Carrol Fry

Northwest Missouri author Carrol Fry, a professor emeritus at Northwest Missouri State University, with a copy of his latest book “Primal Roots of Horror Cinema: Evolutionary Psychology and Narratives of Fear.”

MARYVILLE, Mo. — A new book by a northwest Missouri author sets out to explain what scares us, why — and why we seem to like it so much.

“Primal Roots of Horror Cinema: Evolutionary Psychology and Narratives of Fear,” by Carrol Fry, examines why and how viewers like being scared during a horror movie.

Fry, a professor emeritus at Northwest Missouri State University, analyzes horror film tropes through a lens of evolutionary psychology.

“(Darwin) proposed that we evolve physically by natural selection, survival of the fittest … we also evolve with behaviors that were adapted from our primal ancestors, like tribalism, and territoriality, fear of the other and so forth,” Fry said. “It’s unreasonable that we should enjoy being scared by a film, but … these primal narratives are whispering to us to get us to enjoy them.”

Fry’s passion for movies started at a young age, and he’s kept stoking it in his retirement through appearances in print and on the radio, in addition to publishing books on the subject.

“My father was a film buff, loved movies,” Fry told The Forum. “So on Saturdays, my babysitting was movies. They had the Noll Theater in Bethany and they had a double feature — you know, westerns, detective movies and so forth. And then at night, the Roxie had a movie. During the week, my father always took us on Sunday and once during the week, usually Wednesday. 

“So I saw five movies a week as a kid.”

Fry’s latest book is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.

His other book of film criticism, “Cinema of the Occult: New Age, Satanism, Wicca, and Spiritualism in Film,” also is available on Amazon.

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