Scary movies give us thrills

As a kid, scary movies left me with a feeling of fear, panic and nightmares, but as an adult I love scary movies and the tension they build. But I wonder what scary movies do to trigger the fear in our brains. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal,

“Humans have a unique situation where we will seek out things that scare us. We’ve got to ask what could make this exposure rewarding?” We are excited about being scared, but is it a good thing, considering Halloween is supposed to appeals to children?

Halloween brings some superstitions and often links to bad luck. According to an article on, “It began as a Celtic end-of-summer festival during which people felt especially close to deceased relatives and friends.” That sounds so similar to what we see in scary movies, such as someone dying or a funeral. The things we see in movies can apply to everyday life to some extent and seeing these things affect us psychologically, but we love it.

According to the same article from the Wall Street Journal, “at its most basic, fear is an early warning system that senses menace and buys time to flee or grab the nearest frying pan.” Don’t we usually see that in scary movies — the victim fleeing from the killer or striking the killer with a frying pan?

It gives us a thrill that triggers our brain when we feel the fear of victims in the movies. “It triggers a body-wide reaction in milliseconds, pumping out stress hormones that prime the body for action.” So, watching a scary movie is equivalent to riding a rollercoaster or racing a car — it’s a way to relieve stress. This applies to Halloween; it is a way of having a thrill, of wanting to be scared and having bad luck though we’ve declared Friday the 13th as the day of bad luck — not the movie.

According to the same article from, “around Halloween, especially, we try to avoid breaking mirrors, stepping on cracks in the road or spilling salt.” I admit I naturally avoid bad luck when I can but, when it happens, I feel a rush of excitement.

It’s not surprising people with thrill-seeking personalities like to feel or be scared, but are children more excited to see scary movies, despite the horrifying things they see? According to an article on, “ teens and twenty-something’s are likely to look for intense experiences.” I was able to get over my childhood fear of “Jeepers Creepers” after I watched it recently, but I still have to relieve my fear of “Thirteen Ghosts.” I noticed that younger audiences tend to be more willing to watch scary situations, such as that classic opening scene in “Ghost Ship,” when everybody but Emily Browning’s character, got cut in half by the cord of the ship.

I feel bad for older audiences because they cant watch scary movies like they used to, but it makes perfect sense why they would stay away from them. According to the same article from, “life’s [real] horrors scare them, or they don’t find them entertaining any more – or interesting.”   I don’t think I’d lose my passion of scary movies but at age of 50 I’d probably want to look on the bright side of things, not thinking of Freddy Kruger haunting my dreams.

So, our hearts race faster when watching a scary movie, but it doesn’t seem like its doing justice to our brains psychologically.