One of my favorite parts of this month are haunted houses and especially horror movies. I even create an annual Halloween horror movie marathon list. If I’m being honest, horror movies are a big part of my life year-around. Ask me sometime how classic 70s Italian horror is why my now-husband and I hit it off.
As someone who is risk-averse, prefers to be in control and is Type-A with a dash of anxiety, how could I possibly love horror? I’m willingly subjecting myself to visual, auditory and psychological trauma.
The answer is simple and possibly unexpected. It’s therapeutic.
When I watch a horror movie or walk through a haunted house, I’m able to experience fear in a controlled setting. I’m able be anxious about something right in front of me not imagined or living in my head. And after the catharsis and adrenaline, it makes my imagined anxieties seem a little less palpable.
And if you’re thinking “oh hell, no,” I’m not alone. Danish researcher Dr. Mathias Clasen has actually focused his research on this phenomenon and the enjoyable nature of horror.
“Exposure to horror films can be gratifying when the negative emotions caused by the film are manageable.” Moreover, there’s psychological distance when we watch a horror film. We know it’s not real—or at least, some parts of our brain know it isn’t real. Other parts—ancient structures located in the limbic system—respond as though it were real. The genre allows us to voluntarily—and under controlled circumstances—get experience with negative emotion.”
So if you’re feeling a little anxious today, consider spending some time with Pinhead, Freddy or Jason. And if you want a little taste of my medication, here are clips from three of my favorite horror films.
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)