Anthropology: The Fascination With Scary Movies in North America

As many of you are aware, Halloween is near dawning on us once again. Known for its intriguing stories, dark history, and overall mystique. This time of the year becomes special as many audiences in North America and beyond revisit and discover scary movies. In this week’s article, there will be a better understanding of the fascination of these films. Followed by their influence they inflict onto North American audiences.

Halloween in North America

Scottish and Irish migrants celebrating Samhain festival. Also, where the fascination of scary movies originates through spread tradition.
Scottish and Irish migrants celebrating Samhain festival. Also, where the fascination of scary movies originates through spread tradition. Image source:(

To begin, in the late nineteenth century, with the arrival of Scottish and Irish migrant’s things changed regarding culture. Originally, Halloween also known as “Samhain” was a Celtic holiday that became celebrated from the region of the British Isles. Traditions varied from lighting bonfires, carving turnips, and paying tribute to gods and deceased ancestors. With this information at hand, the Scottish and Irish migrants brought along their customs and beliefs to the Americas. For example, the custom of carving turnips with frightening expressions to ward off evil spirits evolved. Meaning that with the discovery of various pumpkins in the new land, the migrants implanted tradition to these resources. Resulting in the birth of the Jack o Lantern and many more modern customs that continue to be followed. Moreover, with the tradition slowly becoming transitioned, Halloween eventually manifests to mainstream American society by the mid-twentieth century. In sum, tradition flourished.

Horror Genre in Film

Image source: (
Fascination of horror genre at its prime in the golden 1920’s with the example of iconic films like Nosferatu (1922). Image source: (

Next, comes the fascination of the horror genre. For as long as time itself, the horror genre has always existed to purely entertain and satisfy unique audiences’ tastes. With elements of both supernatural, evil, and other fictitious figures used to amuse viewers, it all roots back to fear. More than anything it is the fear of the unknown that brings about the overwhelming sensation of concern. When it comes to scary movies, many are left motivated and shocked, but more aware of the world’s dangers. Scary movies now and days are seen as purely entertaining and sometimes comical than forewarning of possible scenarios occurring. Regardless the fascination persists no matter the century. As we delve further into this article, we will see many example films that tap into the essence of horror. In brief, the horror genre always becomes met with great inquiry and success.

Black Christmas (1974)

Poster for Black Christmas (1974) a true scary movie/horror icon
Poster for Black Christmas (1974). A true scary movie/horror icon. Image source: (

For instance, in the 1974 film titled “Black Christmas” (Silent/Evil Night), we witness a profound example of scary movie lure. Known for the toe-curling and goosebump-inducing impression it cast upon its viewers, the movie becomes a cult classic. Some original elements to the story originated with the urban legend of “The Babysitter” or “The Man Upstairs”. Part of what makes this scary movie so disturbing is the fact of how much it can relate to reality. To illustrate, in the 1950’s, thirteen-year-old Janett Christman was murdered. To add, she had received disturbing calls from an unknown man while babysitting. With this information retrieved by police, they soon discovered that she was brutally strangled and sexually violated. What makes the matter worse is how the identity of the murder was never known. To this day, the murder case remains a mystery after seven decades!

The fascination of Black Christmas

What creates a fascination for this scary movie is how it ends on the same note as the real-life murder. The closing scene of Black Christmas emulates horror at its finest as audiences see the hallway of the protagonist’s home. Followed by hearing heavy breathing from the killer as the image fades. This scary movie has earned its title of being a horror icon. Regardless, it has gained popularity because of this reason. The fact of the story becoming a reality and possibility for many is what makes it so gripping. Plus, the setting taking place during the holiday season highlighting how danger lurks anytime regardless of how safe things appear. It is not as fun as other fictitious scary movies that highlight supernatural elements in the horror genre. The film teaches viewers a lesson of awareness. On balance, Black Christmas continues to be a leading scary movie icon.

