With Halloween just around the corner, you will see an influx of promotions for new and old horror movies. They are scary and, like their name, horrible. For many people they are strangely attractive. Depending on the age of the film and the amount of gore, they can be a fun way to spend a rainy weekend night with a big bowl of popcorn.
Intellectually we realize that the story line comes from someone’s imagination, that the people are only acting, and the blood is only special effects. Emotionally it triggers the innate fight or flight response. Your body produces adrenaline, endorphins and dopamine, giving you a surge of emotions. Adrenaline increases the heart rate sending blood pumping to all the muscles and a rush of energy. Endorphins leave you feeling satisfied or a sense of well being. Dopamine is a hormone that produces the feeling of pleasure.
Psychologists explain that these movies can give us the sense that we have accomplished something outside our comfort zone. It also offers a release as we exit the theater knowing that we are again safe in our own world.
This film genre also gives us the ability to feel more prepared for danger should you find yourself in a fix. It plants a seed of confidence and ability to cope with the uncertainties we encounter on a daily basis. It also makes you feel as though you are smarter than other people. So when you yell to the screen, “Don’t go into the basement, you fool!” you are realizing that you have better deductive skills. You also unconsciously realize that you would be able to hide better or find better ways of eluding the the situation. For instance, it can give you the right words to use or actions to take when confronting a bully.
While you would never intentionally take a chainsaw to the idiot who is tailgating you down the highway, it can provide a release of those frustrations through the actors.