The film Hatchet (Green, 2006) claims to be an “Old school American Horror”, and that’s exactly what you get. A group of strangers, lost after their boat tour turned sour in the Louisiana bayou, are relentlessly hunted by a giant, crazed (perhaps non-human), and deformed angry lunatic with, that’s right, a hatchet. The small group must try to overcome their differences as they navigate the dark and unknown woods. Unfortunately, each of them meets an ignoble end -- one-by-one their heads are torn off their necks, their arms are ripped off their torsos, and one of them gets a nice mouthful of frothy lunatic vomit. This movie follows rather gracefully in the footsteps of its predecessors like Black Christmas, and the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises, among others.
The formula is decades old, and audiences never grow weary of watching scantily clad teenagers trip over themselves while running from a dark and brooding stalker. The popularity of these films teaches us something very simple about the psychology of the horror genera: some individuals are ‘sensation seekers’. These types of individuals tend to seek new experiences, are more likely to demonstrate uninhibited behaviours, and are more susceptible to boredom than others (see Zuckerman, 2006, for a review on sensation seeking and horror film watching!). Those that seek sensation may find that there is just enough novelty in watching people get ripped to shreds, just enough mystery in the darkness of the woods, just enough excitement in trying to resist and fight against the animal rage and strength of their hunters, and just enough make believe in Hatchet to keep their cortisol levels high, giving them the vicarious rush that they desire.
Check out Hatchet here:
Green, A (Producer), Green, A (Director). (2006). Hatchet [Motion picture]. United States: Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Zuckerman, M. (1996). Sensation seeking and the taste for vicarious horror. In J.B. Weaver III & R. Tomboroni (Eds.), Current Research on Audience Preferences and Reactions (pp 147-159). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.