Should We Shun Horror Flicks?

There is a view that horrible scenes from films which get imprinted onto human minds will be fleshed out accordingly if one goes to hell. Because of this, such films should not be seen. However, here are some alternative views:
1. If one watches horror films to rejoice or relish in suffering of others, despite them being fictional, there is negative karma created. Conversely, if one watches any film to learn from it, despite it being fictional, there is positive karma created. Any film is essentially empty of any inherent characteristics and the result of watching it pivots upon one’s intention.2. Good horror movies present extreme situations which offer extremely valuable lessons to – especially on the ugliness or darkness of human-nature and how it can be conquered.3. Horror movies can present reality too. E.g A good semi-fictional film on Nanking can convey the atrocities of war, to remind us not to go to war, lest we forget the suffering it brings. From experience, there are no films as horrible as stories based on real-life war incidents.4. It is better to cultivate courage and conquer fears than to be squeamish or shy away from them constantly. Fear is a form of aversion that springs from delusion. Of course, one should also not cultivate the opposite – attachment to the fearsome, for that will be a delusion too.5. When we shut ourselves from scenes of suffering, it is hard to cultivate compassion. As stonepeace put it, ‘The sight of blood and gore is only good for one thing – to prevent further blood and gore.’ For modern Buddhist teachers to relate to modern times, it is also important to know what popular culture is about, and to use them as skilful means to relay the Dharma.6. Buddhists have throughout history re-created scenes of hell in the form of pictures and films to deter people from doing evil. (E.g. well made animation films by Ven. Haitao’s organisation) The Buddhist sutras also purposely vividly describe the horrors of hell for this purpose. Horror films can be seen to be another form of modern depiction of hell.7. In the study of celebrated texts like the Lamrim Chenmo in Vajarayana Buddhism, there are related practices where students are urged to meditate on the horrors of the lower realms too, including hell. Dizangjing also explicitly describe how the future Dizang Pusa was moved by a visit to the hells to give rise to Bodhicitta. If Buddhists ought to emulate his confrontation of fear, we should not be afraid of scenes of hell. Unless we are talking about moral shame, which is wholesome, fear is due to delusion and lack of compassion. Fearlessness is a virtue.8. According to the law of karma, not everything impressed upon the Alaya consciousness will have effects as they are only seeds, which require conditions to bear fruits. E.g It is not true that seeing something horrible once means something horrible will happen to one later. Another example would be this – Just because I see the horror of childbirth does not mean I will bear a child. I must have conditions such as – being a female in a future life who want to have children. But if I’m already strongly not for having any child in this life, I am unlikely to ever have a child in the next life.9. Even if a horror film fan does go to hell due to the cause and conditions being available, the suffering he goes through will be according to his evil done previously. It will be not be aggravated a single but due to having seen horror films. This is unless one saw a movie of, say, a murderer killing with a chainsaw, and relishes in it, and does the same, which will trigger him to remember the chainsaw scene(s) in hell and suffer accordingly, karmically.10. I agree with Weiya that humans are more scary than ghosts – especially since ghosts were ex-humans. If we keep thinking the supernatural is scary, it is hard to spur the rise of compassion to want to guide them for better rebirths.
1. If one watches horror films to rejoice or relish in suffering of others, despite them being fictional, there is negative karma created. Conversely, if one watches any film to learn from it, despite it being fictional, there is positive karma created. Any film is essentially empty of any inherent characteristics and the result of watching it pivots upon one’s intention.
2. Good horror movies present extreme situations which offer extremely valuable lessons to – especially on the ugliness or darkness of human-nature and how it can be conquered.
3. Horror movies can present reality too. E.g A good semi-fictional film on Nanking can convey the atrocities of war, to remind us not to go to war, lest we forget the suffering it brings. From experience, there are no films as horrible as stories based on real-life war incidents.
4. It is better to cultivate courage and conquer fears than to be squeamish or shy away from them constantly. Fear is a form of aversion that springs from delusion. Of course, one should also not cultivate the opposite – attachment to the fearsome, for that will be a delusion too.
5. When we shut ourselves from scenes of suffering, it is hard to cultivate compassion. As stonepeace put it, ‘The sight of blood and gore is only good for one thing – to prevent further blood and gore.’ For modern Buddhist teachers to relate to modern times, it is also important to know what popular culture is about, and to use them as skilful means to relay the Dharma.
6. Buddhists have throughout history re-created scenes of hell in the form of pictures and films to deter people from doing evil. (E.g. well made animation films by Ven. Haitao’s organisation) The Buddhist sutras also purposely vividly describe the horrors of hell for this purpose. Horror films can be seen to be another form of modern depiction of hell.
7. In the study of celebrated texts like the Lamrim Chenmo in Vajarayana Buddhism, there are related practices where students are urged to meditate on the horrors of the lower realms too, including hell. Dizangjing also explicitly describe how the future Dizang Pusa was moved by a visit to the hells to give rise to Bodhicitta. If Buddhists ought to emulate his confrontation of fear, we should not be afraid of scenes of hell. Unless we are talking about moral shame, which is wholesome, fear is due to delusion and lack of compassion. Fearlessness is a virtue.
8. According to the law of karma, not everything impressed upon the Alaya consciousness will have effects as they are only seeds, which require conditions to bear fruits. E.g It is not true that seeing something horrible once means something horrible will happen to one later. Another example would be this – Just because I see the horror of childbirth does not mean I will bear a child. I must have conditions such as – being a female in a future life who want to have children. But if I’m already strongly not for having any child in this life, I am unlikely to ever have a child in the next life.
9. Even if a horror film fan does go to hell due to the cause and conditions being available, the suffering he goes through will be according to his evil done previously. It will be not be aggravated a single but due to having seen horror films. This is unless one saw a movie of, say, a murderer killing with a chainsaw, and relishes in it, and does the same, which will trigger him to remember the chainsaw scene(s) in hell and suffer accordingly, karmically.
10. I agree with Weiya that humans are more scary than ghosts – especially since ghosts were ex-humans. If we keep thinking the supernatural is scary, it is hard to spur the rise of compassion to want to guide them for better rebirths.
When monsters within are faced squarely,
monsters without are disempowered.
When monsters without are faced squarely,
monsters within are disempowered (too). – stonepeace

