The Psychology Behind Why We Watch Horror Films
Horror films have delighted audiences for over a century, from Georges Méliès' terrifying depiction of the demon Mephistopheles in The House of the Devil (1896), to the feral children in Mama (2013). Much time has passed, and though the monsters and themes have changed and evolved, one constant has left filmmakers and filmgoers alike wondering -- why do we like horror films? John P. Hess of Filmmaker IQ breaks down the psychology of scary movies, from our fascination with being scared, psychoanalytic theories, and an explanation as to why it's good to get the bejesus scared out of you.
I have smooshed a child's face before (on accident of course -- kind of,) because he showed me a picture of Pennywise the Clown when I wasn't expecting it. I am terrified of clowns. Give me zombies, vampires, serial killers, or the Devil himself, but clowns -- I will involuntarily smoosh a kid's face every time. Clowns and movies with clowns are literally the only movies that actually scare me.
Now that you know how terrified I am of clowns, I'd also like to mention that I attempt to watch It every Halloween. I try to work up the nerve by looking at pictures of Pennywise -- even watching clips of the scariest scenes. Come Halloween night, I chicken out 100% and watch literally anything else instead of a movie with a clown in it, but -- I do try.
But why do I do this? Why do any of us do this? Sure, it's a rush and it's entertaining to watch a horror movie, but are there any other explanations as to why people like to be scared? John P. Hess gives a great explanations of several theories in the Filmmaker IQ video below:
So, whether it's about suppression, catharsis, or simply enjoying the thrill of it all, experiencing horror within safe confines is an important part of every culture. Horror films help us understand what it is that terrifies us and make bold statements about the world we live in. We can enjoy them, because they're not real. I mean, the chances of seeing a murderous clown eerily waving at you from the sidewalk is slim to none -- unless you live in Northhampton, England, which is now officially the scariest place on the face of the earth according to me.
What do you think of Hess' explanation of why we like horror? Why do you like horror? What horror film scares you the most?