I’ve never been able to make my mind up about horror films. Do I hate them? Do I love them? But oftentimes, I find the balance tilting in favour of scary movies. Never mind the sleepless nights that follow, lying on the bed with the lights on. With Halloween around the corner, I lined up some horror movies to welcome the spookiest time of the year. Then I wondered: Are there any benefits of watching horror movies at all? So I decided to scour the internet for some research on the topic.
And I wasn’t disappointed. There are some supposed advantages of watching scary films after all.
Horror films can cause physiological responses like shivering, shutting of the eyes, shielding of the eyes, trembling, heaving, screaming, etc. in viewers. They can also increase the heart rate and spark feelings of anxiety, fear, empathy and disgust. Why is True Crime a girl’s best friend?
The purpose of horror films is to shock, frighten and disgust us with tropes of supernatural, human depravity and the unknown. So why would audience find pleasure in something that’s obviously so unpleasant?
Since the horror genre appeals to our most basal emotion, fear, good filmmaking will probably never respect it. But year after year — every year — the success of horror movies like US, Get Out, The Conjuring and It points towards the genre’s popularity with the audiences. There could be some benefits of watching horror movies if the people love it so much, right?
Let’s see what the research says.
Horror movies can burn calories?
According to a study by the University of Westminster led by Dr Richard MacKenzie, a 90-minute movie can help you torch 113 calories. It’s the equivalent of going on a 30-minute walk. A good scare can send your heart racing, the adrenaline pumping and your breath heaving, all of which can burn calories. Sounds too good to be true?
Best to take the study with a pinch of salt says Snopes, the fact-checking website, because this study was not was neither peer reviewed nor published.
According to a 28 October 2012 report in The Telegraph, the study was commissioned by the UK movie rental service LoveFilm (since acquired by Amazon) and was publicized just before the spooky holiday with the clear aim of beefing up video sales.”
Horror movies can boost immunity?
A 2003 study in the journal Stress said that observing a fictitious stressful event (horror films) can activate leukocytes or white blood cells in healthy humans. As we all know, white blood cells are instrumental in fending off harmful viruses, bacteria and other pathogens in the body. What is ‘Long COVID’ and who is at risk?
Horror movies can make you less anxious?
While it can send your pulse racing, a good horror movie can also supposedly calm you down. Dr Robert T Muller, chief editor, The Trauma and Mental Health Report, wrote in Psychology Today that horror movies may have a calming effect on some people, according to an article he read. The operative word being “some.”
The fact that we can vicariously experience negative emotions like fear in a controlled environment can be helpful in managing anxiety.
Word of caution
The jury is still out on the benefits of watching horror movies. You may notice that some people may be completely averse to scary movies. No promise of physical or mental benefits can change their mind. If you belong to the category, it’s best to avoid horror films and stick to films that make you happy.