Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Shock and Awe: The Horror of our Situation

It has been reported in both psychological as well as medical research that a feeling of awe; a sensation of wonder helps our immune systems. It also promotes a sense of well-being [physical as well as mental]; it also increases our empathy toward others – as it makes us think about our place in this reality, and question our existence and that of others.

“That sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.” They point out that people commonly experience awe in nature, but also feel a sense of awe in response to religion, art, music, etc.”

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Though, as life is a cognitive sine-wave for we have to manage the ups and downs in our lives – the highs and lows of our experience of reality – there is an opposite to our sense [or feeling] of Awe – namely the feeling of dissatisfaction. This has to be managed too, as it also has an effect upon our immune systems, as well as empathy toward others, but negatively.  

Having a once-in-a-lifetime peak experience can lead to an unexpected blasé feeling of dissatisfaction. Peggy Lee sums up the malaise you can feel in the aftermath of a peak experience in her song, "Is that All There Is?" The song was inspired by the existential story Disillusionment by Thomas Mann

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Managing the sine-wave of our feelings can at times be tricky, for after an intense period, or after a feeling of Awe, it can be hard to manage cognitively – for often we feel a vacuum within or a feeling of disillusionment in consequence.   

Recently I have been awed [in fact stunned would be a better word] by three films though marketed as Horror; the real horror within these movies comes from what I term, the Horror of our situation in this reality; and the fear of what we don’t understand. These three films are examinations, reflections of being human in a scary reality, where the horror comes from our situation, and is often cloaked in the shadows and within our imaginations. They also provoke deep, deep thought and contemplation.

The test of how deeply a piece of film has affected me is usually how long I remain in the cinema, or when the DVD finishes how long I sit immobile and lost in my thoughts - as the credits roll.

The following three films held me, lost in deep-thought as the credits rolled as I contemplated the significance of what I just experienced – bathing in the sense of awe with my thoughts swirling. 

The effect of these films [like last year’s Midnight Special by Jeff Nichols] remain within me; that feeling of awe with no sensation of disillusionment – for they are food for the mind.


Get Out is a 2017 American horror film written, co-produced and directed by Jordan Peele, in his directorial debut. The film stars Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, LaKeith Stanfield and Catherine Keener, and follows a young interracial couple who visit the mysterious estate of the woman's parents.


It Comes at Night is a 2017 American psychological horror film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults. It stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Riley Keough. This claustrophobic tales centers on a highly contagious disease that has ravaged the outside world. Paul, his wife Sarah, and their teenage son Travis have secluded themselves in a country home. One night they are awoken by the sound of someone [or something] trying to break into their fortified home in the dark forest.


Personal Shopper is a 2016 French psychological thriller film written and directed by Olivier Assayas. It stars Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaziz, Anders Danielsen Lie, Ty Olwin, Hammou Graia, Nora von Waldstatten, Benjamin Biolay, Audrey Bonnet and Pascal Rambert. It tells the story of Maureen [Kristen Stewart] a personal shopper in Paris for Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten), a celebrity. She travels to European capitals to shop for her, buying clothes, accessories and jewels. Her twin brother Lewis recently died from a heart attack; they shared the same genetic heart problem. They were both interested in spiritualism and believed they had connections to the spirit world.

With an honourable mention to a film from last year that I still think about from time to time.


Midnight Special is a 2016 American science fiction film written and directed by Jeff Nichols, and produced by Sarah Green and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones. The film stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher and Sam Shepard. The story revolves around Roy Tomlin and his biological son, Alton Meyer, escaping from both the government and a cult, after discovering that Alton has special powers.

These films are like lucid dreams, they remain within my mind and I think of them and their significance from time to time – for they gave me a sense of awe, one that that made me think deeply as well as reflect upon something Stephen King once postulated in his book “On Writing” -

“Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

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