Yasmine Canga-Valles,

Editor (Film)


Although they are considered more as a niche market, horror movies are known to  delight avid fans and fill theatres. Being spooked or horrified has never been such a fun hobby as it is today.

With the Halloween atmosphere settling in, most of us would like to be entertained by a movie that is bloody, horrifying or gory;  full of monsters, insanity and the supernatural. So most of you, this Halloween (if you are not going trick treating) might organize a horror film marathon along with popcorn!

But have you ever questioned yourself why this love horror films? If we find them so repellent, why do we enjoy watching them and be scared at the same time?

Indeed, people consciously expose themselves to images of violence and this is not only because of an attraction to bloodshed. Professor Jeffrey Goldstein, Professor of Social Psychology at the Utrecht University, Netherlands, says that we watch horror films because it reminded us of an antique behavior.

The Romans loved watching slaves and prisoners being cut up by lions. These were enormous and very much appreciated shows! According to Aristotle and Freud, this terrible spectacle brings us to the catharsis of our passions. In other words, this makes us feel compassion for those who we see slaughtered. In the case of horror films, it allows us to explore our primal fears, the darkest side of the human mind! “What if it happened to me?” you think all along.

In his book ‘Why we watch: The attractions of Violent Entertainment’, Goldstein explains that we watch them for different reasons, including the pleasure of the rise of adrenaline, out of boredom, to escape from ordinary life and indirectly get out of social norms. Also, there seems to be a pleasure watching horror while being in a secure distance . Finally, there is also social context like Halloween.

A Neuroscientist, Joseph LeDoux, from the New York University also explains that the cerebral system of fear allow us to think and be apprehensive of certain things which animals are incapable of. In other words, it is because we have this capability of thinking and imagining that we can connect to what terrifies us, and this can be done through films.

This could be why when an emotion is stimulated it is hard to get ridof it. If we like what we saw then we are eager to see it again.

People, who love the series “Saw”, for instance, do not necessarily take the same pleasure in the act of watching a calf being shot. Horror films can also be appreciated for their aesthetics. Many fans, particularly, like all the little details that make the genre so special: the winks from one director to another, director to fans. Including recurring elements such as: abandoned house or lost in the middle of nowhere, the sexy girl, the “final girl” (the survivor who overcomes the killer), the recurring names or places (Elm Street, Crystal Lake, Haddonfield), the doors (which can hide a monster or killer) etc.

So if you like watching gory films, this is definitely not because you are a psychopath! And now that you know how twisted your mind is, you may enjoy your horror films now a bit more….or less?!