For years, when October rolled around, my family made a weekly tradition of watching horror films. Classic movies like “Scream,” “The Ring” and “Halloween,” along with newer works like “Harper’s Island” and “Housebound” have all been featured at our movie nights.
Horror, like many other genres of storytelling, has been a part of the human mythos for centuries. The genre jumpstarts the fight-or-flight response solely for fun, to reinforce social taboos, or address general life experiences in an exaggerated way.
In my experience, people either have two reactions to horror: they either love it (like I do) or they avoid it. For a good part of my college career, in fact, I lived with girls who categorically refused to watch even vaguely frightening movies with me on the grounds that they would have nightmares.
According to Psychology Today, there are a number of reasons for people to enjoy watching horror movies. On a date? Watch a horror movie and you’ve got an easy excuse to hold that cutie’s hand. Had a bad day? These people are about to have one way worse than yours. Need a bit of excitement before sitting down to write that 12-page paper? Dr. Carl Jung actually claimed that horror movies tapped into some kind of instinctual memory and helped hone our real-life recognition of danger.
Now, I know there are people out there who are not fans of the horror genre, and for good reason. We’ve all met that dude who watched “Jigsaw” a few too many times and now thinks it’s fun to lurk in dark corners. If you’re a more empathetic person, you’re more likely to remain scared after you finish watching a horror movie. Statistically, horror movie watchers are also more likely to be men, and to be more aggressive, thrill-seeking, and lacking in empathy.
On the bright side, according to “This Is Your Brain on Gore” by ABC, all those jump scares and gruesome murders still manage to reinforce our desire for good to triumph over evil.
There’s no denying that horror movies have a major impact on the world we live in. I think that makes them worth checking out, even if they don’t turn out to be your cup of tea.
Paul Moriss for SUU News