The Poltergeist (1982)

Promotional image for the Poltergeist film. A true model for future scary movies to gain inspiration from.
Promotional image for the Poltergeist film. A true model for future scary movies to gain inspiration from. Image source: (

Next, comes “The Poltergeist”. Meaning “Noisy Ghost” in German, the film delves into some mythology of the term. For those of you that may not know, a Poltergeist is a fierce spirit that violently likes to create noise and bestow unfortunate effects upon its host. From slamming doors, tossing objects, and sometimes causing physical harm to humans the being is met with instant avoidance. In the film the Poltergeist, we see some highlighted material relating to the supernatural. The film features an ambitious and aspiring family moving into a new town in California. As things seem to be promising at first, things take a dark turn while the film proceeds further on. The main character Carol Anne soon vanishes while interacting with the spirit through her tv. Dire scenarios play out as it turns out the family’s home was built over a cemetery. In short, the film drastically evokes fear.

Fascination with The Poltergeist

Besides the events that play in the film, this scary movie also gains the status of becoming a horror icon. The Poltergeist is among one of the most disturbing films to be created in North American history. Many believe the film to be cursed because of the unfortunate and mysterious deaths that bestowed cast members. Because of this reason, the fascination of The Poltergeist lives on.

It is genuinely frightening, entertaining, and teaches a lesson to audiences regarding love and the act of sacrifice. As a result of this film’s success, there have been many reboots of the same title. They each follow suit with the interest of the horror genre but shine in their unique perspectives respectively. The Poltergeist is among the top ten list of scary movies because it strives for striking viewers with emotions. From concern, unease, panic, and lastly fear the movie becomes famous for this special touch.

The Howling 1981

The Howling artwork for the feature film. Another scary movie icon. Beware if you have Lupophobia!
The Howling artwork for the feature film. Another scary movie icon. Beware if you have Lupophobia! Image source: (

Furthermore, comes “The Howling” film. This movie is eerily fearsome and nightmare-inducing with its many elements of surprise and overall mood of tension. The story centers around protagonist Karen White who is being pursued by a stalker and becomes desperate for safety. As she strays away from her antagonist, she faces traumatizing cognitive effects from witnessing his murder. From this result, she suffers mental health conditions and is later recommended by her therapist to visit “The Colony”.  From there, things take a sinister approach as the inhabitants of the remote countryside are withdrawing a dark secret. With this information at hand, the film became an instant success in North America! As a result, there came seven more installments of the movie with each pursuing individual and terrifying subplots. Altogether, the Howling film produced another fascinating addition of scary movie lure.

The fascination of The Howling

Furthermore, The Howling movie continues to fascinate horror fans. It also ranks among the top ten scary movies to watch. The film’s success becomes followed by a new project currently in the works for a reboot of the same title. It is exciting to witness because there is a great ambition to recreate that same aura and appeal that fascinates. Especially for a new generation as we are now in a new decade. To add, the movies of this franchise make up a large fanbase that keeps the spirit ongoing regardless of the decade. This film is special and worth mentioning because of its consistency to entertain. All things considered, The Howling (1982) and its continued franchises never fail to fascinate scary movie lovers.

The allure of Scary Movies

Mysterious autumn/winter sky in the forest. Where inspiration for scary movies aesthetics arise.
Mysterious autumn/winter sky in the forest. Where inspiration for scary movies aesthetics arise.  Image source: (

When it comes to scary movies, many audiences enjoy becoming stimulated and pushed to interact. Meaning that certain elements portrayed appeal to their attributes and struggles. In a way, this provides a connection that later results in fastening their interest and sometimes dedication to the story. What makes a horror film so successful is its precise and well-implemented style of storytelling.

This is important because it emulates careful consideration of elements at hand that sometimes are relevant to modern society. For example, in the film Black Christmas, many individuals in the 1970’s became more self-conscious of lurking dangers around them. From gruesome murders taking place in seemingly safe holidays and alarming urban legends aimed at harming young people, it flourished. Most scary movies that make a large influence on others’ lives all end with fascination. In either case, whether purely fictional or based on actual events, scary movies continue to move others.

