Horror movies: DVHS students’ choice of high?

Around Halloween, horror movies are in their prime. Everywhere you look, a new one is coming out or a classic is being remade. What is it about serial killers, the paranormal and gore that is so alluring to some people, while others quiver in fear, unsettled just at the thought?

When students attending DV High were asked whether or not they enjoyed horror movies, the majority responded with yes, and then went on to describe the specific popular types: paranormal, creepy, suspenseful, and gory were all mentioned. A few even included that their favorite horror movie like The Conjuring and Insidious.

Although the students had a lot to say about horror movies, they were stumped and had difficulty when trying to explain why they were so entertained by them. DV student Noor Bhullar answered the question by simply describing them as “fun to watch”.

According to the Excitation-transfer theory, what many enjoy about horror movies is the feeling they experience after watching it. The Excitation-transfer theory states that the stimuli, in this case a horror movie, will intensify a reaction due to the flow of positively charged ions, which causes an EPSP (excitatory postsynaptic potential).  An EPSP is a temporary change in the membrane of a postsynaptic cell (the cell that receives a signal). This change makes the ions more positive as a result of the opening of permanently attached ion channel proteins, called ligand-gated ion channels.  This channel allows ions such as Na+, K+, Ca2+ or Cl- to pass through the membrane in response to the binding of a chemical messenger.

Due to the amplified emotions and reactions, outward influences also have an effect on whether the movie was enjoyable; the environment and the company impact the overall feelings toward the movie. If the environment was sketchy, or made you uncomfortable, horror movies may end up being your biggest fear. If the opposite was in effect—you are with friends, in a safe environment and are enjoying yourself—it is most likely that you will think of horror movies with a positive connotation.

Another reason that people take pleasure in watching horror movies is the adrenaline rush that follows. They crave the excitement, the increased heart rate and the sudden boost of energy that are side effects of the adrenaline rush. Adrenaline is produced from the adrenal glands on the kidneys that is released in order to prep our body for a fight-or-flight situation. When the brain perceives a threat, or dangerous situation it sends a signal to the adrenal glands that will then release a sudden increase of adrenaline, or an adrenaline rush.

Depending on the person, their personal interests, and whether or not they enjoy adrenaline rushes, all factor into their perception of horror movies. There are different reasons why people find horror movies entertaining, and why some cannot stand them at all. It all as to do with the chemical and physical reactions your body has to varying situations. Due to the fact that people have contrasting reactions to different situations there are various horror movie genres in order to appease the audience, whether they are ghastly movies filled with violence and blood, or thrillers that are full of tension and anticipation.