Editorial Notebook

Horror movies are really for Christmas

November is usually the time of year when most people take down the cobwebs and Jack-o’-lanterns, turn on the Hallmark Channel, and get ready for the holidays as the year ends. With Halloween come and gone, everyone stops leaving the house without a winter coat, and turn to indoor activities for fun. It’s the season for cozy sweaters and hot chocolate, not to mention some holiday cheer.

It’s no secret that the holiday season is a stressful time for a lot of those partaking in celebrations. There’s endless preparations for relatives, friends, and neighbors constantly coming through your house to share the festive spirit. In my family’s house, which celebrates Hanukkah for about a week in addition to the other holidays, the months of November and December are a hectic jumble. However, amid all the chaos, there’s one outlet that, for me, seemingly works better than all others–horror movies.

The tradition started with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, and it was a bit of an accident. My family was decorating our annual gingerbread house, and my dad wanted it to look like the house from the aforementioned movie. I thought it was a hilarious idea–what’s more dissonant than Christmas and horror? That night, I had an even better idea. In the spirit of Christmas, I would watch Psycho, starting at midnight when everyone else in my house was asleep. When I woke up the next day thinking about mummies locked in attics, I realized that I felt better and more awake than I had the day earlier.

There’s a line from the preface of Stephen King’s Night Shift that I like to think about: “When the writer passes by, you take one of his imaginary horrors out of the basket and put one of your real ones in—at least for a time.” One of the reasons scary movies are so much fun is that you can stop stressing over whatever’s going on in your real life. Instead, you can stress over the giant blob that’s eating everyone in your hometown, or the ax-wielding maniac that’s chasing you through the halls of an empty hotel. Once the movie ends, and the bad guy gets frozen (sidenote: it’s awesome that The Blob and The Shining have the same ending), the problem in the movie is solved, and you can go back to your real life a little less scared than before.

Even the less made-up problems in horror movies are still relatable to the holiday season. Is the main character trapped in a house? Me too, it’s too cold to go outside. Driving around alone at night? That’s also me, I’m picking up a pizza at 5 pm and the sun set an hour ago. Bleak sense of impending doom? That’s me in two weeks when the second semester starts.

I love Christmas movies too. The old stop motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Year Without a Santa Claus are well-loved classics in my house. They have their place in the holiday season, setting the cheerful mood that still marks this time of year no matter what anxieties pop up. Even so, there’s nothing that can put me in a peaceful, good-faith state of mind around the holidays like watching a scary movie in the middle of the night.