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Have You Ever Wondered Why You Can't Stop Watching Scary Movies?

A GIF featuring scenes from the following movies: Feng Shui, The Grudge, Eerie
PHOTO: Feng Shui/Star Cinema, The Grudge/Columbia Pictures, Eerie/Star Cinema

You know how in the cinema, movie trailers are shown before the actual film you paid for? I'm the type of person who looks away and covers my ears as soon as I sense a horror film's trailer. Ever since I watched Feng Shui—yes, the one with Kris Aquino—I actively avoid *all* scary movies. I didn't sleep properly for days after that film, and living alone doesn't help: My imagination is too good at coming up with possible scenarios. 


So I really can't relate to people who get so hyped over creepy shows and movies. I'm talking about those people who admit that a specific show or movie is twisted, but they say it with so much delight, lol. In an attempt to understand why *exactly* people love this stuff, we decided to do a little research. 

According to a 2019 review published in Frontiers of Psychology, suspense plays a big role in why people can't get enough of horror. Suspense is what you feel when there is a "threat," and in shows or movies, this feeling builds. Once the threat is resolved, the viewer experiences euphoria. But people experience suspense while we watch other genres, too, so there are other factors to consider. 

A study published in Communication Research in 2010 found that people who watch horror movies like feeling intense emotions, like fear. When you're afraid of something, you automatically go into fight-or-flight mode, which causes your whole body to react. Your heart starts beating fast. You tense up. You sweat a little. And that's fun for some people. 


Sociologist Margee Kerr explains, "Some might make a positive meaning out of that—they feel really alive [and] grounded in their bodies, almost like how you feel after a really intense yoga class or something that focuses all attention into your body."

Moreover, it's a way to experience the ~thrill~ without actually being in danger. Malcolm Turvey, director of the Film and Media Studies program at Tufts, says, "What's special about consuming horror is you can feel certain strong feelings without suffering the consequences, which allows you to enjoy the sensation."

Both Kerr and Turvey mention that it's also an effective bonding tool for many. Kerr says that the bonds we make while we're "stressed" tend to be more intense, which often leads to "richer, more layered memories." 

We also asked the members of our Cosmo Community for their input! Here's what they had to say. 

  1. "The thrill? It's a safe type of adrenaline rush. It's even better when the movies/shows don't just depend on gore and jump scares." -Niki
  2. "I like imagining the ghosts after watching a horror movie. I know it's a good movie if I can't sleep after watching it." -Lariela
  3. "I like learning how the human mind works or how others work, haha!" -Pau
  4. "I think it's the challenge of finding a good story that gets to me. At this point, I don't even get scared anymore. It's really the story and plot twists that I didn't see coming that make me happy!" -Ela
  5. "Horror movies help me sleep. Scientific studies find that willingly watching scary movies trains the parts of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Binging on 'low level anxiety' in a controlled environment is calming. Also, it's just fun. I'm a spooky bitch."
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