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bearfair's avatar

Help me understand why people love scary movies?

Asked by bearfair (403points) May 15th, 2008

I saw the trailer for The Strangers last weekend, and it got me to thinking about why people love scary movies. I’ve read theories that our daily lives are boring and banal, and getting scared helps us escape that. However! I had to close my eyes for the whole thing, and if anyone ever wanted to torture me into something all they would have to do is tape my eyelids open and make me watch The Strangers, or any of the Saw movies, or The Descent. I’ve also heard people say that scary movies like that don’t bother them because the things that happen in the movie wouldn’t happen in real life, but scary, horrifying shit happens all the time (the Frankel thing in Austria, the girl kidnapped, held in a closet, and tortured and raped by the members of a family, the real-life story Capote tells in In Cold Blood, etc.). I don’t understand why people would want to subject themselves to two hours of terror, disgust, shock, destruction, violence, and suffering, when there’s already so much of that stuff that’s real. So tell me, do you like scary movies? Why?

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17 Answers

Fallstand's avatar

Movies don’t “scare” me (I think being a film student takes that element away).. but its a genre I definitely enjoy, I couldn’t tell you why. I honestly don’t know why I enjoy watching teenagers running around for 90mins getting massacred.. In a way they’re funny, in another way disgusting.. In the end its just solid entertainment.

marinelife's avatar

Would you believe that this topic has actually been the subject of scientific research? There does not appear to be a concensus of opinion. Here’s one article:

I have grown to embrace the Jungian concepts about the power of images and gave up watching violent TV shows or movies and my one-time hobby of reading true crime books.

Allie's avatar

I love scary movies, but I can’t give you a real answer as to why. I guess I just like to be spooked and startled. Those moments in the movie where everybody jumps and shrieks at the same time are the best. Or maybe it’s a chain reaction thing.. like, one person jumps and then the person next to them gets startled and jumps too.

TheHaight's avatar

they love them the same way someone loves rollercoasters, bunjee jumping or sky diving- its that thrill of it all. Or the feeling of excitement, suspense, etc…

bearfair's avatar

@Marina- Thanks for that link, that will be a great starting point for me to do some more research on the psychology of the whole thing. Also, I totally agree with you about the power of images, and in movies especially. It’s different from a video game or a cartoon- movies show real people in larger than life form- I think they are very powerful in ways we don’t always realize.

@TheHaight- I don’t quite agree that watching people get murdered or raped or tortured is the same as riding a rollercoaster or bungee jumping. There’s absolutely an element of excitement and suspense in both, but the movies often elicit feelings of revulsion and horror as well. I understand thrill-seeking behavior, but I don’t understand people who seek out those negative feelings by watching horror movies.

Randy's avatar

I’m with you bearfair. My friends try to drag me to scary movies all the time and when I actually give in, I spend the entire time shielding my eyes from the screen and plugging my ears so I don’t hear the disgusting sounds and the cries and wails of the victims.

I’ve seen the privews for “the strangers” and I can’t watch it again. Any horror movies like that make me so angry because I want to destroy the killer/torturer/sick son of a bitch that’s doing the killing or torturing. I just wanna save the people.

All I can say is that the people who go and watch those movies are a little twisted in the head. It gives me goose bumps and makes me want to throw up when I hear the screams in agony. I hate the feeling. I see no way to experience ANY type of pleasure from other peoples pain!

TheHaight's avatar

hey, I wasn’t really thinking of movies like that:bearfair. I guess my “idea” of a scary movie is the ghost movies, were ghosts pop out at you! Those make me jump, and I end up laughing. I think youre just making a big deal out of it. I enjoy watching the “saw” movies- and as gory as they can be there is actually a moral behind the story: to be thankful for your life and the people in it.

So chill! I don’t enjoy the guts and gore the way youre portraying it!!!

