Horror Critic Talks Scary Movies, America’s Obsession with Getting Spooked

Horror films still provide important social commentary, says Jonathan Barkan of Dread Central

Jake Neher/WDET

Every October we see a lot of scary movies rotating through the television networks. For most of us, there’s one movie that scared the pants off of us when we were younger, or one horror film or thriller that we still look forward to every Halloween season. 

Horror isn’t a genre that’s simply about cheap thrills. It can produce cultural touchstones such as The Exorcist or The Blair Witch Project. The Shining and Psycho, for example, consistently rank on film critic lists of the best movies of all time. 

Jonathan Barkan, managing editor of Dread Central, a website focused on horror films and horror film culture, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the cultural significance of scary movies. 

For Barkan, horror films have historically been a way for filmmakers to provide social commentary, a tradition that continues to this day.

“You look in the ’60s and ’70s when there was the fear of the Cold War and we had all those giant monster movies and radiation,” he says. 

“Now we see that there’s a lot of films that are tackling the racial…tensions that are happening in our society today. You also have the topics of social media that are ever present.” 

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.