Why Do We Like Horror?

I'm hearing more people say they can't do horror. They don't like being scared. Understandable. So, then why do we like it? Do we enjoy being scared? For me, I do like a book or movie that gives me the chills and I'd love to spend the night in a potentially haunted house but even still, I wouldn't say I enjoy being scared. Then why?

I've been thinking about this for a while but I can't come up with a reason why we would voluntary subject ourselves to several heaping doses of fear. I'm not talking about "torture porn" like Saw or Hostel. I mean movies like The Omen, Silence of the Lambs and The Thing or modern ones like Woman in Black, Sinister and Dark Skies.

When I Googled the question, I got a lot of science related websites. Didn't expect that.

1. Science Daily
Here's an explanation from Why Do People Love Horror Movies.
"The first is that the person is not actually afraid, but excited by the movie. The second explanation is that they are willing to endure the terror in order to enjoy a euphoric sense of relief at the end."
 No complaint here. For some reason, horror movies make me really happy. If' you've read any of my reviews, you know I get super excited over a good scary story. 

As for relief... I'm on the fence about that one given that most horror movies/books have tragic endings. Sometimes, we may not fully understand why the events took place.

Relief isn't a word I'd use to describe how I felt at the end of The Mist. Unless they mean relief in the sense that the movie is now over- we no longer have to experience the terrifying events the characters were going through. 

2. WedMD

Why We Love Scary Movies said, 
 "Many young people may be attracted to them merely because adults frown on them. For adults, morbid curiosity may be at play -- the same kind that causes us to stare at crashes on the highway... Humans may have an innate need to stay aware of dangers in our environment, especially the kind that could do us bodily harm... Yet another theory suggests that people may seek out violent entertainment as a way of coping with actual fears or violence."
I don't agree or disagree. I find it amusing scientist have studied this so thoroughly. I'm that person who, when asked this question, will shrug and say, "Just cause."

3. Yahoo Answers
Someone posted the question on this site and was given a very thought out answer.
"The appeal in horror movies lies in their excitement and danger. There's a real thrill in being thrilled. Some people enjoy being scared because it provides a surge of adrenaline (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween). Others like to be disgusted or revolted because it challenges their appetite or their "strength" (Saw, Hostel, Night of the Living Dead, Dead Ringers). And others just like to experience disturbing events because it gives them an opportunity to peek into the world that no ones has ever returned from: lunacy (Shutter Island, Girl Interrupted).
Horror movies appeal to our fantasy-yearning side. We WANT to experience horror and thrill because it's an exciting experience that doesn't happen to us everyday, from the safety of our sofas. Today's society is too safe and too politically correct, so horror movies are a form of escapism. 
But horror movies also appeal to our taboo side. We want to experience things that we're not allowed to experience otherwise in real life" (Why do people like horror movies?)

Now, I can get behind this answer. When thinking about people's appeal to the genre, the shot of adrenaline had occurred to me.

4. Stephen King

What would a horror discussion be without Stephen King. In his essay, Why We Crave Horror Movies, King claimed we flock to scary movies:
"To show that we can, that we are not afraid, that we can ride this roller coaster... It urges us to put away our more civilized and adult penchant for analysis and to become children again, seeing things in pure blacks and whites. It may be that horror movies provide psychic relief on this level because this invitation to lapse into simplicity, irrationality and even outright madness is extended so rarely. We are told we may allow our emotions a free rein... or no rein at all.?"
For me, I think my love of the genre feeds my fascination of darkness and my love of stories that see a boundary and make a point of crossing it. 

What do you think? Why do you like horror- books and/or movies?


  1. I love horror because it attacks your emotions. Anything that makes me feel strongly (even if it's fear) is great in my book.

    1. I like that! Horror writers are masters at pulling at our emotions.

  2. I like horror because it reminds me of how fortunate I've been in life.

    I love the idea of it. I think gore and violence has over taken the whole idea of horror today and wish I could find another story like The Alienist.

    I'm reading Stephen King's new compilation, Full Dark, No Stars. Rape is predominant and it bothers me, but I'm used to King and so I take this as part of horror okay.

    This sort of writing drives me to write my own stuff, so I love it. But, I find myself putting kit gloves to what I write. Then it makes me wonder if I'm catering to the wrong audience with my WIP.

    Great post, Auden!

    1. Thanks Diane. Good horror story, especially the classic ones, gets me pumped to write something just as good. I know as a horror writer, we're supposed to "go there" but it can be difficult to write/read things that thoroughly disturbs us. We have to find a balance. We want to scare the reader but we don't want to completely turn them off.

  3. I actually don't like being scared, but I like seeing if a movie _can_ scare me. Many horror movies are more like action movies with a few tense scenes. Truly scary suspense movies are few and far between.

    1. So true. I do the same thing, going to a movie to see if it'll scare me. It's harder now to find really good horror movies.

  4. This was a great blog post, thanks for writing it. I'd like to share one with you that you may enjoy as well. I found Sigmund Freud's "Unheimlichkeit" (roughly translated to "The Uncanny) an interesting read on the subject of fear and creepiness, which I write a bit about in one of my own posts.


    Thanks again!


    1. Great post! Thanks for sharing. It is easy to think of horror as supernatural related. You touched on why horror is so hard to defined- and write. It's not just a genre it's a feeling. Anything can be horror.

  5. I think the suggestion of something that frightens us is more effective than the all out show you everything sort of gore that's becoming all too common in what you point out, the torture porn genre in movies. Contrast that with, say, the original version of The Haunting, The Uninvited, or the recent Woman In Black, and those films creep me out. In a good way.


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