What drives people to keep coming back to the horror genre?

Over the last century the horror movie genre has been idolised and consumed by audiences from all over the world. It has been one of the most dominant genres of film to ever grace theatres, going through constant changes to refresh a very simple stimulus. Its aim is to frighten the viewer. There has been thousands and thousands of horror films created that have attempted to frighten audiences, but only a fraction of them will stand the test of time. The most famous horror movies have played on societal problems, myths, theories and just basic human instinct to survive which in turn play on human emotions. And yet no matter how scary or horrific these movies may be, we as an audience consistently return to them with open arms as if we want to be scared. But why is this? Why would we put ourselves through tormenting and uncomfortable scenes when there is so much more out there?

User and Gratifications theory is relevant when it comes to explaining why we enjoy being frightened, even if that means watching them again and again. When people watch horror films they tend to do it in small groups or pairs so they can share the experience together, this creates a personal relationship which allows them to discuss the traumatic and scary scenes presented. They can relate to each other through the text given to them. Also it could be used simply to escape from problems such as boredom and stress in the real world and forget their nagging problems. They can involve themselves with the villains for example as they won’t get that opportunity in real life, I hope… This works with all types of horror ranging from The Exorcist to The Thing because we as an audience would like to share the experience or just delve deeper into the text given.

There is also the ability to relate to the protagonist and their heroic/scared feelings towards the problem but this mainly requires the horror films with a large sense of believability and realism. It is much easier to relate to films such as Friday the 13th, Paranormal Activity and The Human Centipede because they are all believable and possible scenarios which can play out in society. The more believable a film, the bigger the effect it has on the viewer. Paranormal Activity shook the world in 2007 with its incredibly realistic scenarios and setup, it terrified audiences all over the world and people were still feeling the effects weeks after the initial screening. This however did not stop them producing another 4 or so movies which have most likely been viewed by the original people that watched it. Why would they put themselves through the suffering again?

 Joseph Ledoux gave an in depth analysis of the Amygdala in the brain which creates fear, he says “If you have a good imagination, you can connect to your hardwired fears simply by thinking about a scary situation.” “This may explain why, once an emotion is aroused, it is so hard for us to turn it off,” Paranormal Activity did a great job of making audiences think about the situations on screen which would play on their minds so much they may want to see it again just to try and get the full picture. Eventually a sort of Hypodermic Needle takes place in the shape of a sequel; the intrigue surrounding the following films meant that they had to be seen. Two Step Flow is also assisting the institutions by having opinion leaders reinforce the products being made in the name of Paranormal Activity. Two Step Flow was more beneficial however in advertising a whole new wave of remakes which hit the cinemas from the mid 2000’s to modern day.

Some horror films are re watched so people could either bring back the fears they had when they watched it before, or just for the nostalgic feel of the movie. Having a nostalgic feel has become quite a large selling point for horror fans everywhere in the last decade or so. There have been countless remakes of horror movies which have been proven draws for horror. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing and Predator are just examples of films returning to the big screen and they are being eaten up by the ever demanding horror genre audience. Even spin off prequels like Prometheus have been made in order to reconnect with cult fans. This proves that either the remakes are a guaranteed draw; the audience will consume any horror product, or both.

There’s something about horror films what attract all forms of audiences, being brought together by a common goal of being scared. There are many different approaches to our enjoyment of them such as our imagination enticing us, a form of escapism from the real world, or just simply an adrenaline boost with friends. It seems like there will always be a market for the horror genre in our society. It is considered one of the most withstanding genre’s in the world of film.


One thought on “What drives people to keep coming back to the horror genre?

  1. There are some really good thoughts here and I will talk it through with you more in detail when we chat next. Small things like your use of pronouns needs sorting out, plus some oversimplified application of theory. There is some good stuff here though and I’d like to see you working to expand it more now and develop these sections into proper deep points rather than just a load of paragraphs which hang together but could be really developed.

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