Horror films appeal to people of all cultures and socioeconomic groups, but their enjoyment of these films varies. Across all traditions and cultures, horror films tend to instill fear in their audiences. Artists in many cultures use horror to tell terrifying fairytales in visual form. In this way, horror helps society to discuss a range of subjects that deal with evil and terrifying problems around the world. Simply put, horror films deal with a wide range of topics such as monsters, death, and the supernatural with the sole purpose of terrifying, scaring, and revolting the viewer. Against this background, the paper explores various factors that make people attracted to horror movies despite the fear it causes among the viewers.
Various scholars have used Uses and gratifications theory in analyzing audience and their reasons for watching horror films and reasons that make them go back for more of this genre. Most of the studies suggest that many viewers obtain the kind of gratifications they seek when watching horror movies. The theory holds that every media should meet the needs and demands of the audience. Some of the audience receives pleasure from viewing these movies knowing very well that the information presented is typically not real. Surveillance audience knows that they are not facing any critical danger but the person in danger mostly involves the serial killer in the film. The theory also suggests that the audience can develop their personal identity through the horror movies by emulating positive traits of the characters. The final group of the audience includes those who watch horror movies to escape personal problems in the World.
Another study suggests that some people watch these horror movies to get an adrenaline high thus feeling high and alive. Such a group of audience refers to adrenaline junkies or those who stereotypically seek sensation or excitement when they watch horror movies. These individuals perceive horror movies like sport played to increase their heat rate and make their blood pumping. Accordingly, these people love the suspense in this genre and appreciate the scare in horror films thus; they keep going back for more of these movies. Besides, these people do not fear blood and gore; and appreciate the climax in this genre. Most of the audience in this category sees horror movies as a way to achieve thrilling experiences without having personal connections with the actors/actresses in the film. In other words, they do not have any empathy for the audience.
Another group of the audience called white knucklers refers to people who enjoy getting scared by the horror movies. Majority of people in this category experience the negative consequences that come with watching horror films. White knucklers always experience adverse psychological effects, unlike other viewers who encounter intellectual stimulation and excitement. Some of them experience nightmares and heightened fear that makes them afraid to walk home alone after watching these horror movies. Markedly, white knucklers enjoy watching movies based on real stories or issues that can occur in real life. Consequently, they want their horror films to have good stories based on serial killers. These audiences develop a persona connection with the characters in the movie and feel like part of the occurrences in the film. As a result, they have substantial empathy for the characters a matter that ends up affecting them.
Some scholars have argued that Psychoanalytic theory by Freud and Jung has significantly influenced peoples love for horror films. Freud suggests that horror comprises of uncanny reoccurring repressed by a persons ego but appear familiar to an individual (Harrington 18). On the other hand, Jung argues that many people find horror appealing because it addresses issues related to peoples archetypes and primordial images, which reside in peoples collective unconscious. Notably, some audiences favor horror movies because of their ability to connect sex, violence and parental trauma. In this regard, the horror videos appeal to the audience on issues repressed by the society (Harrington 18). Some topics covered in scary movies appeal to the some of the audience undergoing sexual and political subversion in the community.
From a scientific perspective, horror movies provide food for imagination nourishment. Naturally, human beings outgrow childhood fears such as runaway and self-talk as they acquire strength and knowledge to tackle various adult expectations and responsibilities. However, the fear of monsters rarely ceases to banish from humans memory as one grows to adulthood, they still reside in the humans subconscious like archetypes (OBrien np.). In that case, horror movies allow the audience to revisit and experience these fears from a safe environment. In addition, when the movies seem too real the audience has all the authority and space to snub, mute or even walk out of the theater to avoid such terrifying scenes. On the other end, various studies indicate that some horror movie audiences enjoy watching the movie when they are scared in safe places. In that connection, the monster movies provide the audience with an opportunity to learn and see various skills and strategies of coping with the actual monsters in real-life scenarios.
According to Dr. Deirdre Johnstons Human Communication Research, some horror audience views these movies because of the empathy they feel for the victims. In this regard, Johnstone goes further to stratify the horror audiences into four different categories: the thrill watchers, gore watching, problem watching, and the independent watching. Categorically, the gore watching have low empathy, high sensation seeking while the thrill watchers possess both high sensation and empathy for the characters, besides they liked the suspense ending of the most of the horror movies. For independent viewers, they typically have high empathy for the victims coupled with high positive influence to outwit fear. Finally, for the problem watchers, despite the high empathy for the characters, they suffered negative senses of overcoming the monsters concern, especially a sense of helplessness (Johnston 522). Conversely, other scholars argue that some audiences watch these monster movies with an intention to enjoy the bloody and terrifying rivalry and revenge between the characters. This kind of audience enjoys the bloody violence dominating the horror movies, particularly when the protagonist is attacking the antagonists. This group of audience resulted to dispositional alignment theory; that is, the audiences emotional reaction to the scenes portrayed on the monster film can be traced to his/her dispositional feelings they have the person involved.
Collectively, from various researchers, it vivid that most of the horror audience cannot get enough of the horror movies. The viewers are delighted and entertained with the movies basest instincts with horrifying monsters, gore, and insanity coupled with uncanny settings, eerie sounds that evoke the audiences senses. Personally, I relate to most of these reasons above, especially a food of nourishment that sparks imagination that in the end outwits fear and ignites adrenalin line. Nonetheless, in addition to the above theories, each individual has his/her reason for watching the horror movies.
Harrington, Erin Jean. “Gynaehorror: Women, Theory and Horror Film.” (2014). PhD. Dissertation University of Canterbury.
Robinson, Tim, Clark Callahan, and K. Evans. “Why do we keep going back? AQ Method Analysis of our Attraction to Horror Movies.” Operant Subjectivity 37.1-2 (2014): 41-57.
OBrien, L.The curious appeal of horror movies: Why do we like to feel scared? IGN. 2013: http://uk.ign.com/articles/2013/09/09/the-curious-appeal-of-horror-movies. Accessed 17 December 2017.
Johnston, Deirdre D. “Adolescents motivations for viewing graphic horror.” Human Communication Research 21.4 (1995): 522-552.