Some believe that horror or violent films should not be seen as they will be imprinted onto the mind such that they will be fleshed out accordingly if one goes to hell. Here are some alternative views:

1. If one watches horror films to rejoice or relish in suffering of others, despite them being fictional, there is negative karma created. Conversely, if one watches any film to learn from it, despite it being fictional, there is positive karma created. Any film is essentially empty of any inherent characteristics and the result of watching it pivots upon one’s intention.

2. Good horror movies present extreme situations which offer extremely valuable lessons to – especially on the ugliness or darkness of human-nature and how it can be conquered. As a general guideline, those who feel they are not ready should not watch horror films – lest it disturbs peace of mind too greatly instead of having any positive effects.

3. Horror movies can present reality too. E.g A good semi-fictional film on World War II can convey the atrocities of war, to remind us not to go to war, lest we forget the suffering it brings. From experience, there are no films as horrible as stories based on real-life war incidents.

4. It is better to cultivate courage and conquer fears than to be squeamish or shy away from them constantly. Fear is a form of aversion that springs from delusion. Of course, one should also not cultivate the opposite – attachment to the fearsome, for that will be a delusion too.

5. When we shut ourselves from scenes of suffering, it is hard to cultivate compassion. As Stonepeace put it, ‘The sight of blood and gore is only good for one thing – to prevent further blood and gore.‘ For modern Buddhist teachers to relate to modern times, it is also important to know what popular culture is about, and to use them as skilful means to relay the Dharma.

6. Buddhists have throughout history re-created scenes of hell in the form of pictures, films, sculptures and even theme parks to deter people from doing evil. The Buddhist sutras also purposely vividly describe the horrors of hell for this purpose. Horror films can be seen to be another form of modern depiction of hell.

7. In the study of celebrated texts like the Lamrim Chenmo in Vajarayana Buddhism, there are related practices where students are urged to meditate on the horrors of the lower realms too, including hell. Dizangjing also explicitly describe how the future Dizang Pusa was moved by a visit to the hells to give rise to Bodhicitta. If Buddhists ought to emulate his confrontation of fear, we should not be afraid of scenes of hell. Unless we are talking about moral shame, which is wholesome, fear is due to delusion and lack of compassion. Fearlessness is a virtue. If we keep thinking the ‘supernatural’ is scary, it is hard to spur the rise of compassion to want to guide them for better rebirths.

8. According to the law of karma, not everything impressed upon the Alaya consciousness will have effects as they are only seeds, which require conditions to bear fruits. E.g It is not true that seeing something horrible once means something horrible will happen to one later. Another example would be this – Just because I see the horror of childbirth does not mean I will bear a child. I must have conditions such as – being a female in a future life who want to have children. But if I’m already strongly not for having any child in this life, I am unlikely to ever have a child in the next life.

9. Even if a horror film fan does go to hell due to the cause and conditions being available, the suffering he goes through will be according to his evil done previously. It will be not be aggravated a single but due to having seen horror films. This is unless one saw a movie of, say, a murderer killing with a chainsaw, and relishes in it, and does the same, which will trigger him to remember the chainsaw scene(s) in hell and suffer accordingly, karmically.

When monsters within are faced mindfully,
monsters without are disempowered.

When monsters without are faced mindfully,
monsters within are disempowered (too).

– Stonepeace