Horror Films: Why Do People Enjoy Being Scared?

by Hannah Herring

Hiding behind blankets, peeping between fingers, and jumping after noises… These actions take place as we watch our favorite Halloween horror movies or catch up on the horror classics to get in the Halloween spirit. Haunted trails are a must. Scary costumes are a must. Horror movies are a must. Why?halloween

The oozing blood as someone is repeatedly stabbed, the glass-shattering screams coming from upstairs, and the countless deaths at wild parties are what bring horror films to life. The amygdala, a part of the limbic system in the brain, reacts to fear. Our pupils dilate, our palms sweat, and our bodies run off of epinephrine and dopamine as an effect of the frights we experience. This puts us in a “fight or flight” response. Our bodies then react to molecules called auto receptors, which slow down the amount of dopamine being produced in our bodies. “In a study conducted at Vanderbilt University, participants underwent scans allowing scientists to observe the auto receptors in the part of the brain circuitry associated with reward, addiction, and movement. People who had fewer auto receptors—that is, freer flowing dopamine—were more likely to engage in novelty-seeking behavior, such as exploration.”

Have you ever noticed where you are when you are watching a horror movie? Most of us are in the comfort of our homes or at a theaterwith a group of friends. While we watch a character being brutally murdered or a ghost terrorizing a family, we know we are safe. We experience the rush of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine while out of harm’s way. Everyone knows the iconic Jaws theme song. Whenever duuun duuun duun dun plays, everyone knows Jaws is about to rise out of the water and attack someone. The anticipation is what brings excitement. Emma Younger, a sophomore here at Dorman, said, “Well, I don’t usually like scary things, but I enjoy horror movies because you can be scared with your friends. That makes it a little less scary” Maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline, maybe it’s the sense of security, or maybe it’s the anticipation that causes people to enjoy being scared. One thing is for sure, A Nightmare On Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th will always make people enjoy the thrill felt while being scared.

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