Memorable Mentions of Scary Movies

Skeletal usher at a movie theater for Halloween. A nice scary movie treat for guest to experience.
Skeletal usher at a movie theater for Halloween. A nice scary movie treat for guest to experience. Image source: (

Equally important, comes some memorable mentions of scary movies that continue to fascinate both old and new audiences alike. As mentioned before, a good scary movie requires a strong narrative and backstory. So, with these elements at hand, we will uncover and enlighten ourselves on some featured tales of horror. In this section, we will discover films that leave a lasting impression on modern society. Followed by overseeing how they have influenced fans and the audiences that follow them. From psychological, supernatural, and downright grim, a variety of surprises await.

The Blair Witch (1999)

Perfect display of scary movie allure with the Blair Witch promotional poster example.
Perfect display of scary movie allure with the Blair Witch promotional poster example.  Image source:(

The Blair Witch follows a series of three young college students who explore the forest of Blair, Maryland. This town is believed to be haunted by a famous witch figure of the town’s history. For this reason, the small town’s mysterious occurrences, disappearances, and murders are blamed on the witch figure. Although the film is presented as purely fictional, some real historic evidence has been found to this myth explored. This is one element of surprise that continues to hook audiences because it relates to reality. The movie is equally eerie, realistic, and overall mysterious. As a result of these factors at hand, the Blair Witch becomes a commercial success! The Blair Witch perfectly emulates the fascination of scary movies in modern times.

Dark Water (2005)

Scary movie “Dark Water” starring Jennifer Connelly.
Scary movie “Dark Water” starring Jennifer Connelly. Image source:(

Created by the writer of “The Ring” series trilogy comes “Dark Water”. Playing more on a grim and somber note, the story emphasizes trauma and other psychological components. The movie highlights the lives of single mother Dahlia and her kindergarten-age daughter Cecilia. They soon move into a new apartment close to a renowned school, but that is where the events become twisted. To sum up everything, Dahlia and her daughter become haunted by a ghost girl named Natasha (A former resident). From there, things take a drastic and disturbing direction as old secrets are revealed and lives change. With all this said, the movie’s story becomes put in the spotlight regarding family matters. This is another aspect of creating a successful grasp of the audience’s imaginations and emotions. For this reason, this scary movie shines internationally as it originally derived from Japan became adapted into American society.

The Others (2001)

Nicole Kidman in “The Others” (Los Otros). Another scary movie gem.
Nicole Kidman in “The Others” (Los Otros). Another scary movie gem. Image source:(

Last, comes the compelling and enigmatic movie titled “The Others”. The Others (Los Otros) film evenly displays supernatural, gothic, and classic horror elements in the story. The tale begins in the final year of World War II with a mother named Grace. She lives in a country house with her two young children where life seems peaceful, but that soon changes.

The family becomes aware of seeing previous inhabitants of the home they live in. Followed by finding themselves  harassed by the dark forces. Overall, this film receives high praise for its special effects and perfect display of environmental aesthetics. Part of this reason goes back to why this scary movie becomes a memorable mention on our list. Despite the humble setting and narration, the total message and later twist win the spot for this film. The Others is also an international success at its roots derive from Spain but become adapted for American audiences.

Significance to Fascination of Scary Movies in North America

Mysterious hand figure reflected in an obscure room. Genesis to scary movies overall mystique.
Mysterious hand figure reflected in an obscure room. Genesis to scary movies overall mystique. Image source: (

In conclusion, from powerful storytelling, relatable topics, and persuasive emotion, the fascination of scary movies in North America flourish. No matter the holiday or season, scary movies will always carry a positive note of motivation for audiences. They are unique and memorable as some are passed down from one generation to another. Regardless of the era, the same message strives to strike our imaginations. Followed by providing an everlasting effect of wonder and fascination.


Works Cited

The History of Halloween | AMERICAN HERITAGE

The Truth Behind ‘The Babysitter & The Man Upstairs’ Urban Legend | by ClaireLinic | OMGFacts | Medium

Black Christmas (1974 film) – Wikipedia

Poltergeist (1982 film) – Wikipedia

The Howling (film) – Wikipedia

The Blair Witch Project – Wikipedia

Dark Water (2005 film) – Wikipedia

The Others (2001 film) – Wikipedia


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