Friday, March 18, 2011


I mentioned in class that I am definitely not a fan of horror films. When I was younger, I apparently had such an over-the-top imagination that I would have to turn the channel when a horror movie trailer came on. The genre certainly does not seem to need my support though, as horror movies continue to make big money at the box offices every year. The question I always have, though, is what is the fascination with horror movies? Why do people like being scared. I did a bit of research, and found this interesting article on WebMD ( Here is the most interesting passage to me:

So is the fear you feel when you watch someone being chased by an axe-wielding murderer any different from the fear you might feel if you were actually being chased by an axe-wielding murderer?

The answer is no, at least not from where Glenn Sparks sits. Sparks, a professor of communication at Purdue University, studies the effects of horror films on viewers' physiology. When people watch horrific images, their heartbeat increases as much as 15 beats per minute, Sparks tells WebMD. Their palms sweat, their skin temperature drops several degrees, their muscles tense, and their blood pressure spikes.

"The brain hasn't really adapted to the new technology [of movies]," Sparks explains. "We can tell ourselves the images on the screen are not real, but emotionally our brain reacts as if they are ... our 'old brain' still governs our reactions."

When Sparks studied the physical effects of violent movies on young men, he noticed a strange pattern: The more fear they felt, the more they claimed to enjoy the movie. Why? Sparks believes scary movies may be one of the last vestiges of the tribal rite of passage.

I guess I never considered that there could be some kind of primal need to watch horror movies. I certainly don't have it.

1 comment:

  1. that is a very interesting piece on horror and why people enjoy them. I too hate horror films I think because I too lack the primal urge to be terrified. There is no question that people like doing it for the adrenaline but why torture your imagination with unpleasant thoughts. Maybe my imagination ran a little too wild when I watched these things as a child. I can remember sprinting past the small spiral stair case that led to a small doored attic in my house for 6 months after seeing the Sixth Sense. It was then I decided to stop watching scary movies.

    What is interesting is how horror films change as you get older. After this semester I find myself way more capable of watching these films in relative relaxation. Obviously the moments of suspense are still heart-jumping but in general I think a vivid imagination is required for these films to have a full impact. Perhaps that is why the majority of kids who enjoy the films are youthful adolescents.