Why We Crave Horror Movies Essay

This essay discusses why people love watching horror movies. Stephen King, the author, gives a few different reasons why people go to see horror movies. People want to show that they are not scared; people want to have fun; but the main reason that he suggests is that we are insane and we need to watch horror movies to keep that insanity locked up in society. He uses a variety of argumentative strategies and literary decides to prove his thesis.

Type of Essay:

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This essay is an informal essay. There are several clues that point out that it is an informal essay. First person is used throughout this essay. Contractions are another reason for this being an informal essay. The inexplicitly stated thesis also doesn’t appear until the end of the essay. The everyday, common language used in the essay also proves that it is an informal piece. It is a persuasive essay because Stephen King is trying to convince people that they are insane and horror movies are required to keep that insanity under control. It is not argumentative because he does not use statistics to prove his point; it is a more personal opinion/knowledge based essay.


The thesis of this essay is “Man is insane and his insanity has to be exercised by watching horror movies”. In paragraph 11, King states that “If we share the brotherhood of man, we also share the insanity of man.” At the beginning of the essay, he says that he thinks that “we are all mentally ill”. This confirms that he is trying to show the negative side of humans. In paragraph 11 he also says that “anticivilization emotions don’t go away and the demand periodic exercise”. The thesis becomes clearer as the essay progresses and by the end of the essay the thesis is unmistakable.


The tone of this essay is cynical. Stephen King is trying to say that humans have these crazy tendencies, motives and emotions. King points out that “We have such sick jokes as: What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of dead babies? (You can’t unload a truckload of bowling balls with a pitchfork)”. This shows that we do have a cynical side. This essay is giving a dark view on humans. It is pointing out that we do have all these negative emotions like anger, hatred, etc that need to be exercised by watching horror movies.

Argumentative Strategies:

There are quite a few argumentative strategies that are used in this essay. One of the strategies used in the essay is Argument by Example. King gives and example of how we have a sick nature. “We have such sick jokes as…” (P.11) Appeal to common belief is also used in the essay. It says that ever since we have been born, we have been taught to suppress our cynical emotions. It is common belief that society frowns on these violent acts and emotions. This could also relate to appeal to emotion. People could relate to having a “rotten puke of a sister” and this could spark hate and anger. This helps the thesis because King is trying to show that we do have all these emotions inside us.

Literary and Rhetorical Devices:

There are many effective literary and rhetorical devices used in this essay. There are a few similes located in this essay. One particular one that stands out is “…but merely as an explanation of why the best horror films, like the best fairly tales, manage to be reactionary, anarchistic, and revolutionary at the same time.” It’s ironic how this simile compares two completely opposite things (horror movies and fairy tales).

Paragraph 12 contains a good piece of imagery, “lifting a trap door in the civilized forebrain and throwing a basket of raw meat to the hungry alligators swimming around in the subterranean river beneath”. This gives us a great picture of what we are doing by watching horror movies. We are “keeping the gators fed”. Gators are used as metaphor for human morbidity. This is a great metaphor because the nature of alligators is often associated as being violent and dangerous. All these literary and rhetorical devices add to the essay and give us better view on King’s thesis.

Stephen King uses many different techniques to explain and prove his thesis. His tone throughout the essay is cynical. He shows us our negative nature and explains why we need to watch horror movies to keep our insane side under control. His choice of literary and rhetorical devices contributes to the overall effectiveness of the essay. The argumentative strategies accurately prove the thesis of this essay. Humans are plagued by cynical emotions and watching horror movies keeps them under control.

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