Horror movies have always had a prominent place in American pop culture. Some of the biggest movies of all-time have been horror movies. There isn’t anyone who doesn’t know Dracula or the Frankenstein monster. They may not be viewed as being necessarily scary anymore, but at the time, they were considered to be absolutely terrifying. Even prior to that, the silent movie ‘Nosferatu’, an unlicensed Dracula story, became incredibly popular. Even the part of the vampire mythos that a vampire will die in sunlight came specifically from that movie (to avoid being sued, they added the Count disappearing as the sun rose as opposed to the traditional Dracula ending). What makes these movies so popular though? Or the more modern ones like ‘The Conjuring’?
As people, we’re always enthralled with what scares us. Physiologically, fear can cause a big dopamine response, which naturally makes you feel good, but psychologically, what is it about fear that captivates us so much? On the surface, fear is seen as a negative emotion, but in a safe and controlled environment, we love it. The nature of fear though is a good thing. Fear keeps us honest, and fear keeps us from making foolish mistakes. Fear can protect us from ourselves, and let you know when there’s danger. Fear is natural, and it can be captivating in the right environment.
I personally think part of the appeal of the horror movies that stay with us, iconic movies like Dracula and Frankenstein, is our fascination with the supernatural. We’ve always been curious about the unknown, and in a world that gets smaller and smaller every day, and there seems to be less and less that we don’t ‘know’, the unknown can become even more fascinating. Who really knows though? Whether the appeal of horror is in the physiological or the psychological, our draw to horror shows no signs of slowing down.