Why Do People Enjoy Horror Films?

Do you ever go to the movies with the intention of purchasing a ticket for the newest horror film that is all the rage? You are excited to see the movie due to the hype. After the film begins to start and the intense music begins to play, your stomach drops, your heart beats fast, and you begin to ponder why you went to see the movie in the first place. Why do people such as myself like to subject themselves to this phenomenon?

It is said that humans, deep down, are rotten. There is a ‘beast’ with which lives deep in our core. Humans can be evaluated psychoanalytically in order to see why they enjoy these feels of fear provided by movies. A scary thought in which has been suggested is that the actions performed in these movies are satisfying a human’s repressed thoughts.

Horror films attract viewers because the weird occurrences attract our attention in contrast to the corny love movies in which can be predictable. The mere fact that there is suspense and uncertainty is appealing to an audience. To begin, horror films reveal a negative conflict and disruption in society. In addition, horror films creates gray areas for whether something is good or bad and normal or abnormal. When thinking about horror films, one must think about what is rational.

New creatures are created in which perplex and intrigue audiences. They are able to escape and picture a world with these new reality-defying creatures. Apparently, there is an expressivity solution to analyzing why humans like to watch horror films. According to Collingwood (a prominent researcher who focuses on the thrills of horror) “unburdening oneself of emotions by engaging in acts of make- believe” explains why humans gives in to watching these films.

Watching these films is comparable to people participating in high-risk or fear invoking activities such as sky diving and riding rollercoasters. In our minds, there is danger but we find something attractive about flirting with death. We are confident we can escape the dangerous situation.   Watching horror type of films, we receive this feeling of fear as if we are in the movies ourselves. However, we know at any time we can leave the movie and are not trapped in them like the characters themselves are.


During horror films, it was recorded by Purdue University that hearts beats can eventually rise to as high as 15 beats per minute. Skin temperatures lower and blood pressures rise steadily.  High sensation-seekers are aroused by these movies due to testosterone and the body’s response to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Men, particularly, respond to the dopamine, enjoying  the movies as they feel brave doing so.

Fun Fact: Researchers do not recommend people watch these movies. A study was completed revealing almost 60 percent of people who had viewed something before the age of 14 in which caused a disturbance in their lives (specifically with their sleep cycle).

Audience at a scary movie --- Image by © Daniel Koebe/Corbis

Audience at a scary movie — Image by © Daniel Koebe/Corbis


15 thoughts on “Why Do People Enjoy Horror Films?

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  5. Aidan James Bitterman

    I love horror movies but will never be able to watch them alone. That’s too much. The reason I like them so much is because of the adrenaline rush that you get when watching one. It is also always fun to anticipate what is going to happen next, and then get scared even though you knew what was going to happen because you still are somehow surprised by it.

  6. Aaron Jacob Harris

    I enjoy scary movies, but only one condition, I must be with someone. I hate watching scary movies alone and I’m not sure why. I do not get scared of horror movies or even startled often. I believe I am just more comfortable being in someone else’s company when I watch a horror movie and it eases any nerves I may have. If I could, I’d love to conduct a study on myself and follow my heart patterns during a scary movie while I was alone and with company to find any noticeable difference.

  7. Jada Baity

    I actually learned in my COMM 160 class that the reason horror films were so successful when they first started being made is because it caused a physical reaction that made many people feel like they were experiencing an adrenaline rush. Humans are always looking for a thrill and horror movies provide that for us. But this article suggests that specific personality types are much more drawn to horror films than some other personality types. And because horror films appeal to these personality types, they are so successful. I do think that part of this claim is true but it would be interesting if there were more studies to prove a more concrete relationship between certain kinds of people and scary movies.

  8. Shayla Ahamed

    I never really thought too much about why I enjoy scary movies but this article got me thinking. I definitely agree that the suspense and uncertainty is what attracts people to a scary movie because for me, that is the case. Up until a few years ago I used to hate scary movies but now I love them. I don’t know what changed and why I am actually excited to watch them now. I also agree with the point Amanda brought up in her comment; could a chemical change have caused this or was it based on something else?

  9. Sara Grace Perlowitz

    I hate scary movies. I know people always say ‘hate’ is a strong word, so that is why I used it. Scary movies give me nightmares and get me so paranoid, which is the goal of the movie. On the other hand, I love rollercoasters. I broke my collarbone on a rollercoaster, but that hasn’t stopped me from riding them. I like how you described these two things as “flirting with death” because to some people, that is exactly what it may feel like. I guess some people just react differently to scary things based on the chemical reactions in our brains.

  10. Elyssa Paige Woods

    I found it interesting at the end when you talked about how the horror movies can disturb ones sleep cycle. I know, for me personally, I hate scary movies and every time I watch one the week post watching the movie I tend to wake up often or even have a harder time falling asleep to begin with. I wonder if this is due to one thinking this could happen to them in real life or if the recurring pictures of the movie cannot leave ones mind.

  11. Amanda Strassler

    I’m interested in the chemical aspect of watching horror movies. You mention the release of dopamine that occurs when the brain experiences fear. What is it about this chemical that makes some of us seek it out? Are there any studies to the genetics of risk-taking/fear seeking? You do a great job of explaining the societal aspect of fear-seeking. I hate watching scary movies and I’m curious to why my brain dislikes the experience while others enjoy the affects of voluntary fright.

  12. Megan Brideau

    I’ve never been a horror movie person because I never understood why anyone would want to be scared for fun. But I do know a lot of people that live for it and are disappointed when the movies don’t scare them. I can definitely see how this can happen because many movies have the typical “girl in a night gown walking into the basement in the middle of the night” scene. Scientists have learned many things about horror movies over the years. If you are interested, this website explains nine of them including the possibility that horror movies can raise your white blood cell count (healing you faster) and even maybe help the viewer lose weight. It makes perfect sense that horror movies are not healthy for you, especially for kids and now, I have another reason not to watch scary movies! I’d rather laugh, then be scared any day of the week.

  13. Bailee Nicole Koncar

    Hi Stephanie,
    It wasn’t until a few years back that I watched my first horror movie, but ever since I’ve grown to love them. It is totally odd because I am intentionally subjecting myself to a situation of discomfort and fear. My best friend hates scary movies, and now thinking about it she has good reason. They aren’t the most ideal way to pass the time and can result in inability to sleep as you mentioned. I enjoy them because of the adrenaline rush. I may be scared in a moment, but then looking back it was such a thrill. You experience so many different emotions and you never know what to expect next so you’re constantly on edge. I appreciated your psychological input that horror films are feeding our repressed thoughts and that a beast exists within us. That was super interesting and disturbing, but there’s some evil in all of us some may say.

  14. Grace Mannix

    I can attest to the study done about seeing something scary before 14 causing a disturbance in their lives! When I was about 5 years old, my older brother and sister would watch Jurassic Park, and I would be in the room; I can still remember the nightmares I had when I was a child. It’s funny you wrote about this topic, I actually found a SiOW blog post from 2012 about the same thing! Check it out here.

  15. Madeline Bynres Walsack

    I have always been a tad too scared to watch horror films, but I completely understand the urge. Some people love to take risks to get an adrenaline rush. Others want to take risks but fear the consequences. But by watch a scary movie, you get that rush of sensation that you would from taking a risk, but you are safe from an consequences from your actions. I also thought it was interesting in your piece that you mentioned that men watch these movies to feel brave. Is that only true for males, or do females feel the same as well?

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