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The Psychology Behind Horror Movies

The subject of horror movies has long served as a subject of intrigue to many people. From The
Conjuring to Don’t Breathe, the love of terror has always had its place. For quite some time,
people have wondered what the compelling force is behind horror movies. Now, there may be an
answer. According to an article by Psychology Today, one theory is that horror movies allow for
viewers to psychologically release feelings of aggression. Another article suggests that humans
simply possess an innate fascination with gore and terror, thus explaining the fixation attached to
scary movies. Truthfully, a solid and concrete answer to the psychology of horror movies has yet
to be found. However, there are a myriad of plausible theories that are worthy of dissection and
The notion of horror movies allowing for viewers to mentally relinquish feelings of aggression is
quite feasible. When viewers watch characters being butchered, killed, or otherwise brutalized,
perhaps it allows them to subconsciously imagine the victims as someone who has wronged
them. To underlying fantasize about revenge and obtaining retribution against one’s enemies
can be extremely satisfying. Overtime, the brain begins to realize the source that feeds its
dormant desire and the cycle repeats itself. The ability to identify with the film’s antagonist or
victim can also create a sense of subconscious satisfaction to the viewers.
Additionally, perhaps the psychology behind horror movies can be accredited to the notion that
humans simply have a carnal fascination with gore, blood, and guts. Perhaps the horrific sights
provide the brain with a high than cannot be achieved in the everyday world. Scientists have
speculated that images of terror stimulate the part of the brain which processes visual
information, known as the visual cortex. The theory continues by suggesting that viewers are not
truly scared at the movies, but are instead experiencing tension, relevance, and unreal-ism. There
is a critical facet of this theory however: since viewers know that what they’re watching is
fiction, they allow themselves to somewhat disassociate which eliminates any aspect of genuine
The true reason behind why people enjoy watching horror movies remains a mystery to this day.
It is impossible that one accurate answer does not exist. Perhaps certain theories ring true for
particular people. Maybe each individual has their own reason for watching movies with
demons, murderers, and jump scares. Great scholars have spent years trying to dissect the human
mind’s fascination with horror. Another probability is that each theory is rooted in a partial truth.
For instance, perhaps some viewers enjoy watching people meet their end due to the fantasy
element, while others fancy themselves as the heroic protagonist who gets to overcome the
evildoer and emerge as triumphant.

In order to grasp the psychology of horror movies, one should begin by asking themselves: “Why
do I watch horror movies? What do I envision or fantasize about when I’m watching the films?
Which character do I most identify with?” Once one can truly provide a concrete answer to these
thought provoking questions, perhaps everyone will be one step closer to comprehending the true
nature and psychology behind horror films.

Things About Horror Movies You Might Want to Know

Scary movies have been scaring people for almost as long as cinemas have been built. It might be hard to grasp as to how these horror films get around in the movie to create the frightening ghosts or the horrifying zombies and monsters. To uncover some of these mysteries, we’ll be listing facts about horror movies that you may or may know and may or may not need to know. (From

  • The cursed video in The Ring (2002) is actually available as an Easter egg on the DVD. Select Look Here and press down then your cursor will disappear. Press Enter. This has an interesting feature; your remote control is disabled, and once the video has started playing, you can’t stop it, pause it, fast-forward it, or return to the menu. Unless you turn off the TV, you’re forced to watch the whole thing. When it’s over, the DVD returns to the menu, then you hear a phone ring twice before you’re given control over your remote again.
  • The infamous staircase sequence in the The Grudge (2004), where Kayako is crawling down the stairs while bending and contorting her body in ways that seem humanly impossible. Takako Fuji, who was Kayako, was a trained contortionist and ballet dancer and performed the stunts herself. There were no effects or trick shots used.
  • When the movie The Conjuring (2013) was shown in the Philippines, some cinemas had to hire Catholic priests to bless the viewers before showing it. This was due to some viewers having reported a “Negative Presence” after watching the film. The priests also provided spiritual and psychological help to the viewers.
  • The titular character Mama in Mama (2013) was actually played by a man named Javier Botet, who has Marfan syndrome, giving him a slender body and long fingers. Also, he has well-above-average range of motion in his joints, making CGI on Mama’s movement unnecessary.
  • Had director Flanagan agreed to film Oculus (2013) in the “found footage” genre (like Paranormal Activity), a number of studios would have backed it as early as 2006. However the director refused.
  • Since this film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) was released, a persistent urban legend has sprung up amongst students at the University of Minnesota. According to the legend, Pioneer Hall, an allegedly haunted dormitory, was where Emily Rose was first “possessed,” as seen in the film. However, as Emily Rose is a fictional version of Anneliese Michel, a German woman who never attended the U of M, this legend is obviously false.


