Two years ago at the State Theater, I was convinced my death was imminent. Huddled in my cushioned seat, I watched the final scene of “Paranormal Activity” through crisscrossed fingers (a special fear-reducing technique I’ve developed). In the packed rows of the theater, others wailed and assumed similar positions: death-gripping the hands of significant others (as if your boyfriend could save you from the demon) becoming suddenly engrossed by the bucket of popcorn in their laps or — recognizing that escape was impossible — simply staring at the screen, wide-eyed.

This was not the isolated fear of lying in bed alone as a child, but the shared terror that only movies and ghost-stories can produce. My roommate Brian, one of those special individuals immune to paralyzing fear, was wrestling my hands off of my face. “Watch it, watch it, watch it!” he whispered embarrassingly loudly.

My heart stopped as the ultimate scene passed. I recall willing it to beat again (I still had so much to do and see!), as the man behind us issued a high-school-girl-like scream and Brian grinned widely.

The movie ended, and the air, which had felt like lead, turned into laughing gas. Like soldiers who survived storming an enemy hill, we cheered and chuckled, high on the fact that we had persevered through our trial. As I sat up and started toward the exit, I felt an elated, tired, runner-like high. We, the audience, had worked hard, squeezing every bit of emotional force out of “Paranormal.” The movie was good, but our energy brought it to another level.

Where else does such an environment exist? What other type of art allows hollering mobs to amplify our enjoyment of the final product? In a theater production of the “finer” arts, one would have to be a cad to yell out advice to the actors on stage; yet it’s perfectly acceptable for one to scream “Don’t go in there!” when a character in a horror movie walks into a basement alone. It’s a film’s openness to immediate reaction that makes the audience so important.

Besides sharing my moment of fear with a hundred other people during “Paranormal,” other moments stick out in particular: the audience hissing whenever “Snakes on a Plane” went into “snake-vision” (I could write an entire article about how fun the “Snakes” midnight premiere was), the 20 guys in Batman outfits for “The Dark Knight” (my friend won the costume contest they had before the movie started) and watching “Drag Me to Hell” alone in a theater with about seven or eight close buddies (never have there been more jokes and jumps).

In less specific terms, it’s safe to say all comedies are funnier if everyone else is laughing. I recently talked about this with a friend and she confirmed the idea with an example of her own — everyone loved “Bridesmaids,” so she decided to watch it on her computer, only to find it unfunny because she was watching it alone, without the community of joy found in a theater. In many cases, it’s the companionship that makes movies so much fun.

It’s still the beginning of the semester, and while January may feel like a dark time for lovers of good films, the cold weather provides the perfect setting for getting together with some buddies, renting a crappy horror movie from Askwith and becoming lost in the insanity of being an audience.

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