Black is my Happy color: Is Horror Good For you?

In a nutshell, yes.

People think if you watch horror movies, or are into “dark subject matter,” there’s something wrong with you. Truth is, there may be something wrong with them.

According to several research studies, its been discovered that horror movies can help you release stress and anxiety. According to Wes Craven, “horror films don’t create fear, they release it.” (Fear in the Dark” (1991)

“It seems an unaccountable pleasure which the spectators of a well-written tragedy receive from sorrow, terror, anxiety and other passions, that are in themselves disagreeable and uneasy” (Hume, 1907).

The word “horror” derives from the Greek phryke (meaning “shudder”) and describes the physical manifestations of shivering, shuddering, and piloerection. In the fourth stasimon of Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus, the chorus says after the protagonist blinds himself: “Alas, poor man, I cannot ever look at you … such is the shiver (phryke) you cause in me” (Cairns, 2015).

Martin GN. (Why) Do You Like Scary Movies? A Review of the Empirical Research on Psychological Responses to Horror Films. Front Psychol. 2019;10:2298. Published 2019 Oct 18. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02298

1. The experience with horror is immediate and consistent:

What that means is, due to the formula for horror, audiences knew by cues leading up to the event and were prepared for it and found the more cues and preparation given, the greater the scare.

2. Some authors would argue that Horror is a sound based medium:

Movies have used sound-or the lack of sound-to build up an event. Others use the music of soundtracks, or the screaching noise from the shower scene of PSYCHO. Discordant music has been associated with activity in different brain regions to those found when listening to harmonic or pleasant music; these regions include the right parahippocampal gyrus and precuneus and bilateral orbitofrontal cortex (Blood et al., 1999

3. Suspense is contagious:

We love to feel it; it hurts-so-good. We’re not supposed to like it but we do. When your brain gets the stimulation it pumps the good juices through and it can be just as addictive as a drug-induced high.

4. Sensation seeking:

As teenagers, we were bulletproof and immortal! We fought the system and rules! We were rebels and anarchists! Isn’t that what horror is? Going to extreme to gain an experience? I’m not saying all teens wanted to murder someone…please don’t send me hate mail. The point is the feeling of a little “danger” and facing adversaries. The couch-expert who yells at the screen when the girl trips over air, or the teens having sex in a cemetery in the middle of the night when YOU KNOW there’s a serial killer on the loose.

5. Control:

You can control the horror and the outcome. No, you can’t change the movie, but you can turn it off. You can’t change the script, but in basic horror formula, the bad guy loses in some fashion. He gets caught or killed (…for now, there’s always part 2). YOU are safe. You can leave, turn on the lights, and go back to the real world.

In conclusion, there are many ways horror and thrillers are actually good for you. So the next time you tell someone you love to watch movies, or read books with lots of dark elements in them and they ask you, “What’s wrong with you?” You can turn it around and spout your new knowledge of scientific facts then ask, “What’s wrong with YOU?”

I highly recommend you read the paper I pulled my information from. It has some great resources and they author did an incredible job of explaining the effects of horror on its audience:

(Why) Do You Like Scary Movies? A Review of the Empirical Research on Psychological Responses to Horror Films by G. Neil Martin

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