The Psychology Behind Why We Love Watching Horror Movies

The Psychology Behind Why We Love Watching Horror Movies


Munjya, a Hindi horror movie is gaining attention and love from the audience. Being the fourth movie for the Maddock Supernatural Universe, Munjya is captivating at heart with its horror storyline that aligns with Indian mythological characters. While the film is grabbing hearts, a question remains unanswered, why do people love horror movies so much?

The Evolutionary aspect:

Horror scholars like Mathias related this to how our ancestors lived in a state of fearfulness and danger all the time. To save oneself from being eaten out by another large animal. With prolonged periods, this system of always living in cautiousness becomes an attribute of our species. The horror movies that people enjoy watching have these elements of threat in them, stimulating a similar set of emotional reactions.

With the change in time, humans have quite a stable environment now that doesn’t frequently require this body mechanism. Horror movies act as a catalyst to this igniting the emotions of threats and danger. Horror movies also bring a bigger experience of aliens or an apocalyptic situation. An accomplished feeling of going through such a situation is followed by after completion of the horror movie.

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The Darker Perspective:

Morbid curiosity is the term used to define a desire to know more about unpleasant phenomena. Humans for ages have been fascinated by the cosmic concepts that are beyond their understanding, be they good or evil. A horror movie acts as an interaction with supernatural concepts that often get avoided in daily life. 

Excitation Transfer Theory: 

It is one of the earliest theories describing the essence of our love for horror movies. This theory by Dolf Zillman signifies how emotions are transferred when a movie brings negative emotions and then ends with having a positive feeling of the threat being resolved. Along with horror movies, the thrill of video games is also explained by this theory. 

Sensory Cravings:

People who have sensory cravings higher than average are more likely to prefer horror as a genre. Intensive experiences like horror movies cater to the need for enhanced sensory experiences. The stimulation is high enough to make them excited which is difficult to achieve in other activities of day-to-day life. 

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Physical dissociation

No matter how disgusting or terrifying a scene of bloodshed is present in the movie, we feel safe because we are not a part of it. A physical as well as psychological dissociation is felt from the characters and the movie itself. If at any moment we felt that the horror characters were coming out of the movie, the fear would soon replaced by terror.

Another protective frame is detachment. It is the awareness that the movie is a created piece of art that is far from reality. The sense of awareness that lies within us throughout the movie helps us to gain pleasure from it. Instead of sympathising with the victim in the movie, the audience makes fun of it because they know it’s a part of their acting skills. 

The third frame revolves around autonomy and control. The perception that we can change or escape it helps us to enjoy this genre. Even if the movie is too terrifying, stopping is just one button away or walking away from the theatre is enough. To escape if it’s too terrifying is the key to sustaining it. 

Wealth factor:

Very surprisingly, developed first-world countries show a better liking for horror movies than other developing or under-developed countries. This phenomenon is often attributed to the third segment of the protective frame, where autonomy comes into play. Since citizens of under-developed countries generally have less control over their lifestyles, they feel the same for horror movies, where protection looks inevitable for them. On the other hand, those from first world countries often regulate their lifestyle even at the micro level, so it comes habitually to feel a sense of control over what they are watching and having utmost awareness of stopping it from seeing it if it is not pleasurable. 

Indian horror folklore:

With the diversified ethnicity of Indian ethnic societies comes a magnificent spectrum of horror folklore. From bedtime stories of kids like a Chudail, Aatma, Pishach, etc to the devils and monsters of religious aspects like Mareech, Indian folklore have a significant segment of the horror genre, The movie Munjya is also inspired by Indian folklore and its associated mythologies.

Does gender and sex influence preference for horror?

Research has shown that males are more likely to prefer horror movies or any other horror art, much more than females. This is often attributed to females experiencing the emotions of fear and anxiety. Along with this, when females witness gross disgust, they feel it more because of higher traits of sensitivity and disgust.

Horror movies as therapeutic interventions:

During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, people who liked to watch horror movies had better adaptation towards the situation since they were more immune and prepared for an apocalyptic situation. This research suggests that the horror genre is itself a therapeutic way of treatment where subtly and gradually a person can get immune to severe life-changing traumatic situations in real life.

Read More: Influence of Horror Movies on Sleep and Dreams


Halloween is quite a prevalent traditional holiday in Western culture where people engage in dressing up as a character, often associated with horror characters. Trick or treat is the most crucial element. People enjoy this to have a spectrum of adrenaline rush, being someone else for a night and pranking their loved ones.  

In conclusion, horror is a genre that often gets a mixed reaction from people, be it love or hate; but never gets unnoticed. While horror, as a medium of instruction is ideal, associating mental health illnesses with the possession of evil spirits, must be unacceptable. People believing in such stigmas for mental health illnesses often cater to a supernatural explanation as to why they are the ones dealing with weakened well-being.

References +
  • Why do we enjoy horror? Science explains. (2023, October 19).
  • Vinney, C., PhD. (2023, November 16). Why do we enjoy horror movies? Verywell Mind.
  • Yang, H. (2021, October 26). The psychology behind why we love (or hate) horror. Harvard Business Review.
  • Yang, H. (2021, October 26). The psychology behind why we love (or hate) horror. Harvard Business Review.
  • Martin GN. (Why) Do You Like Scary Movies? A Review of the Empirical Research on Psychological Responses to Horror Films. Front Psychol. 2019 Oct 18;10:2298. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02298. PMID: 31681095; PMCID: PMC6813198.
  • Why do we love scary movies? (n.d.).

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