9:36pm Wednesday 9th January 2013
Why do we love horror? Is it the rush of adrenaline? Our disgust at violent deaths? The reminder of how safe our own lives are? For me it’s that sense of unknown. Peering out from a gap in my hands or cowering under my duvet; never sure of what is about to jump out. Although I always end up terrified and missing half the movie, I crave that feeling of excitement and tension. But what’s the science behind our love of this heart-thumping genre?
When people are scared, the brain sets the whole body on high alert; the heart starts beating faster, the muscular system gets tense, their breathing increases and all their attention focuses on possible threats. "It's nature's way of protecting us." said clinical psychologist David Rudd at Texas Tech University. Why we enjoy fear is all to do with evolution and a primitive instinct inside us, "We're motivated to seek out this kind of stimulation to explore new possibilities, to find new sources of food, better places to live and good allies. People enjoy deviations from the norm—a change of pace, within limits." said environmental psychologist Frank MacAndrew at Knox College in Galesburg.
The adrenaline rush isn’t the only benefit of horror, as scientists from the University of Westminster have claimed that watching a scary movie can burn as many calories as a 30 minute walk! Dr Richard Mackenzie, a metabolism specialist at the University of Westminster, said: ‘It is the release of fast-acting adrenaline, produced during short bursts of intense stress, or in this case, fear, which is known to lower the appetite, increase the basal metabolic rate and ultimately burn a higher level of calories.’ The scarier the movie the more calories you burn, with the 1980 film ‘The Shining’ coming in top with each viewer burning an average of 184 calories! Stephen Spielberg’s ‘Jaws’ and the 1970’s horror classic ‘The Exorcist’ were close runners up, with a combined calorie burn of 319! So, effectively, you could sit on the sofa, munching through a chocolate bar while watching a gut-wrenching horror and that guilty pleasure would count for absolutely nothing!
A 15 year old student and avid horror fan, Lottie Westgarth, said ‘Horror gives you this amazing thrill! I love watching it with friends because you can all be terrified together then laugh it off afterwards.’ However not everyone would agree as a 17 year old student, Fred Watson, fumed ‘Horrors lost the psychological edge that made it mature. Now they’re all the same: butcher fests that are full of gore and horrible deaths!’
So, our love of the edge-of-your-seat, calorie burning, adrenaline fuelling genre that (according to a recent Redbox survey) 80% of us would brave the dark alone to watch, is down to a natural instinct for excitement and that feeling of sheer terror.
Waldegrave School for Girls.
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