff started jumping out on screen.

So I went with Kareen to the movie theater, curled up in a seat, did my best to get comfortable, turned off my Blackberry and did what had to be done: I watched a scary movie.

I have no desire to spoil anyone else's plans to see the film so I won't reveal any plot lines or memorable scenes... but I'll say that, for me, "Paranormal Activity" achieved its purpose: it really did scare me. I was scared, like "fall-asleep-with-the-TV-on-so-you-don't-wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-in-darkness" scared.

As for Kareen? Well, I'll let her dish on her "Paranormal Activity" experience.

Entertainment Correspondent Kareen Wynter is a horror film fanatic.

OK, can I just start by saying that I think I have psychologically scarred one of my colleagues for life!

Not a good feeling at the end of my busy work week considering he’s about to become a new dad. Ok Jack, you’re off the hook when it comes to horror assignments…this season at least.

You know, I’ve given it quite a bit of thought over the years...what is it about horror, about heart pounding thriller flicks that makes my blood rush? I think the psychology professor whom Jack and I interviewed for our story said it best. You get to experience fear and danger without it actually happening. Meaning when the lights go on, hey you’re back to living life as normal. Oh, unless you’re like many movie-goers who just can’t shake those haunting images of the axe wielding murderer. What better escape could you ask for?

But for me, I think it goes a lot deeper than just the adrenaline rush… it’s actually a family affair. My mom will kill me for revealing this and trust me… she had nothing to do with this but my younger brother and I actually grew up watching horror movies together. With our eight year difference, we found ourselves constantly fighting. This was the one true hobby we shared where heck, we actually got along. Where we didn’t mind snuggling up next to each other for an hour and a half to get scared out of our minds. What better bonding opportunity?

I admit it… while the parents were asleep, we would sneak downstairs to watch movies like "Friday the 13th", "Nightmare on Elm Street", "Chucky" ... you name it. As we got older this favorite pastime stuck with us. One thing that was interesting though is we became “immune” to the typical scary movie. I won’t name names as I don’t want to hurt any feelings here but true horror junkies get BORED over time with the tame and predictable films.

This is something our psychologist also mentioned. Yes folks there is a condition for this. Horror fanatics actually try to top the last fear-filled experience. It’s like riding a rollercoaster… you don’t want to go on the same wimpy ride EVERY time. Sometimes you get disappointed since there’s no way of telling how scary a film will actually be, but you do develop a nose for them. I’m sure there are millions of horror fans out there that can relate to this.

So, now you know how much of a fan I am of these movies. You’re also well aware of the strong blood line in the family. But the big question I also get at times is do I get scared?


That’s the whole point to these films. There are times I have to sleep with the lights on…or have nightmares about a movie but this type of fear is actually a fun, exciting feeling.

It’s what keeps moviegoers going back for more. I’ve seen all the "Halloween" movies at least a hundred times. I know every ending by heart and guess what? I still have visions of Michael Myers in my mind as I make my way to the kitchen for a late night snack.

The best ones… the classic horror movies really stick with you.

So here’s to horror! Let’s just hope Hollywood keeps rolling the scary movies out so film junkies like me can continue dabbling in this fantasy of fear!

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. m0namii

    I would much rather watch a good suspensful thriller than a gore-filled horror flick. GHOST STORY, a movie made in the '80s I think, was an awesome one. 🙂

    November 2, 2009 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. cat

    I and most of the others in the theater laughed at Paranormal Activity. The only thing "paranormal" or scary about the movie is the strange force that keeps causing people to flock to this lousy film.

    November 2, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. KDubb

    I like to keep the adrenaline pumping by hearing myself scream or cringe at the sight of something ghastly or gory!! Everyday life is scarier!

    November 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. MD

    I have friends who have marathon nights of horror movies that I pass up all the time. But they go for the gory kind and the most scary type to me are those like "The Others" and "The Sixth Sense."
    Congrats on becoming a new dad, Jack!

    November 2, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Merry

    I also thought I was the only one who had issues with horror movies...I really don't like all the blood n guts stuff, I go for the 'I-thought-I-left-that-door-open-why-is-it-closed-now' psycho thrillers...I saw the original 'When a Stranger Calls' with Carol Kane when I was 13 on VHS...I ended up making my mother sit on one side of my bed until I was asleep for aobut two weeks after I saw that film...and I STILL don't think I've gotten a decent night's sleep after seeing The 6th Sense in theatres when I was 14...powerful thing, the human mind.

    November 2, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kristen

    I can't watch "Seven". We picked it up for New Year's Eve because we loved Brad Pitt in "12 Monkeys". I did't sleep at all until March. I still get nauseated just thinking about the movie. I can't watch Kevin Spacey in anything anymore.

    I know that the "horror junkies" always need a new fix but there needs to be limits. You don't keep giving higher grade heroin to addicts, you try to wean them off. There are way too many wack jobs out there for film makers to encourage unwittingly. Besides, why ruin a fantastic experience like seeing "The Shining" for the first time by vaccinating yourself with poorly thought out badly made modern horror movies?

    November 2, 2009 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Debra R

    I thought I was the only one who can't watch horror movies...the worst one was nightmare on elm street because i had nightmares about it...I just pass on them...

    October 30, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |

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