Rapid breathing and a rush of adrenaline mixed with a sense of fear is a common situation we go through while watching a horror movie. Despite this, many of us look forward to a new horror film that will be watched intently until the last scene. What’s the deal?
Fear is a subjective phenomenon. What causes a feeling of fear in one person does not necessarily cause the same sensations in another. But there’s a good reason why we like to ‘torture’ ourselves, and the science suggests that watching horror movies is actually good for us.
3 reasons why watching horror is good for us
Watching horror movies stimulates an instinctive, primordial instinct for survival also known as ‘fight or flight’ which emerges in situations where we feel fear. For example, if you imagine that you are in a haunted house, you will feel fear, but at the same time you know that you are safe because it is not a real situation. Even though you feel real fear, your body will not release the stress hormone, but instead releases the happiness hormone also known as dopamine.
2: We Feel Alive
Fear makes us feel alive and no one is immune to it. Stephen King, author of many cult horror novels, explains that there are three types of terror that the audience can endure: the one that will cause disgust in you; horror; and simply put – pure terror. Depending on your personality, you will react differently to each of these types of terror. The best horror movies are the ones that unite all three: disgust, horror and pure terror.
3: Stress is Good
Scientists explain how short-term stress actually has a positive effect on our body and improves our immune system. Experts say that people who like to be scared generally respond better to life’s challenges than those who avoid fear. But how much fear you can accept is up to you to decide. Of course, too much stress is detrimental to our health. Either way, moderation is key.
But… While watching horror movies can be good for us, they can also have negative effects. Watching horror movies stimulates adrenaline which can prevent us from falling sleep, which is not great if you are watching a late night horror movie and hoping for a good night of rest afterwards.
- Time Magazine ‘Is Watching Scary Movies Good for You?’
- National Geographic ‘How Horror Movies Can Help Overcome Trauma and Relieve Stress’
- Healthline ‘Are Horror Movies Bad for Your Mental Health?’
- Salon ‘Why horror movies may be good for your health’