The Horror Genre: The Psychology Behind Why We Love Horror Movies

October 25, 2022

Written by Ella Rebecca Horton

Ella Rebecca has been in love with the horror genre since an early age. The Bride of Frankenstein began her love of the classics and she's been writing and collecting since.

Who doesn’t love a good scary evening, huddled together with your friends or family in front of the TV in the dark, jumping at every demon or slasher appearing on the screen? But why is that? And why does this strange affection for the macabre often escalate into following much more graphic, more extreme material and subject matter? Fear is not exactly a positive emotion, so what is it about Horror that so many humans are drawn to? Why are some people willing to spend money to be scared, and others try to avoid it at all costs? Today we will take a look at some possible answers to these intriguing questions. 



Why Consume Horror in the First Place?


Well, one reason is to experience stimulation, and exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of those acts, can stimulate us in two opposing ways: negatively, in the form of fear or anxiety, or positively, in the form of excitement or joy. For example, watching a video about a possessed priest will activate both types of stimulation, with the most pleasure and excitement experienced at the scariest, most fearful moment. Fright can trigger the release of adrenaline, which results in heightened sensations and surging energy. Before we had all these modern comforts, such as being able to just explore and discover our favorite animated characters as seen at, our ancestors used to face each new day with a battle for survival, so they would have experienced these “horror” scenarios very often, in real life. As life has become far more comfortable and domestic, we have turned to horror as our way to experience these ancient genetic sensations.



The Dark Side


Another reason that we seek out horror is to gain unique experiences. Apocalyptic horror, for example, allows us to live out alternative realities safely separate from our own, such as a zombie virus outbreak, or alien infestations. Horror allows us also to explore the dark side of our psyche. We won’t be able to meet Hannibal Lecter in real life, but we can explore his character freely in a movie. We, humans, are an inherently curious species. Many of the most groundbreaking discoveries of mankind can be attributed to our insatiable curiosity, and in horror, this makes us want to push the limits. To find out what our species is truly capable of, and how dark and depraved a person can become, is often why we draw so much delight from these horror stories.



Who Enjoys Horror?


There are notable differences in how people are attracted to consuming horror media. Some research suggests people with a higher sensation-seeking trait and a stronger attraction toward thrill and excitement, tend to actively seek out and enjoy horror more. People with a lower sensation-seeking trait may instead find these experiences very unpleasant and avoid them. Additionally, the enjoyment derived from horror is associated with empathy. A person who is not so empathic can enjoy horror more. Those with higher empathy will tend to feel more negatively about the distressed situations others experience, like people trapped in the games of the Saw movies, and so obviously enjoy them a lot less. 


Age and Gender


Age and gender also seem to matter when it comes to who enjoys horror and who doesn’t. On average, younger individuals tend to be more attracted to this genre. Men are more likely to be fans than women, and women seem to enjoy different aspects of a horror experience, like when a horror movie offers a happy ending, where the villainous entity ends up killed or destroyed. Whereas men may enjoy it more when the movie is filled with insanely terrifying acts. 


So, are there any actual benefits to consuming horror, any reasons we should actually seek out this genre? Well, there may be a few reasons, but whether they count as benefits or not are always entirely subjective or personal. As co-experiencing can add to the excitement we feel toward each other, horror can be a catalyst for falling in love. It can also be a great conduit for social bonding, as the oxytocin released when we are frightened can facilitate feelings of closeness among the group members, such as family and friends. In the end, the ability to enjoy being scared is entirely personal, and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! However, you might try out a movie or two when you are together with friends, and you just might find yourself having a good time. 


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