Like thousands of people, I am a lover of the horror genre. Movies, tv shows, books, comics, you name it, I probably like it. I love the suspense, how it gets my heart pumping and mind racing, and the thrill of watching the story unfold. But why do so many people, like me, enjoy being scared by monsters movies, ghost stories, and slashers? An article written by Dr. Christian Jarrett explains the theories behind the love of horror.
Since human beginnings, we have been taught and morphed to be afraid of predators, things such as lions, snakes, and bears. Research shows that children as young as three recognize snakes faster than neutral stimuli, such as flowers. This is because we are innately fearful of things that seem to pose a threat. A snake is much more dangerous than a flower, at least at first sight. A theory as for why humans love the horror genre based off of this research is that we want to learn from the mistakes and situations portrayed in horror movies and stories so we can know how to avoid the ultimate demise that many characters face.
But what about all of the fictional characters that we have all come to know and love? Some well-known fictional monsters that are most popular among teens and adults are vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and zombies. But we know they are all not real, so why do they scare us anyways? One idea is that these monsters are ‘minimally counter-intuitive’. This means that the monster fits in a category except for one factor. For example, vampires fit into the human category, except for the fact that they feed on blood. Ghosts are also human-like, they just lack a body. Because the monsters are very close to categories that are actually real, the possibility that the fictional creatures could be real sticks in our mind, causing fear. Another idea is that we tend to see things that aren’t really there. Clowns, for example, wear bright face paints to match their costumes. However, the face paint usually conceals the clowns facial expressions. Because we cannot tell what the clown is actually feeling through facial expression, we automatically assume that they are dangerous and become afraid.
Zombies have become a major part of pop culture over the past few years, with shows like The Walking Dead, and movies like World War Z, 28 Days Later, and Zombieland. What’s with the sudden fascination? A common fear among people is that of infection, disease, and death. Zombies contain all three of those fears, being undead creatures that don’t think, and can infect another human through contact or a bite. Another thing that makes zombies so terrifying is how human-like they are. I mean, the creatures were once human, making it about as close to reality as possible. Their almost human-like walk also preys on our primal fear because it implies the idea that we could become a zombie ourselves.
So who is more likely to want to be scared? Dr. Jarrett says that there are several major characteristics of those who enjoy the horror genre, those being empathy, sensation seeking, aggressiveness, gender, and age.
The more negative affect a person has while watching a horror movie, the more they say they enjoy it. But isn’t that contradictory? It actually makes sense because these people enjoy watching the characters escape danger. Another explanation is that they feel a sense of justice that the characters got what they deserved. I know from personal experience that when I see a group of teenagers in a horror movie do something completely stupid to get themselves in a horror situation, I find it gratifying that they get punished for their stupid choices. This reason is why movies such as Saw are popular.
People with lower self-reported empathy levels are also more likely to enjoy horror movies, as well as people who are more aggressive. Men are more likely to watch horror movies that women, which is explained mostly by the fact that men tend to be more aggressive than women. Age is also a big factor. Teens and young adults find horror movies to be most appealing, where as older adults choose other film genres first.
I thought that this article was super interesting. As I said before, horror movies are my favorite, and it is cool to see what goes on in our minds to make monsters terrifying. I also really liked reading about zombies, because they are my favorite monsters. The idea that there could be a biological virus that could cause us to turn into mindless flesh-eating machines is both horrifying and fascinating at the same time. The possibility of it actually happening is slim, yes, but there is still a possibility because of the things we still don’t understand about viruses, especially in third world countries and places that have not been thoroughly researched by humans.
Do any of you on this blog enjoy horror movies? If so, why? Did this article help shed some light on your love of horror? I know it did for me!