Sonia Gensler Adds New Meaning To Horror Films

Novelist delves into psychology of horror genre

March 2, 2022

I’ve always been a huge fan of horror films, so when I saw there would be a Lit Fest workshop focusing on exactly that I was ecstatic. 

The presentation was led by Sonia Gensler, an award-winning horror novelist and teacher of 10 years. She has written books such as “Ghostlight”, “The Dark Between” and “The Revenant”.

Before starting she made it a point to mention how visual learning would be frequent throughout the presentation. She went on to explain that when someone is watching a movie and it hurts you, then it is a truly good movie. It was already obvious Gensler was passionate about the subject. 

Gensler kept the students interested in what she was talking about because she asked questions that students would be willing to answer. On her Powerpoint, she showed flashes from different movie scenes. Students would then call out which movie they thought it was from. 

She quickly shifted to talking about the history of horror films through the discussion of fairy tales. I found this to be interesting as I had never thought about horror films through that lens. 

She explained she perceives horror films as having dark and scary narratives in order to show children the boundaries they have in their homes and when to know if they are in danger. She expanded on this by describing Hansel and Gretel and how the children were put in danger by their parents. 

Along with the history, she discussed the physical benefits of horror with a slides presentation on how it can activate the fight or flight mode and how watching horror films for 90 minutes can burn up to 113 calories. She also told the class that horror films can strangely alleviate depression. This concept was particularly intriguing to me. 

Gensler then talked about psychology and elaborated on the historical parts of horror films. She put them together to talk about how horror can and should be used to help understand things in life like war or racism.

Close to the end of her presentation, Gensler spoke about how horror movies can help viewers face their fears of certain things and create coping skills with emotions. 

Her last topic of the class was catharsis, the idea that a film can spark a poignant emotion.

For the last ten minutes of the class she asked students what their favorite horror movies or television shows are. If she had not seen the movie she asked for a summary to determine if she should watch the film. 

One student asked what her favorite horror film is. She responded that her favorite horror film made her step away from it. She doesn’t typically do that so that was a marker that it was exceptional. 

Time flew by when listening to Gensler speak about her passion and the magnetic way she interacted with the class was pure perfection. It was obvious students were satisfied with their choice of Lit Fest presentation this year.

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