Why do we enjoy being scared?
It's October, folks! And for me, that means it's the beginning of the Halloween season. Around this time every year, I find myself scrolling through streaming services for that perfect horror flick.
I've enjoyed watching horror movies since my teen years. Plus, I've been obsessed with Stephen King books and true crime for almost as long. Many people don't understand why I am this way. My own mother often asks what it is about the macabre that intrigues me so much? After doing some digging, and discovering the horror and true crime communities on YouTube, I know I am in good company. But it still begs the question, why do so many of us seek out such unpleasant content and experiences? Science. Duh.
Turns out, our bodies undergo a hormonal reaction―or adrenaline rush―when we feel threatened, and at that very moment, we feel more physically powerful. As humans, we are hardwired to crave this rush and seek out experiences that give us this feeling, but within limits. Enter horror movies. It's something we can do to vicariously experience something dark and forbidden that we'd never want to experience firsthand.
There is something cathartic about rooting for the final girl or yelling at the dumb teenager who keeps falling down as they flee the slowly approaching, masked killer. It's our way of enjoying the darker side of human nature from a safe distance.
Research also shows horror fans who were eased into the genre at a young age (think, Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) might have experienced what is known as "fun scary"―startling scares that don't contribute to real fear.
Remember earlier when I mentioned there is a whole community of horror fans on YouTube? That may be another reason we enjoy scary stuff―a sense of belonging and community. Nothing is more fun to me than analyzing the crazy mind of Hannibal Lecter or theorizing about exactly why the demon chose to possess Regan McNeill.
So, there you have it. There's nothing weird or sinister about those of us who relish spooky season or enjoy a good scream. We don't want to BE the kid who gets his arm ripped off by the creepy sewer clown, we just want to watch from a safe distance and the comfort of our sofas. Plus, the kids get their vengeance and that is very satisfying and worth the gore.