The Media Zone

How the media make sense and nonsense of the world.

Our Love-Hate Relationship With Scary Movies

In "Psycho," the tension-building elements are so craftily engineered that the suspense is literally unbearable — but exquisitely so. Read More

movies

I guess when I viewed my first horror movie so many years ago, when I was very young, The Mummy, it was enough for me. I never wanted to see another scary, ugly, un-pleasant movies only nice ones. Don’t do scary books either....many lovely things to involve myself with. I don’t feel I ever missed anything I needed.

Love,

youth and scary movies

Yes, movies of our youth are often some of the scariest; we know the least and have seen to few movies to have decoded the formula. Now, of course closets hold little threat and shadows are just amusing.

age and scary movies

Actually, I can be more frightened in a movie today than I was when I was a kid. Back then, scary was an adventure, like riding on a roller coaster, to be approached with bravado, testing myself, feeling exhilarated more than anything else. I saw Psycho with a couple of girlfriends when I was twenty. We were totally into the movie, but not terrified. After the movie we talked about how much we disliked the ending, which "explained" everything in Freudian terms. Maybe everybody's got a different "terror button." I think of the rats in 1984, for instance. But the scariest movie for me (that I can remember at this moment) is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (2nd version). I still get the chills when I hear the beeping of garbage trucks.

age and scary movies

Actually, I can be more frightened in a movie today than I was when I was a kid. Back then, scary was an adventure, like riding on a roller coaster, to be approached with bravado, testing myself, feeling exhilarated more than anything else. I saw Psycho with a couple of girlfriends when I was twenty. We were totally into the movie, but not terrified. After the movie we talked about how much we disliked the ending, which "explained" everything in Freudian terms. Maybe everybody's got a different "terror button." I think of the rats in 1984, for instance. But the scariest movie for me (that I can remember at this moment) is Invasion of the Body Snatchers (2nd version). I still get the chills when I hear the beeping of garbage trucks.

age and scary

Well Sue, your fear buttons have clearly been powerfully classically conditioned. We'll have to recondition you: garbage truck beeps with Dove Bars or Grand Marnie.

Our Love-Hate Relationship With Scary Movies

Sorry to be a killjoy here but does it take a PhD in Media Psychology to tell us what we all know we or someone else does when watching a particularly scary movie? Come on. I was hoping the author would spend some time digging deeper into the psychological effects this sort of thing may have on a viewer. I think it's fairly obvious that a horror or suspense movie builds tension. And...? Tell us something we don't know. This is Psychology Today. Teach us something.

Where's the beef?"

Consider the terms repressed memories, suspending disbelief,preverbal fears and traumas,current unresolved conflicts, monster archetypes,skillfull manipulation of music, lighting, volume,camera angles and close-ups,scoring and foreshadowing and augmenting,editing, rapid and slow cuts,viewing darkness,time of day or night,familiarity with tropes of horror movies,openness to ones depth of emotions, gender, viewing alone or with others and audience contagions, personality traits like thrill seeking, cognitive style of repression, sensitization, numbing, desensitization. Do these provide any clarity for your understanding of the horror genre's impact on individuals? These are film and psychological terms.Familiarize youself with them and they may provide the answers and additional information that you felt was lacking in the blog post.

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Stuart Fischoff, Ph.D., is Senior Editor of the Journal of Media Psychology and Emeritus Professor of Media Psychology at Cal State, Los Angeles.

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