Why Do People Enjoy the Horror Genre?

Random musings I gathered from watching The Haunting of Hill House.

Photo by Edilson Borges on Unsplash

I started watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix the other day, and I began to wonder — what is it about the horror genre? What possible reason could people have to subject themselves to ghost stories, slasher films, or any other manner of scary movies and tv shows?

I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a kid. I mostly blame my older brother for that as he was an avid horror fan. Watching A Nightmare on Elm Street as a five-year-old was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had. And yet, I am still a horror fan to this day.

So why do we enjoy scaring ourselves silly?

Here are my theories on why we enjoy frightening entertainment so much:

A good story is an important factor.

Watching Hill House made me realize that a good story can keep me engaged above all else. This show thoroughly freaks me out and makes my imagination go into overdrive, yet I still want to keep watching. Why? Because there is a good story underneath all the scare tactics.

The characters are also compelling. If I can connect with the characters on an emotional level, I will stick around to see what happens to them. If there is a mystery, I will stay until the end to see it solved.

If a gripping story isn’t there, I have no reason to stick around. I don’t watch the horror genre just for the jump scares. I doubt that anyone else does either.

It’s often a fun escape from reality.

Sometimes the plot of a horror movie is so far fetched that I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. How many times can Michael Myers die and miraculously resurrect himself to continue his murder spree? The horror icon has expired in so many ways throughout the film series, yet I still return, eager to watch, every time a new Halloween film is released.

The ability to suspend disbelief is often required when watching the horror genre. But let’s face it — sometimes it’s fun just to let go and enjoy the ride.

Sometimes horror films make me think.

Ghost stories are the ones that get to me the most. When I’m watching things like Hill House, I start to question the world around me. I wonder about the possibilities — how much of this could be true? I think that’s why my imagination tends to get the best of me when I watch movies and shows about ghosts. Part of me believes that it could happen to me as well.

Along with ghost stories (most commonly placed in the sub-genre of supernatural horror), we have psychological horror stories. These are some of the best horror films, in my opinion, because they use the art of subtlety. Movies like Get Out, for example, are based mostly on the real world, with a slight undertone of otherness about them.

Psychological horror films are the most effective at getting under our skin because they are closer to the reality we actually know. The tiniest thing can make you ponder what could be going on beneath the surface of our existence. I guess that’s where imagination comes into play.

The underlying theme of a lot of horror media is “humans are the real monsters.” Those films are undoubtedly the scariest ones.

Sometimes we just need a good scare.

We’re coming up on Halloween, or as some people refer to it, Spooky Season. We have a built-in excuse to watch horror movies and shows for an entire month! But why do that to ourselves? Because sometimes, it helps to experience fear in a controlled environment.

When viewing horror media, some part of us realizes we are safe and sound. Nothing horrible is going to happen to us while we watch. Knowing we are physically safe allows us to feel the emotions without having a personal stake in it. We can explore things like fear, suspense, anxiety - all from an outsider’s perspective.

Life can be challenging at times. Sometimes, we just need a fun release in the form of a scary movie.

Final Thoughts

Most people don’t watch horror films for the blood and guts or the jump scares alone. There are psychological factors that determine why we continue to engage with this media. The horror genre allows us a fun escape from reality, the chance to safely experience emotions such as fear, and sometimes even offers us an opportunity to explore our world from a new perspective.

The horror genre is not for everyone. Some people are simply not fans of being scared. However, those of us that are fans will continue coming back again and again, no matter what they decide to throw at us because we gain satisfaction from the viewing experience.

What is your favorite horror movie? Or do you despise the genre altogether? Let me know in the comments.

Written by

I am a 38 year old dreamer who is living with Scoliosis. I’m an avid reader and a total nerd at heart. I like to share my thoughts on things.

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