Even if you’re not a horror movie fan you’re probably aware they’re big business these days. Films like IT, A Quiet Place, Don’t Breathe and Get Out among others have a ton of money at Harkins, iPic and other theaters in the US and the world.
And it’s not just the casual movie fans as critics have also been giving these films the thumbs-up. And even those that are critically panned like the Friday the 13th films, have a solid fanbase. So what is it about horror films that draws a lot of people? There are many possible explanations.
Afraid But Safe
You can lose yourself in a good horror film. You feel the tension as our hero, against common sense, decides to open the creaking door armed with only a flashlight. You forget you’re in a packed theater and your only focus is on what is happening on the screen.
It’s scary all right, but once the movie ends you’re okay. You were scared but it was only a movie. And that is one of, if not the primary reason why many people like horror movies. You’re able to experience the thrills and chills but without putting yourself in danger.
Some people are just wired for excitement and want to feel that adrenaline rush. That is the kind of feeling you get in a horror movie that lingers on but doesn’t put you in danger. There are few instances where you’ll feel this way except in the cinema watching a scary flick.
This is the most popular theory as to why a lot of individuals are enamored with this genre. For those that can’t stand being frightened the appeal of these movies will be almost impossible to explain.
It’s possible that watching scary movies allows people to unleash hidden feelings of aggression and excitement. Watching some psycho onscreen hack his victim to pieces acts as a trigger for the viewer to release their pent up emotions.
Ever had a rough day at the office and you head to the gym and go after the punching bag pretending it’s your boss? That’s probably how it is for some fans of the genre. It’s more a feeling than anything else and in a way this is no different from those who seek thrills in extreme sports.
Some personality types really long for sensations including fear, dread and excitement all at the same time. Just as some people like to skydive and go bungee jumping, others want to watch horror movies.
It’s hard to explain unless you’re like this, but what it really comes down to is they’re longing for increased awareness. Because they’ve got a lot of emotions and adrenaline inside, these films allow for a safe release.
For others, watching a scary movie is all about feeling some excitement. It might seem odd to feel excited while you’re scared but for some folks there’s no difference. Anything that gets their pulses racing and hearts beating faster is great.
The After Effect
Most of the time we focus on what people feel during the movie, but some researchers believe the key is what you feel afterwards. According to some researchers, your blood pressure, heart rate and respiration go up after watching a frightening movie.
This combination triggers a feeling of a high degree of arousal and emotions intensify. All the positive stuff you feel after watching a good film is magnified, and it supersedes the feeling of fright you had. Because you feel great after watching you’ll want to come back again and again.
It’s never easy to face your fear, but knowing that the monster is only on the big screen and can’t really hurt you helps. What this means is the movie triggers flight or fight responses that stimulate you, removing tension in the process.
What researchers have determined is that people are willing to put up with some scares in order to get that adrenaline rush. It seems odd for some true, but there are many individuals who crave the feeling of raw, powerful emotions even if it means getting a bit scared.
Man is curious by nature, and we have this urge to explore. The common trope of a man/woman going in a haunted house or down the basement mirrors our own curious nature. We want to find out what’s going on. While we make fun of these characters for their foolhardy behavior, they mirror real life more closely than we may realize.
Psychologists will continue to debate what makes people like horror films, but it’s probably just about wanting to feel excited. The feeling of dread, strange as it may sound, is something that we may need to express and release, and these films provide the outlet.