It seems we’re living in a golden age of horror. With Jordan Peele’s Us, the revival of Pet Semetary, and the resurrection of The Twilight Zone television series or La Llorona, we are being bombarded with quality horror, thriller, and science fiction a full six months before Halloween.
Horror fans are thriving in these enriched film environment, while those who do not enjoy horror at all are left to cower in the corners of theaters. These non-horror fans are wondering how anyone could possibly enjoy hours of gore, jump scares, and people making poor decisions while running from a supernatural entity or crazed serial killers. Thankfully, science does provide answers that can explain why people enjoy being scared, and consequently, why some people do not enjoy it at all.
There are many theories as to why people enjoy horror. One theory is known as the “controlled environment theory,” which states we watch horror flicks in a controlled environment to activate our flight or fight response so we can control the variables. This theory is similar to exposure therapy, which is normally used to help people overcome certain phobias.
According to Glenn Sparks, professor at Brian Lamb School of Communication, whose personal research includes how scary movies affect us, enjoyment of horror films is correlated by how we feel during and after the films. When watching a scary movie, our blood pressure increases along with our heart rate. With this, our emotions are heightened. Any positive emotions we feel after a film are increased, and so are our negative emotions.
Sparks also suggest that we are all just “wired” differently. Those who enjoy adrenaline rushes, such as roller coaster enthusiasts, love the adrenaline jump that comes with horror movies. Meanwhile, those who are wired to be more hypersensitive to their surroundings are more likely to not enjoy these flicks. If someone who gets easily bothered by the temperature of a room or even an itch on your back, chances are they are not much of a fan for horror films.
On the Fullerton College campus students have divided opinions on scary movies. History major Connor Garzon said he has been a fan of horror movies since he was four years old. He attributes this to his father being a horror movie fan and watching gore with him at a young age.
Meanwhile, student Alysa Skyles says she gets scared pretty easily and can only enjoy some horror movies. “I can see some of them if I cover my eyes,” says Skyles.
“Any Stephen King adaptation is a good,” said student Sarah Brune, about any horror recommendations.
Healthcare Administration major, Angie Park does not enjoy horror films, especially if they contain any jumps cares. She did admit to having seen the Netflix film, Bird Box, but explained the jump scares were too much.
“In Bird Box, a lot of things popped out of nowhere, and that really scared me,” said Park.
Even for someone who really enjoys scary movies, it’s always important to be mindful of how others perceive this. As mentioned before, some people have a hypersensitivity that makes enjoyment of these films difficult, and in some cases, can cause a lasting psychological and emotional toll. Be courteous, and do not force friend or family into seeing a new scary movie that they know will make them uncomfortable for the next couple of nights.