Los Angeles Times

Learning a language of fright: The genre's maestros consider what drives the movies that tap into our darkest, primal fears

They tap into our deepest fears as we sit in the dark and remind us, in brutal bursts and jump scares, how fleeting life can be. They give us bogeymen to rally against, heroines and heroes to root for. They teach us not to run away up the stairs or ever promise, as the shadows creep closer, "I'll be right back."

Drama may help us feel; a well-timed punchline has the power to unite. But horror, the "gutter" genre, the oft-maligned niche formerly reserved for B-movie bins and grindhouses, confronts us most boldly with our primal fears so that we may exhale with relief when the lights come back up - nerves rattled, hearts racing, minds turning over the questions we don't dare speak out loud.

The translators, filmmakers who speak to us in the language of horror, are each in their own way part of a grand pop-folkloric tradition. It is the job of these macabre orchestra conductors to play our fears like violins, to choreograph our sense of dread as we sit in front of screens and spook us in the process - all in the name of entertainment.

"I learned the language of horror as a child at the movies and reading books," says horror master John Carpenter,

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