Also- at randy I agree with you as well, I don’t enjoy the torturing too- but if the storyline has meaning and maybe the psycho gets killed and its a good ending; its not so bad. For example: I absolutely HATED Texas Chainsaw Massacre… Why? Because EVERYONE gets killed and there’s really no plot or justice for the people that got killed. As you can see, there are just different ways a horror
movie can be told and the way it ends as well can have a big impact one the viewer.


Allie's avatar

“I don’t enjoy the guts and gore the way youre portraying it!!!” Ditto. (Well said, TheHaight.)

TheHaight's avatar

haha. :) I don’t enjoy it at all, but bear is making it seem like I get pleasure over it or something!!!
Glad to see someone else understands me.

aatkinso's avatar

people enjoy scary movies for the same reason we enjoy rollercoasters and stuff like that. fear and being scared creates adrenaline, its just another sensation.

bearfair's avatar

@haight: I didn’t mean to suggest that you personally enjoy “guts and gore”, so I apologize if I made it sound like that. You’re right, I was thinking more of the movies I mentioned in my original question, not ghost movies so much. What you say about the storyline is interesting; I guess I’m usually just too overwhelmed to think about that part of the movie.

Babo's avatar

Adreneline can be fun! Plus, no matter how bad your day gets, you know you’re probably better off than the people in the movie!!!

scamp's avatar

I enjoy controlled suspense when I am in the mood for it. But I’m not fond of the blood and guts type movies. Like Babo says, it can be fun to get your adrenaline pumping in a safe environment. My SO watches movies with me through his fingers! It cracks me up to watch him “peek” through them during the scary parts!

Grim's avatar

Why do people love roller coasters? having no control over your movement, being tossed around like a rag from loop to cork-screw at dangerous speeds in a machine you seemingly know nothing about? The rush. People like scary movies for the same reasons, the rush. I find it to be a rush because it’s something that I’m not used to in my everyday life. I mean I don’t know about you, but I don’t have sadistic serial killers stalking me constantly so I really can’t relate to the people in these movies either. Which usually gives me more joy seeing the reaction they give to these abnormal horrifying circumstances. But that’s only if the movie IS NOT based on true events, for me. Just like the movie coming out soon called the “poughkeepsie tapes”, you can look up one of the videos on youtube if you want. It’s a serial killer dressed in what appears to be a black jumpsuit with to masks on. One mask is on the back of his head, the other on his face. He has a woman captured with tape over her mouth, tied up and facing a camera while you see him crawling on all fours towards his victim. He then stands up right next to her and pulls out what I remember to be some type of syringe-like thing ( haha, sorry I haven’t seen it for a while), and injects it into her neck. the video ends. its just a short clip from the many of the poughkeepsie killer, and it scared the fucking shit out of me. If I knew it was fake then i would be exited by it, unfourtanatly I knew otherwise and was very hesitant to watch it… Also something that scarred me when I was younger was It’s a site where they have pictures of dead bodies from disgusting accidents. you can go there if you’d like too xD but yeah… guess I got a lil off topic there… enjoy! ;D

wizard's avatar

It’s the thrill!

deaddolly's avatar

I love all horror! I was raised by a mom who took me to all the old Hammer/Edgar Allen Poe/Vincent Price flicks. I loved them all; my sister who was also brought up that way, is afraid of everything and refuses to watch horror. Most horror films make me laugh…including Hostel and the Saw movies. It’s just damn good entertainment. And I also love real life horror, meaing reading about serial killers etc. Not really sure why. I’m sure if any one in my family was ever a victim, I may change my way of thinking. But, I’ve always loved horror. My house is decorated with a horror theme and scares many people. Not much truly scares me anymore…but when it does, it truly gets my adrenalin kicking…which is a rush. And, that’s probably why. Some ppl get a rush from sky diving, others drink or do drugs, and then there’s us horror fans. I guess it’s all the same really.

deaddolly's avatar

Have to add a footnote…I do enjoy the gore and horror of it. That hardly makes me a serial killer or ‘twisted’. I’m a 52 year old, single mother. I’ve been told I’ve a great personality and am a sweet person (lol). Anybody wanna study my mind??? lol

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