I miss the golden era of slasher franchises, like the Friday the 13th series, that focused heavily on summer releases. The target audience was young, and going to the movies was one of a limited number of choices for a population with a lot more free time on their hands than they'd have when school started again in the fall.
These days, streaming services like HBO Max, which is currently hosting all but the third Nightmare on Elm Street film, or Amazon, where you can catch most of the Friday the 13th films, stock their listings with these same movies. In 2021, way beyond the demographic that I was not yet a part of while watching these movies as a kid, I'm tuning in. Taking comfort in the classics while facing the uncertainty of the future and present – but this time, with a brand new reason to be afraid of the exchange of fluid droplets, be they from the sort of bloody stabbings portrayed in these classic summer slashers or from saliva-infused makeout sessions.
While not much study has been previously done on comfort-viewing classic horror films, COVID isolation throughout the year 2020 led to more than a little bit of published thought on the comfort watch – rewatching shows and movies we are familiar with as a way of coping and immersing ourselves in the familiar, when the unfamiliar is all there is.
This sort of study, on any particular genre, is sparse because these behaviors are relatively new. Robin Dunbar of Oxford University has published findings linking the effectiveness of comfort-watching with the endorphin release that it provides. Academics Yoon Hi Sung, Wei-Na Lee, and Eun Yeon from the University of Texas at Austin presented research on the link between binge-watching and depression at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Individuals in their early twenties, including a London-based designer named Lois who spoke with i-D Magazine about her comfort-watching, also dubbed the practice "depression-watching," noting how her binging sometimes coincides with stress and depression associated with her university course load.
That's not to say that slashers are, or should be, go-to cures for depression, but what we know about these sorts of dips into nostalgia tracks when thinking about rewatching these bloody films we've seen so many times. So should we indulge in this sort of endorphin release? Does it work, and is it healthy?
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic from University College London speaks about the activity in terms similar to how many addiction specialists speak about specific drug use: The main criterion is whether it interferes with what we call adaptive activities, the things we must do in our everyday lives such as maintaining healthy relationships and going to work. Is your work done? Are your friends cared for? If the answer is yes, you have something like a science-backed thumbs up to take a stroll down that blood-soaked memory lane.