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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The appeal of horror movies

A+small+collection+of+horror+movies+on+a+shelf.

A small collection of horror movies on a shelf.

As long as I can remember, I have despised horror movies. I never understood why anyone would desire simulated fear. Especially in a year like 2020—don’t we have enough stress in our everyday lives? Why add more into the realms of entertainment and escape? Despite my aversion to the horror genre, I am interested as to why other people enjoy it. While some of us will leave the room at horror movies, the fear and dread making our stomachs to churn, others will lean forward in their seats, excited that the action is picking up. Inspired by my curiosity, I reached out to my high school peers for insight into why people enjoy horror movies. Gracie Ess, a sophomore at Boston University, says, “It’s fun to be scared, and sometimes they just make me laugh for some reason.” Surprisingly, I find myself relating to this comment. I have laughed at horror movies too, especially if they are badly produced. Additionally, there is a grain of psychological knowledge in laughing at scary things. When attempting to define humor, some have said that things are “funny” when they are wrong in some way but not dangerous or tragic. Humor movies fit this description—they certainly leave the norm behind, but they are rarely sad and never actually dangerous to us. We can laugh at the oddness without being scared of the real thing. However, with horror movies becoming more well-made and increasingly realistic, I find it harder to laugh at them—I become a shrinking violet in the corner of the couch.
Cecily Shi, a sophomore at Vanderbilt, says horror movies “test her limits.” This is an interesting mindset to me, for I would rather “test my limits” by biking down a steep hill or attempting to hold my breath for as long as I can. However, Cecily is not the only one. Many people like to test their psychological limits by watching scary films, as if somehow making it through a movie will prove you brave. While I cannot relate to this impulse, it does make sense when we consider human behavior. Think of how competitive humans are by nature: Who can run the fastest, drink the most, stand the cold ocean water the longest. Perhaps it goes back to trying to be most impressive to the sex you are attracted to. Perhaps this instinct for competition has bled over into the world of horror movies.
Khristine Winchester, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga, says, “I only watch [horror movies] with people… I like watching people’s reactions or their commentary.” Like Gracie Ess’s comment, I can understand this. Sometimes, I find it enjoyable to watch scary films with friends, because it can be less scary to watch them while snuggling with friends and adding your own commentary. I have read many times in magazines and online that it’s a good idea to take someone you are dating to a horror movie, because getting through a scary experience together is an intense bonding experience. 
At the end of the day, it seems that there are many reasons people will watch and enjoy horror movies. I have yet to truly understand the appeal of simulated danger, but I think we have established that the roots of this appeal lie in psychology and human behavior. Just as we watch comedies to laugh and tragedies for the catharsis of crying, we seem to watch horror to test our limits, bond with others, and laugh at bad effects.