Sunday, October 30, 2011

Why We Watch Scary Movies

There are many reasons why we watch scary movies.

Psychological research finds a strong correlation between the desire to watch suspenseful or scary entertainment and the viewer’s high need for physical arousal or excitement. So, some of us watch scary films for the thrill of it. It's safe because we're watching it, not living it. The great master of horror, Alfred Hitchcock said, "People like to be scared when they feel safe."

Others may watch horror movies to root for old-fashioned virtues of morality and justice. Or to problem solve, by figuring out ways to escape terror. Or to revisit a trauma without having to relive it in real time. Then there are those who might watch to release their own aggressive or violent wishes in a more socially approachable way. By just watching it.

Research at King's College in London said that the key to a great scary movie is the balance between suspense and gore. If little is shown on screen it allows one's mind to invent the fright. According to the researchers, Jaws was the perfect scary movie because, "Steven Spielberg reached the optimum level perfectly allowing the viewer to see just enough blood to be scared of the Great White Shark, but not so much that it repulsed us."

Yup, I agree. "Jaws" is on my scariest movies list - and I haven't been more than waist deep in the ocean since seeing it in 1975.

So, in the spirit of Halloween, what's your favorite scary movie?


12 comments:

mrwriteon said...

Even after all these years it's still 'Psycho'

Wanda's Wings said...

Psycho had me afraid totally shut the shower curtain. It's a winner for fear factor in my books.

Xmichra said...

I am a scaredy cat and can't watch freaky movies. About as freaky as I get is Casper :)

Glapha Cox said...

I can't watch scary movies either. I guess I find enough to be scared about in real life.

Dr. Deb said...

Mr Writeon,
Psycho, the original, did me in way back when. Now it doesn't scare me as much. Familiarity, you know.

Wanda,
I recently watched the movie BUG which is about mental illness and it gave me chills. It was a play in NYC first. Psycho is a great movie that will stand the test of time.

Xmichra,
Casper is cute scary. And I totally get where you're coming from.

Galph Cox,
I can understand that. Comedies may be more up your alley.

Keltikmystique said...

I L O V E a good scary movie, but I don't care for the likes of Saw; mutilation and torture are not my idea of a good scary movie. I also don't care for the ones that are filmed from a video camera point of view... what's up with that?! Just give me a good, suspenseful, jump-out-and-scare-the-pants-off-you kinda movie, or even the creepy ghostly kind.... heck yeah, bring em on!

Dawn said...

I can't watch scary movies without constantly thinking about them for days after. I'm not a fan of them at all.

Deb said...

Interesting because as a child, I always watched scary movies. Not sure why my parents allowed it... but I would watch those low budget gory movies that showed EVERYTHING, to the extreme too. When I got older, it was types of films that involved real scenarios - not zombie flesh eaters. Like, Silence of the Lambs - my favorite movie because it's just so demented and twisted. I like to probe into the minds of psychos - like watching Forensic Files - why people do things - or keeping up with a serial killing which was done by the neighborhood man whom everyone loved. I don't know what that says about me, but I'm fascinated by the minds of a psycho. (Maybe my own?) lol

And you're right - it does make us feel 'safe' when we watch something of horror. In fact, put aside scary movies - my own therapist said, "Sometimes it makes us feel better when we see those in less fortunate circumstances" - I said, "I never feel good about that", and she said, "No, it's about the inner feeling we get that says, 'Wow that coulda' been me' type of mindset." It makes sense and it feels horrible to even think that we can feel that way.

Angeliki said...

I don't like watching scary movies either, I can see their appeal but it's not my thing.

counselor ceus said...

It reinforces the viewers current state of physical safety as well

Meow (aka Connie) said...

I've always been fascinated by scary movies ... 3 of my favorites are "The Birds", "The Shining" and the "Jaws" series ... I also (at the time) loved all the Texas Chainsaw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween type movies. The Silence Of The Lambs series is also up there on my favorite list. Psychological Thrillers are up there, too !! Yep, I'm a bit freaky, I guess ... I guess I watch them for the thrill of it, knowing it's not real, and that I am safe in MY world !!

Liqouricelady said...

I LOVE being scared! I love scary films and rollercoasters as well. My favourite scary films are the freaky stuff you get from Asia, like Ring, and also the latest crop of movies like Paranormal Activity are really good. I have often wondered why I love to be scared, its very cathartic in the same way that you might feel better after crying over a sad film. I think that's what Freud thinks isn't it?