… A woman runs screaming out of the house and into the woods, frantically glancing over her shoulder at the horribly disfigured and crazed axe-wielding man who’s chasing her. No matter how fast she runs, he gets closer and closer. She suddenly trips over a fallen tree branch and in an instant the killer is standing over her and raises his axe. As the camera zooms in on the frantic woman’s horrified face she lets out a loud deafening and ear-splitting scream as she watches the deadly axe slam sharply into her body…
If you love horror movies, you’ve probably viewed this scary scene dozens of times. In fact, I’m sure some of you actually enjoy watching terrifying, bloody, suspenseful, and even intensely gory movies. So my question is…why do people enjoy watching these types of movies and actually pay money to be scared to death?
In horror flicks like the “Paranormal Activity” and “Saw” movies, “The Possession”, and “Halloween”, audiences watch other human beings being scared to death and terrorized, even brutally murdered. Shouldn’t this be an unpleasant experience? Even considered sick and demented?
Many individuals and psychologists have often questioned what the attraction is in horror movies. The average person usually wants to avoid distress, anxiety, and terror. But actually being frightened out of their wits is exciting, especially during the Halloween season. And even after all the trick or treating and spooky hoopla ends, many are ready and willing to continue watching these kinds of films.
The appeal depends on both psychological and physiological reactions. The co-director of Penn State University’s Media Effects Research Laboratory, Mary Beth Oliver, says physiologically, almost everybody reacts to a creepy and chilling scene, whether violent or suspenseful, in the same way.
The frightening on-screen actions stimulate a fear response in viewers that they’d have if they were actually experiencing these shocking events. She also explains that the physical effects of fear increases feelings of arousal and pleasure saying, “The physiological reactions from the fear can actually enhance our relief at the end of the film, making the movie’s inevitably happy ending all the more enjoyable.”
Even so, not all moviegoers suffer through the fear in order to reach a happy ending. Another theory is that these movies are only make-believe. The scenes are frightening, but the viewer knows that what’s happening is not real. Others go to see horror flicks for the adrenaline rush. The sense of danger gives the viewer a “high”. More reasons for loving scary movies are purely for entertainment, even laughing at the scary parts. Still others just might be interested in the paranormal or the story lines.
Some of my friends’ answers were: “I love the gore!”, “I like getting scared.”, “They’re a thrill to watch and so much better than soppy love stories.”, “I enjoy trying to figure out what’s going to happen or who the mystery killer is.” But I have to say the funniest answer I got was: “I love to see the ‘naked woman in the shower’ scene!” That’s an insight in to the diverse mentality of my friendship group.
Ultimately, each person gets his/her own personal benefit from watching horror films. And when the movie ends, most people in the audience let out a huge sigh of relief, feeling calm and safe. At least until they go to bed that night…or until the sequel is released!