Why do we like scary movies?

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Why Do We Watch Scary Movies?
When reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one aspect of the early story really bothered me. Why do Jem and Scout, even though they are deathly scared of the Radley house dare each other to mess with the house? Evidently, the two children are fascinated by the fear, but what really causes us to bring ourselves to fear? While pondering this question, something else that I simply can’t wrap my head around popped up in my mind. What is with scary movies? Horror, theoretically, shouldn’t be successful. By their very gory, visceral nature, horror movies alienate a great number of the movie-going population. Parents can’t take kids to see them. The elderly usually dislike them. Most folks can’t even stomach the contents. Based on an article titled “Effects of Watching Horror Movies,” the side effects of scary movies include anxiety, sleeplessness, fear, phobia and even mental trauma. Yet, we still flock to movie theaters to catch the latest scary movie. Why do we pay to scare ourselves sick? "No doubt, there's something really powerful that brings people to watch these things, because it's not logical," says Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center for Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Cantor suggests that there isn’t a very clear-cut answer, so I asked this question to my classmates, and most of the answers were along the line of “I go for the thrill and the fun.”(Joon Park). In fact, studies have shown that adrenaline junkies get real pleasure out of being scared by horror movies, but in a variety of ways they may be risking their physical and mental health without even knowing it. Kathy Benjamin states that “When we watch an intense scene in a film our heart rate and blood pressure increase. This can and does lead to heart attacks, in people who have cardiovascular weaknesses.” Thus, watching scary movies increases our adrenaline, but not necessarily in a good way. It does provide the thrill ride, but studies have even proven that horror movies are a “contributing factor [towards a] depressive state.”(Benjamin). Cantor found that nearly 60% reported that something they had watched before age 14 had caused disturbances in their sleep or waking life. Simply put, in a short essay “Why We Crave Horror Movies” written by Stephen King, “When we pay our money and seat ourselves at tenth-row center in a theater showing a horror movie, we are daring the nightmare.” (King) All right, so movies are not exactly an innocent thrill ride, but exactly why do we even choose to watch them in the first place? It turns out, that some reasons are obvious and clear. Alan Hilfer, a psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York, argues that it could be as simple as the fact that we really like strong emotions, and fear is one of them. Horror movies are like roller coasters. A horror movie causes us to scream like the way we may scream when the roller coaster twists through a complete 360 or plows through a lake at the bottom of the drop (King). Horror movies provide thrill and a place to let go of emotions, just like how many scream their heart out on roller coasters. In fact, Ryan Rivera states that the “roller-coaster ride of emotions that happen when viewing scary movies can lead to the secretion of certain feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine, serotonin and glutamate.” These chemicals may lead to the creation of adrenaline, which can have an anesthesia-effect on the body similar to the effects of drugs that could actually bring stress and anxiety down. So thus, we watch horror movies for the same reasons that we ride roller coasters, “to show that we can, that we are not afraid.” (King) We watch horror to prove that we can simply “ride this roller coaster.” (King). The roller coaster of emotions from movies actually causes us to feel happy, just like the thrill of a roller coaster ride makes us happy. Nathan Carlsen states that “Scary movies make us happy,...
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