Why do we like to be scared?

We caught up with King’s alumnae, TV producer Valeria Appel (MA Cultural & Creative Industries, 2008) and actor and director Lola Kelly (Text Analysis & Performance Studies, 2008) about their love of horror films and what attracts people to the genre.

Lola Kelly

Valeria Appel

What was your first introduction to horror films?

Valeria: Jacob's Ladder was probably the first movie that truly horrified me, in a good way that is. If you haven't watched it yet, I urge you to!

Lola: The Shining. I was quite lucky it was the first one I watched, probably why I love the genre. I was 13, I didn't sleep for days but I just wanted to watch it again and again.

What is your favourite horror film?

Valeria: The Sixth Sense because it shows that horror is found in everyday life and does not have to be limited to more literal gore or sadistic feature films. No need to go that far for true horror. Keep it classy. That is the craft, the not so obvious but universal elements in everyone's life that constitute a source of panic.
Following that rationale, my other favourite movie is Locked In, a short film I wrote and directed that won a number of film festival awards.

Lola: Hands down, Get Out, by Jordan Peele. It raised the bar. It's incredibly written, the performances are chilling and the direction is perfect. I love that it manages to balance some really effective and biting satire. It was challenging and took on a complex social problem while still managing to be an entertaining and really great horror story. It scared me deeply, but in a new way, that created room for conversation and change.

What about the genre keeps bringing you back to it?

Valeria: As a TV Producer and creative I see it as a very clearly defined genre with tremendous impact and reach. As a viewer, it is very inspiring because light is best seen from darkness.

Lola: There's the base thrill of it. It's a drug. There's no other genre of film that affects me so immediately and so physiologically. Then there's a social aspect, I love watching people watch it, sharing those thrills.

Why do you think people seem to enjoy being scared by horror films?

Valeria: The adrenaline rush it causes is addictive and the challenge of being able to take it functions as a self-discovery tool. We must identify our fears before conquering them.

Lola: I agree with Valeria. I'd also add that fear, especially for people who have trouble being in touch with their feelings, is a more easily accessible emotion so it's easier to be moved by horror.

How did your time at King’s influence what you do now?

Valeria: At King’s I did my master’s in Cultural & Creative Industries. It was a wonderful time in which both the academic learning environment and the people I connected with shaped the person and professional I am today. My creative partnership and friendship with Lola Kelly is proof of that!

Lola: I did my master’s in Text Analysis & Performance Studies in a joint program with King's and RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). The program, just by virtue of its subject, and collaborating with brilliant and diverse students, made me a better story teller and critical thinker. It's where I really dived into phenomenology [the philosophical study of conscious experience] and theatre of cruelty, which are things that are very much at play in horror in general, and certainly in the work that I create. And of course, it's where I met Valeria, and here we are, creating together!


Lola Kelly is an actor, producer, director and writer with a bachelor's degree from Loyola Marymount University and a master's in Text Analysis and Performance Studies from RADA/ King's College London. She recently starred in the horror features Ouija Exorcism and #Captured and co-produced and starred in revenge western, Cassidy Red. She has directed theatre, short films, commercials and content for the last 10 years and will direct her first feature film, a psychosexual thriller, next year.

Valeria Appel is a TV producer who has worked worldwide with presenters such as Sir David Attenborough, Bear Grylls, Chris Tarrant and Jonathan Ross amongst others. She has a passion for films that keep the audience on the edge of their seat and believes that horror films are the most intense and gripping ride. Valeria has a bachelor's in Communication Studies from University of East London and a master's in Cultural and Creative Industries from King's College London.