I have a hard time getting anyone to accompany me to the movies to see scary movies. With a lot of common sense, my friends assure me that they do not need to pay between six and ten euros to have a wrong time, that they get nervous and then don’t sleep. Their position is loaded with very logical reasons. But what about horror lovers? Why do we enjoy these films? Am I more sadistic, psychopathic, or violent than my friends?
What goes on in our brains?
Fear is a primary emotion whose function is to protect us from a situation considered potentially harmful and which generates a response-oriented to escape or fight. These films produce pleasure for people who like to feel how we respond to stress, as long as we do so in a controllable way and framed in a time-limited experience. Other experiences, such as risk sports, generate a similar sensation. But those are for the truly brave.
When the brain perceives a threat, the amygdala sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus, which, in turn, activates the sympathetic nervous system so that the body prepares for action, i.e., so that it can flee. The adrenal glands then increase the production of noradrenaline, which speeds up the heart rate and increases the bloodstream, which carries another hormone, adrenaline, to the muscles and epidermis. When adrenaline and noradrenaline come into contact with each other, a contraction and tension response of the strengths and hair follicles of the skin is activated. And that’s why we get goosebumps when we see the protagonist’s lamps move by themselves when night falls, for example.
But why do we feel pleasure?
The sensation is generated by secreting hormones such as dopamine or serotonin, which occurs when we understand that we are living a stressful experience, but in a context of entertainment.
Therefore, the important thing is that this suspense does not interfere with our own life. That is to say, and we learn to enjoy a good scary movie without believing that what we see poses a real threat to us, even though the genre often resorts to playing with the possibility that its stories are based on real events. In this sense, if you are a parent, it’s recommended to keep children away from these contents until they learn to differentiate fact from fiction or develop the ability to separate, regulate and understand the emotional experience they provoke.
On the other hand, from a purely cinematographic point of view, some mechanisms connect audiences by telling a story.Book writers and essay service writers are very aware of the importance of a well-written story and the impact it can have on a person.
Indeed, we always tend to identify with the weaker side, with David versus Goliath, with those innocent children facing a mysterious killer clown. These films tend to exploit this and “include characterizations that make us lower our barriers and bring us closer to the victims. The more at risk the character puts himself, the more interest his story awakens in us”.
Sometimes, the spectator puts himself in the monster’s shoes. In those cases, “the consumption of horror films can be a way of giving vent to their most sadistic fantasies”.
We satisfy violent desires, but we do it through a screen. And not only that. Films refer to collective adversities and sometimes become a metaphor for a social context. Thus, for example, in 1932, the first zombie film, The Legion of Soulless Men, was released with images that resembled Depression-era rationing lines and was a reminder that the American dream had been shattered. German expressionist cinema also reflected as the breeding ground of Nazism, alien films during the Cold War, such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) showed anti-communist paranoia in the United States, and vampire films during the 1980s emerged in a scenario where there was fear of contagion by the AIDS virus.
It is a different matter that nowadays, horror films have lost part of their dark beauty in favor of the easy scare, that they fall into clichés that are well known to any regular viewer, or that they have not managed to avoid the fierce tsunami of remakes.