Why Do We Watch Horror Movies?

In celebration of Halloween month, we often sit down to an array of horror movies, horrific novels, short stories, and the most popular: the visiting of Haunted Houses. Theme Parks and Companies often take a dark turn, amplifying the fears of the creatures in our minds; TV Stations and Talk Shows have horror movie marathons or horror buffs grace the screens. But what is this celebration of horror, and as people, what exactly is it about horror that keeps us coming back for more? The classic allure of haunted houses have us all screaming our lungs out and shaking at the knees -- yet somehow as we exit the area we find ourselves laughing and giggling with excitement; lining up for the next haunted house in sight. What is the paradox of this terrified laughter we have towards horror itself? In all honesty, how does gore, anxiety, and fear itself keep us actively seeking it out? For this month of October I’ve decided to do some simple research into the Afflictions of Horror to the public.

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After one very informative Tedx Talk and countless Google Scholar’s research, the first thing the internet will tell you is that Horror Movies make us feel safe. Crazy right? Yet, it’s true. The theory goes that our minds enjoy watching horror movies because we experience such negativity in a safe space. We’re assured that even through the fear of the entire movie, everything that is happening to the characters isn’t likely to happen to you. This relates back to why we enjoy watching horror movies with a significant other, or a group of friends; often snuggled up under blankets with snacks in the dark. The safety of the space and the fear of the movie brings together a safe space to experience the adrenaline that comes with horror.

According to some research done by Mathias Clasen, a huge part of wanting to experience this fear comes from our ancestral times. A lot of pre-historic times involved people battling real live demons and ghosts, like diseases and sabertooth tigers. To reactivate those fear senses, we submerge ourselves in horror movies, or games; which can even be linked to how games we play as children, such as hide and seek, reenact the predator-prey scenario our ancestors used to live with. People were made to be insanely aware of their surroundings to keep themselves safe, and this temporary fear you get from watching these movies keep us feeling safe too.

Which brings us to the next key reason: Adrenaline. There’s something that romantic comedies and action movies can’t do for the heart and that’s adrenaline. The anticipation for the scare that is sure to come often gives us an excitement; almost like a bubble of a shriek ready to burst out your throat. No matter how much you prepare yourself for the surprise scare, the deafening silence leading up to it often has you with your hands over your eyes (Yet you’re left with just enough space between your fingers to vaguely see what’s happening). This adrenaline follows you through the little noise that goes bump in the night; leaving you edgy and re-imagining all the different moments of horror you’ve witness in all the many horror movies you’ve seen -- only to find out it’s your neighbors cat.

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 With Comedies, Romance, and Action they all give us emotions but the truest emotion is one that makes you react without thinking -- fear. A shriek, a jump, a chill up your spine -- the sudden need to sleep with the lights on. Horror movies linger in the mind for days, and even Stephen King said once: “I recognise terror as the finest emotion, and so I will terrorise the reader.” The need to terrorise readers or viewers can be seen clearly in the true ending  to Paranormal Activity, one of the biggest horror movies in 2007. If you’re unfamiliar with the two endings, what people saw in theatres was an alternate ending created by Hollywood Directors as compare to the original release of the movie that was shown at a Slamdance Film Festival. The ending created kept more of a jump scare and a vague loose end; letting the fear embed itself into the viewer. While the original ending was a slightly less scary and subtle ending. The alternate ending shown in theatres wreaked havoc in theatres, truly bringing fear to all horror fans. You can find both endings on YouTube if you’re interested to watch it.

 
 

Personally, I’m not a fan of horror -- but Paranormal Activity was one of the movies that made me realise horror is a genre you can adore (but only for the best ones). Same goes to The Conjuring and the original Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). So for this wonderfully horrific month of halloween, let’s give in to the safety of horror theme parks and gorey TV Movies. We owe it to ourselves to snuggle up next to our friends, behind the safety of a TV Screen and let our hearts race at the sight of Freddy Kreuger and American Horror Story.

  Don’t know what movie to watch? Stay tuned, because Edition KLFW will be asking members of the team what they’re favourite horror movies are that you simply must watch. If you’re interested to know more about why we enjoy horror movies, you can check out Mathias Clasen’s TEDx talk here, or more on fear catharsis here.

 Credit: Tasha Raj

Credit: Tasha Raj