By John Salak –
An awful lot of people just love a good scare when it comes to movies. With Halloween at hand, chances are there’s even more of an appetite for the scary delights these films provide. The bigger issue is why?
Well, it is possible that these movies can relieve anxiety and depression, release feelgood endorphins, offer critical learning experiences and even help people lose weight and build stronger immune systems. Who knew?
Horror films are undoubtedly popular with perhaps two-thirds of adults between 30 and 45 citing these flix as their favorite type of movie. Classic horror movies seem to be the most popular with almost a third of Americans preferring these films, while about 20 percent gravitating toward newer horror movies.
The draw of these films whether they are classics like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolfman or new flix like The Others, Halloween, The Conjuring, The Evil Dead and The Nun may be, as noted, more than just good fun. They might be beneficial as well.
There is an increasing volume of research that underscores the potential gains that help explain why so many people sign up for a solid fright. The Washington Post explored this issue recently when it reported on insights from Denmark’s Aarhus University’s Recreational Fear Lab. Apparently, having fun with fear is an important learning tool, whether people realize this or not.
“We learn something about the dangers of the world. We learn something about our own responses: What does it feel like to be afraid? How much fear can I take?” explained Mathias Clasen, the lab’s director.
There may be other reasons as well, though Verywellmind.com is quick to note that for all the expanding research it is difficult to pinpoint a singular explanation for why horror films are so popular.
Some possibilities include that horror films let people live vicariously and ultimately allow them to master perceived threats.
“Going to horror films can be a novel experience that lets us put our innate threat detection system to use. This not only makes horror movies more attention-grabbing for audiences, but it also allows them to experience things like the post-apocalypse, alien invasions and the threat of an attacker in a safe environment,” Verywellmind.com reported.
There may also be direct health benefits to watching horror films as well. These films provide a chance for emotional and physical release, which causes a positive adrenaline rush. The sympathetic nervous system that controls the release of adrenaline connected to watching horror films can also trigger the release of endorphins, which produce feel-good effects. The end result, assuming someone doesn’t have a heart attack watching one of these movies, is that afterward they feel safer and happier, according to The Johnson Center for Health.
These films may also support excitement transfer, control anxiety and depression and help build a stronger social bond within groups of people watching these movies.
But there may be even greater benefits. Assuming someone isn’t snorting boxes of Raisinets or tubs of buttered popcorn during these films, they can actually be slimming. One study found that the average 90-minute horror film can help watchers burn up to 113 calories thanks to increased heart rates, among other reasons. Catch a classic film and even more calories are burned: The Shining (184), Jaws (161) and The Exorcist (158).
A good scare may even boost a person’s immune system. Taylor & Francis Online, a research platform, cited one study that found horror films can boost an individual’s level of disease-fighting white blood cells. Exposure to short-term manageable stress that comes from watching spooky films can also lead to stronger immune systems.
So maybe a good scare is not only fun. It’s good for the soul and body.