Unexpected reactions to Horror Show Collective’s Scary Movie Challenge

Photo by Dylan Hines
Photo by Dylan Hines

When I think of scary movies, the first thing that comes to mind is horror, fake blood and graphic scenes with nothing real about them.

On October 27, The Scary Movie Challenge, hosted by the Horror Show Collective was held at the Princess Cinemas in uptown Waterloo. The movie that was being showed was kept secret, but it was said to be the scariest movie ever made, so naturally, horror fanatics flocked from near and far to wait over an hour in line. Whoever could sit through the entirety of the film would be entered in a draw to win $200.

Coordinators interviewed attendees in line for a social experiment to compare reactions of those who stayed until the end. There was talk of what the movie could be about, from most recently released horror films to a couple hours of Justin Bieber on repeat. No one expected what the event had in store for us.

Animal cruelty.

The scariest movie ever made, according to the Horror Show Collective, was actually a documentary called Earthlings, which is about how the human race uses and abuses animals in endless ways. The movie was chosen in partnership with the Kitchener Ontario Animal Liberation Alliance and Kitchener Waterloo Animal Save.

Obviously, no one expected what they were about to watch, so it wasn’t surprising that nearly half of the theatre got up and left in less than thirty minutes.

As I looked at the reactions from faces around the theatre, there weren’t the shrieks and uncomfortable anticipation that you would see from a spooky horror film. There were completely frozen faces waiting for the next gut-wrenching image to come up on the screen.

After the movie finished, there were mixed reactions and opposing viewpoints from the audience.

One person said what they just watched was disgusting and though they were vegan, they needed to prepare to watch something like that — but what could possibly prepare you to see animals being brutalized?

Another viewer was upset because there should have been trigger warnings in the film to prepare them for what was about to happen — did they not see the introduction when graphic content was mentioned?

The animal activist groups explained their purpose for showing the public this film and some people definitely appreciated what they had done. At first, I was stunned at what I was watching, but then began to understand how smart the set-up actually was.

I stuck out the remainder of the film with 62 other viewers, not because it was the first movie I wanted to watch on a Thursday night, but because I had to see how people would feel when it was all over.

Ben Le Roi, a member of the Kitchener Waterloo Animal Save group explained why they chose this type of setting for a movie like this.

“It was to raise awareness and get through to people that wouldn’t have seen this otherwise,” said Le Roi. “That’s why we had to do this in a deceitful way.”

Viewers took to Facebook to release their anger towards the organizers for tricking their audience who anticipated a Halloween horror and Princess Cinemas for allowing such a shocking event to take place.

It seemed that these people got the reality check that no one wanted to have.

Olivia, the attendee who won the $200 cash prize, said she wasn’t all that surprised.

“I went in feeling that it wouldn’t be a true horror film,” she said, “but it was kind of a surprise to see what it was.”

No one said what the movie would be, all that was said was that it’s the scariest movie ever made. Was it not? Maybe the definition of “scary” should be reexamined.

It’s astounding that people who willingly sat through a movie had so much ridicule towards the activist groups when they had every opportunity to get up and leave.

“When you’re trying to make a big societal change, there are going to be people who resist,” said Le Roi. “We can’t worry too much about them.”

Princess Cinemas even apologized to social media followers who were upset about the event.

“Yes there was people who left and were angry, but the amount of people that we reached who were glad that we did this, made it all worthwhile,” said Le Roi.

“We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

It’s easy to see where the upset viewers were coming from and of course the movie wasn’t what everyone had hoped for. And if it wasn’t for the fact that some viewers had to wait in the cold for a while, there would be little to complain about. K-W Animal Save were able to show a group of people the scary truth about animal abuse — a topic they otherwise wouldn’t have subjected themselves to.

“What’s going on is horrible and completely unnecessary and we can do something about it if we have numbers,” said Le Roi. “We’re trying to increase the numbers and change the world.”

So what constitutes as “scary”? Is it the masked murderers and fictional monsters we see in modern horror, or is it the brutal reality of what humans are guilty of on a daily basis?

Maybe it’s too hard for people to see real human beings acting like real life Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees.

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