One of the most popular film genres of all time is horror. Whether it’s a classic black and white film like Psycho or present-day box office hits like Get Out and The Conjuring, people have constantly flocked to theaters and willingly bought tickets to see something that thrills and terrorizes them all at once.
But why do people enjoy being scared in this way? There is no one explanation for why people seek out horror films. Everyone is motivated by different reasons. Here are some of the most common theories that experts have provided to explain why people enjoy watching horror movies.
For one, our enjoyment of horror may be a side effect of our evolutionary past. Our ancestors lived in environments where constant danger occurred, so they were required to stay on the lookout for threats to avoid being killed.
That primal instinct for detecting danger is still in humans. Horror movies activate that instinct, which means humans will respond to them as if they were a real threat.
Nowadays, we don’t really have to worry about becoming prey to lions or bears, so our opportunities to exercise that instinct are limited. Horror films offer a way to experience frightful situations in a safe setting.
We know that the events unfolding onscreen aren’t real, which lets us face our fears out of harm’s way. Once you’ve survived a horror movie, you might feel like you can overcome other anxiety-inducing situations.
Additionally, a study showed that our enjoyment of horror movies is linked to our curiosity about the nature of evil. People are forced to repress their dark sides to conform to societal norms. In horror movies, the darkness is all laid out in the open.
People who are more likely to enjoy horror movies include men, those with lower empathy levels, and those who like adrenaline rushes.
Males tend to enjoy horror films more than females because females generally experience higher levels of fear and anxiety than males. Individuals who are not as empathetic are less affected by the pain and suffering portrayed onscreen.