Are Scary Movies Bad For You?

Are scary movies bad for your mental health, or are we getting too paranoid?

Maybe there was a time when scary movies were just created to draw everyone together, family or friends, to sit on the sofa or in the cinema with the intentions to experience the fun fear we need every once in a while. After all, adrenaline is good, isn’t it? Yet nowadays films are becoming more and more shocking, and in my opinion, a lot more unnecessarily grotesque and terrifying than they once were.

We all know a bad horror movie when we see one, the Scary Movie franchise being one example. The slapstick style and mockery of all things horrifying is all we need to feel all riled up and afraid, despite it being ´trash tv´. But the term ‘scary’ has become a lot broader, and twisted ideas are becoming more of a norm rather than the once so called surprise factor. I remember when The Woman in Black (2012) was the horror film to see during the October period, as people hid behind their pillows throughout the movie, too afraid to really watch it. Today, only several years later, this is ancient history, the film now classed as not being scary at all! Oh how times have changed.

“Research has found that scary movies can not only mentally, but also physically, damage a person’s health.”

Of course, you might think it ludicrous for me to even come up with the idea that very young children would come close to watching such films, but I wouldn’t be so surprised if this were to be the case in a number of years to come. Subjects centred around real life events, that could quite easily have horror put into them, are brought to life on the big screen, making us leave the cinema paranoid that we may be attacked by a stranger when we leave, kidnapped, or even led astray by someone we would consider close to us, with sometimes deadly consequences. The film The Cabin In The Woods (2012), although just there to thrill the audience, could cause some to start fearing the safety in their own homes, an unsettling thought.

It’s clear we are not getting too paranoid with the notion that scary movies are bad for our mental health, especially with the way things are going now, and the path that horror film makers are heading down. An example is the scary story movie the Babadook (2014), which according to Rotten Tomatoes makes the 6 year old child start to develop “unpredictable and violent behaviour”. It is, therefore, a film that could quite easily damage the point of comfort that children feel when they hear a bed time story, an unnecessary thought that should even be put into people’s heads.

Research has found that scary movies can not only mentally, but also physically, damage a person’s health. Published in the 2015 issue of the BMJ, Dutch experts have pinpointed that “watching horror, or ‘bloodcurdling’, movies was associated with an increase in blood coagulant factor VIII, which has been linked to the development of thrombosis”.

“”There’s psychological distance when we watch a horror film””

Therefore, films like Mother! (2017), and more recently The Nun (2018), are crossing the boundaries too far to the point where young people’s sanity is being tested, and perhaps something that we should be concerned about.

Yet, there are others who would say that horror movies are not much of a big deal, and that some might even be good for you, including those suffering with anxiety. In a more recent online article from the Thought Catalogue, social scientist, Dr. Mathias Clasen, explains, “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… The genre allows us to voluntarily — and under controlled circumstances — get experience with negative emotion,” a puzzling theory if you ask me!

Overall, horror movies, for me, fall under the category of the marmite caption “you either love them or you hate them”. I would say that we are not being paranoid in this day and age with the effects that various modern day horror movies are having on young people. Old classics like The Hitchcock thrillers, particularly Pyscho (1960), are enough to make me feel that pang of fear that we need every once in a while. Nowadays, these movies just cause unnecessary anxieties, and create a new kind of norm that it is ok and expected that we can act out as they say, and should watch our backs around every corner.

Olivia Morel

Featured image courtesy of Nils Erik Mühlfried via Flickr.  No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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