Horror movies: Why you love them or hate them
It's Friday the 13th during Halloween month — and if that horrifies or excites you, there's likely a good reason why.
Why it matters: Whether a scary movie makes you feel good or bad depends largely on your early experiences and the context of feeling that intensity.
What's happening: A perceived threat — like a horror movie jump scare — can activate the body's automatic fight-or-flight response.
- That means the sympathetic nervous system ramps up, leading to increased endorphins and "all of these different neurochemicals that … are trying to help us survive," says sociologist and author Margee Kerr.
- "While that's the general experience of most humans, it does vary between people and even within the same person — and a lot of that variation can be explained by personal experience and history," Kerr tells Axios.
Between the lines: The physical sensation of your pulse racing and your body's stress response taking over can range from feeling awesome or awful, depending on your perspective.
- If as a child you dressed up with friends, ate candy and went to Halloween events, "you've got lots of these different environmental context cues that tell you that in this situation, [the fear response] feels good," Kerr says.
- But if you had a similar physiological response in the past to a truly life-threatening situation, you might want to avoid being scared at all costs, she says.
Something that can help if you do feel uncomfortable: holding someone's hand.
- Research suggests that when loved ones hold hands, loud sounds and stressful situations don't seem as bad.
- "You even get a benefit when it's a stranger … just skin-to-skin contact is so powerful," Kerr says.
Of note: If you're wondering why screaming is part of many people's scary-movie response, Kerr says there are theories.
- It could be an outburst meant to terrify a threat.
- It could allow more oxygen into the body to help you fight or flee.
- And/or it could serve as a method of releasing excess energy through our vocal cords.