There’s a Scientific Reason Why People Like (or Dislike) Horror Movies

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PICTURED ABOVE: The famous thriller “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) introduced the infamous Hannibal Lector to the horror world. Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Halloween is on its way and with the turning autumn leaves, the annual release of dozens of horror films will inevitably commence. Those in the theatre’s seats will include: the horror movie fanatic who just enjoys a good scare, the reluctant friend who was dragged in by his/her partner and the parents getting their child into a rated R movie.

Whether you love the thrill or hate the scare, according to current research, it may be directly related to how your brain is wired.

In an recent interview with the Huffington Post, Margee Kerr, a sociologist who studies fear, said that those who gravitate towards scary movies are typically sensation seeking. Those who avoid these type of flicks, generally garner a negative effect when viewing scary movies.

It is basically all about how a certain person interprets stress. Those who flock to the theaters every time a movie, promising a slew of sleepless night ahead, comes out, generally produce a positive effect from the scares. “They feel really alive and grounded in their bodies,” Kerr says.

Junior Rachel Rohrich, a scary movie enthusiast, likes scary movies because she enjoys the “suspense”.

“They are fun to experience as a group and get scared with my friends,” Rohrich said.

If you don’t enjoy horror films, (an average of 64 percent of the U.S population doesn’t, according to the website, correlated.org), typically are highly sensitive, can be overwhelmed by their surroundings and more empathetic. They also feel a heightened physiological effect compared their thrill-seeking counterparts.

Juniors Morgan Lutz and Jojo Gum are among the large group of people who don’t enjoy scary movies by any stretch.

“I don’t like jump scares, and scary movies always have lots of them,” Lutz said. “I scream really loud and I don’t like screaming in movie theaters. I am like a four year-old boy. ”

“All you do is sit there and get scared. I don’t get the point,”  Gum said.

Fear is a powerful reaction in the human body and was originated from our “fight or flight” instincts. When we are scared, our body releases hormones and adrenaline, which makes us faster and stronger. To some people this reaction is pleasant, and to others, uncomfortable.

Another reasons for the intense like or dislike of these films, may have to do with a person’s horror film past. If you were slowly assimilated into the horror genre through tamer movies during your childhood and not scared by horror heavy-hitters like “The Shining”, then you are more likely to enjoy scarier movies later on in life.

Watching scary movies can also be a way to connect with others.

“We do know that the bonds we make under stress often are more intense, especially with people we already have a positive association with. So if you’re going with your friends and you do something fun and intense and scary, you end up forming more layered, rich memories,” Kerr said.

Whether you are the friend who loves the jump scares so generously sprinkled in today’s Halloween flicks or the friend who cowers under the bowl of candy corn, scary movies, like black licorice or Brussels sprouts, aren’t for everyone.


Paige Halverson – Castoff Editor

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Paige Halverson

Sometimes referred to as 30K Paige, Regan or just simply Pickle, Paige loves to ski, hike and 2k. She is usually found on Spotify, trying to recreate Tasty Videos or at Bachman Lake.

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