Horror movies are a thing that people either love or hate, there seems to be no in between. I, for one, have been fascinated by them from the day that I was more or less peer-pressured into watching A Nightmare on Elm Street at an age that I cannot remember, however, which I know people would considered too young for anything that frightening. I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous Freddy Krueger who appears in people’s dreams and simultaneously also ends up haunting them in their actual lives. If you think that I even dared to close my eyes for a second after meeting him for the first time, you are mistaken. In fact, I was quite terrified but also weirdly intrigued by the tension and anticipation I felt while peeking through my fingertips and waiting for the next jump scare. Since that day of discovering my interest in the horror movie genre, I have continued to convince my friends to watch several horror movies a month and have wondered why people enjoy being frightened so much. I come bearing answers, so if you are anything like me and can’t get enough of the horror movie page on Netflix, you may find some of these explanations interesting, whether or not you can relate yourself to them.
A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984
One popular and very straight-forward reason why humans enjoy the scary movies that keep them at the edge of their seats is simply because they are entertaining. Think about it, it is very hard to be disinterested during a horror film (unless it is very poorly executed) and I would argue that I have always, to an extent, been entertained while watching IT, Annabelle or The Conjuring at the movie theatre. People who are bored often and easily tend to be called “sensation seekers”, which can be anything as long as it provides the one in question with a satisfying amount of thrill and a change in routine. Some people choose to skydive, while others put themselves through 90 minutes of terror.
It Chapter Two, 2019
Another motivation why fans of horror movies continue coming back for more is due to the way they feel after a horror movie, although they may not be consciously aware of it. Research has shown that when people are frightened during a film, similarly to experiencing something scary in real life, their heart rate and blood pressure rise and their brains respond by going into fight-or-flight mode. This physiological arousal, often referred to as the Excitation Transfer Process, continues to linger even after the credits roll. This means, that if you go out for a beer after leaving the cinema, the positive emotions can be intensified and you don’t remember being scared, but rather the wonderful night you spent with your friends.
Horror movies have even been proven to be beneficial for those with anxiety. Think about it: The film features events that may seem scary or intimidating, but, ultimately, you are never leaving the safety of your home or cinema seat and will always end up being fine at the end. For certain individuals, watching a scary movie can allow them to reinterpret what truly causes them fright in their real lives, meaning that Freddy Krueger could actually be useful in the sense that he could make intimidating tasks, such as a job interview, more approachable. So, maybe the next time you are sitting at home stressing about your three exams and how much is left to study for them, let yourself escape into a scary movie for two hours and watch those 8s appear!
The Babadook, 2014
Whether or not you can actually pinpoint your reasons of being a horror movie lover within the above explanations, the next time someone asks you, “how can you watch that and actually enjoy it?”, you can amaze them with one of these motivations and maybe they will even consider giving scary movies another chance (although, that is probably unlikely).