November 10, 2008
I have never understood what draws people to scary movies. I know people for whom fright film is their favorite genre. It makes sense that the thrill-seekers among us flock to the opening of the latest installment of the "Saw" movie enterprise. But given the box-office receipts for the dare-to-be-scared movies, it isn't just the skydivers and bungee-jumpers standing in line. According to The-Movie-Times.com, nine of the top 100 grossing films of all time are in the horror genre.
According to Dr. David Rudd, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Texas Tech University, "Attraction to thrillers is all about the autonomic arousal response. People like the rush without the risk."
I recently informally polled my students about their feelings for chilling films. Slightly more than half said they enjoyed horror. More males than females claimed fright as their favorite genre. Most cited excitement as the attraction. Only a few shared my general aversion to violence, gore and voluntarily being scared.
Rudd explained the difference: "Whether you enjoy these films or avoid them ultimately depends upon your threshold to induce the fear/excitement response. People with lower thresholds jump when a door slams behind them, while others wouldn't bat an eye."