  • Ellen DeGeneres lived in the apartment used in Annabelle (2014). While promoting the movie in her show, she explained that: “The apartment in the movie was my first apartment that I moved to in L.A. That was the building I lived in; where they shot the movie. I was watching it going: ‘That looks familiar’ and it was my building. It was scary back then too.”
  • During the first test screenings of Paranormal Activity (2007), people started leaving the theater. Originally the crew thought this was because the film wasn’t going over very well with its audience, only to discover that people left the auditorium because they couldn’t handle the intensity of the piece.
  • The horror movie The Woman in Black (2012) was Daniel Radcliffe’s first movie after the Harry Potter franchise.
  • Director Jennifer Kent was extremely sensitive about introducing the themes of The Babadook (2014) to child actor Noah Wiseman. During the three weeks of pre-production, she carefully gave him a child-friendly version of what the story was about. Wiseman’s mother was on set throughout filming, and Wiseman himself was never actually present on set during scenes in which Essie Davis’ character abuses her son; Davis instead delivered the lines to an adult actor who stood on his knees. Kent is quoted as saying “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film.”

The Legacy of Wes Craven

Horror movies come in a variety of flavors, and the world never comes short of them, thanks to the talents of directors, writers and producers who work continuously behind the cameras in order to deliver a good scare to everyone. Some of these people have produced good films that testify their prowess on scaring moviegoers, but there are also those who took the bolder step and created more than just movies, but the legacy of an impact to the genre. One of these people is Wes Craven.

Born Wesley Earl Craven, Wes was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 2, 1939. He was active as director from 1972, having directed The Last House on the Left. From then on, he started to build his name as one of the greatest directors of horror, earning himself the name of “Master of Horror,” until he died of brain cancer on August 30, 2015. His best known works, the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and the Scream series, have been considered a staple of slasher films.

The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was created by Wes Craven, who directed the first movie on 1984, eventually kickstarting a franchise that would include nine slasher films, a television series, novels and comic books. The franchise focuses on Freddy Krueger, a former child killer who stalks and kills teenagers in their dreams. He is intent on exacting revenge on the people who burned him many years ago, having granted by the demons a power to enter dreams, where he kills his victims. The first film carries the credit of popularizing tropes that will eventually become a staple on horror films, with seven more films to be created by the years to come. The eighth film in the franchise, Freddy vs Jason, was a crossover film of the film series with the main antagonist of another famous horror franchise, Friday the 13th, Jason Voorhees. It was the eleventh installment of the Friday the 13th film series, and was the last of both franchises before having their first films’ reboots.

Another horror franchise that Wes Craven directed was the Scream franchise, which rose to popularity during the 1990s, a period which terribly needed a movie that could revitalize the horror movie genre. The first film of the series remains the highest grossing slasher film in the world, with its combination of the traditional slasher and horror film cliche. The films follow the franchise’s main protagonist, Sidney Prescott, who is constantly taunted and threatened by several killers using the guise of Ghostface throughout the series. She is sought out due to various reasons, and people around or close to her are murdered before she gets to a confrontation and the eventual revelation of the killer’s.

Wes Craven is a director that is loved by horror fans worldwide, and his legacy in the horror movie genre, with his famous franchises The Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream will surely continue to scare horror moviegoers, and might inspire the future Masters of Horror.