A clown from the sewers that kidnaps children. A post-apocalyptic world full of zombies. The Red Room. Why do we read and watch things that terrify us?
Click start to play today’s Word Search and find a number of books and films from the horror genre.
Horror films have been on a hot streak in recent times – from A Quiet Place to Annihilation, the genre has seen several hits at the box office. And it’s not just adults that love the genre. According to US-based provider of movie-marketing software Movio, the average age of horror audiences in 2019 was younger than the overall moviegoing crowd – 27 per cent younger for paranormal films and five per cent younger for science fiction ones.
What is it about horror films and books that draws us in? Why do we pay to get scared?
According to an October 2021 report in US-based business news website Harvard Business Review, one reason is because we crave stimulation. Even the anticipation of being scared can stimulate us both mentally and physically. Watching a horror video simultaneously activates both negative and positive forms of stimulation – you might feel anxious and excited at the same time. Fright can also trigger the release of adrenaline, so you experience heightened sensations and a burst of energy.
Just as the fear hits us, it gives us another reason to read or watch horror. According to an October 2015 report in UK-based news website The Guardian, we seek out scary stories because it gives us a place to put our fears. Books especially, can make us feel uncomfortable and strike a chord somewhere deep inside – but even as we imagine we’re in peril, we know, indisputably, that we’re safe. Psychologists call this a “protective frame”, which ensures we are physically safe, can psychologically detach from watching or imagining gruesome scenes, and are confident that we can control and manage any dangers we face.
Importantly, when watching or reading horror, we are aware that there is an end to the story, and we can reach closure or a conclusion – or not, if it’s too scary – since we’re in control and always have the choice to end the experience.
Another reason that drives us to horror comes from a basic human instinct: curiosity. In real life, we may never meet a Hannibal Lecter, but we can do that through books and films – again, safely – and it gives us an opportunity to learn about the dark side of the human psyche.