Humanosity says…We love a good horror film! Nothing like sitting on the couch being scared senseless. But why is that? This article explores the psychology of why we love horror.
Horror: an extremely strong feeling of fear and shock, or the frightening and shocking character of something – Cambridge Dictionary
Your stomach flutters and your heart feels like it’s pounding right through your chest. As you lay awake your mind entertains frightening possibilities you know can’t be real but…..
These are the symptoms of fear and for some reason, there are many of us who really enjoy inflicting these symptoms on ourselves by watching horror films. Cheesy franchises like Child’s Play and Saw grab our attention in much the same way as critically acclaimed classics like the Shining.
In 2018 alone, A Quiet Place, Halloween and The Nun grossed a combined $464.8m, while popular streaming platforms such as Netflix have continued to expand their horror offerings with original films and series, such as the acclaimed Bird Box and comedy-horror The Santa Clarita Diet. But why do we enjoy being scared?
According to experts in the field, there are several reasons we love horror and these can be summed up as.
- The tension we feel from suspense, terror, shock and fear
- Tapping into an inbuilt fear such as of death
- The fact we know we are watching fiction gives us a little distance.
According to Søren Birkvard from the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, the demise of religion has meant that we no longer engage in as many discussions about the nature of evil as we once did. However, horror allows us to explore concepts of evil and evil acts in a safe environment in that we know we are watching fiction.
The safe environment allows us to experience the fight, flight, or freeze mode as a form of entertainment. Our brains can quickly evaluate that we are in a safe environment despite what we are witnessing which allows us to experience a controlled version of fear and suspense.
We may consciously know that what we are watching isn’t real, but our bodies can still experience the same physical reactions – releasing hits of endorphins and dopamine – as though what we are witnessing has really happened.
All this elevates any of the feelings we have around the ritual of watching a horror film. If we are with friends it makes the bonding more intense. If on a date we connect more with the partner who shares the experience with us.