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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.