I have always speculated as to why people would purposely choose to watch a horror movie over some other movie of a different genre (i.e. action, rom-com, mystery, etc.). Watching a scary movie is anything but pleasant. After all, in general, people watch movies to escape reality, to step into someone else’s shoes for a few hours: so why would anyone choose to vicariously live through people who are running for their lives from psychotic killers or merciless monsters?
Putting myself to the test to answer that question, I spent my Friday night venturing into the world of horror by watching a “A Perfect Getaway,” a psychological thriller following a couple on their honeymoon on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, where they learn of another honeymooning couple murdered just a couple weeks before they arrive. “A Perfect Getaway” may not even be considered a legitimate horror movie to some people, but for me, the fear didn’t end at the start of the credits, or even in my nightmares, but actually encroached upon real life. Half of the time, I was convinced that someone was following me or lurking under my bed.
Of course, I had known about these risks of the lingering paranoia and perpetual suspense that horror movies pose when I tentatively chose to watch one.
Psychologists have proposed numerous theories as to why horror movies are strangely fascinating to people. Most of these reasons overlap and are overall related to each other, summed up by one word: adrenaline. Two hours of this kind of adrenaline seems much more risky than what a 30-second ride on a roller coaster has to offer.
And to further emphasize this claim, I did enjoy watching the near-horror movie. Something about the thrill incentive and euphoria of successfully sitting through it made it strangely entertaining.
Sophomore Raheela, an avid horror movie-watcher, claims that “horror movies are fun to watch and really thrilling. I find it amusing to watch them try to scare people.” She maintains this opinion because she knows that a movie is only a movie, no matter what genre, and that it isn’t real: “It’s fictional. Movie makers try to use your worst fears against you.”
Even if most of us aren’t really into scary movies, there are enough people to make them prominent in the Hollywood film industry since the 1930s. For example, Paranormal Activity 3, the spooky prequel to the series’ previous two installments, was released in late October and had broken the box office record for a fall release during its opening weekend, earning an approximate $54 million. The box office can attest to the fact that horror films are successful now more than ever.
One can further classify a horror movie as a thriller, slasher or sci-fi terror, to name a few of the many. However, Wikipedia describes the horror movie genre collectively as “elicit[ing] a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s most primal fears,” and further elaborates that “horror films deal with the viewer’s nightmares, hidden worst fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown.”
In conclusion, to simply answer the question of why people watch horror movies in a few, short words: it’s fun, unexpected and totally thrilling. After all, it seems like a new horror film is being released weekly at theaters. Though not too many of us are fans of them, they’re admittedly a huge part of the film industry, so we might as well tune into them every once in a while.