Why Do We Like to Get Scared?

Life can be boring. If all I did was work, come home, watch tv, eat and sleep, I don’t think I’d live very long. Sure, my cat Poe adds something interesting to my life (and that something usually smells or is dead) but there is not a whole lot I feel worthy of a real reaction or pushes my buttons. You might think it is because I am a calm guy but that’s a bit of a misconception. Usually it is because I don’t get too involved with anything or anyone. I come from a long line of “emotions are useless” people. My family is pretty stoic in general. It’s a wonder we’ve cared enough about anybody to procreate enough to continue the line as long as we have.

People ask me all the time why I’m “obsessed” with horror movies. I don’t think it is because I have an “obsession” with death or murder. Maybe that is true for some people who like the genre, but I think the vast majority of us have a different motive. Watching a horror movie is a cheap way to feel like you “cheated death” and feel alive. It is the same reason people swan dive out of perfectly good airplanes and drive racecars. You have no control over when and how you’re going to die so we sometimes feel like we want to take things into our own hands – maybe have a little say in the matter or to show ourselves that we are stronger than death. Or display our own stupidity as we earn ourselves a Darwin Award. That stuff can be messy or expensive.

The whole thing is because we like the way our body reacts. Horror movies do the same thing, but from the comfort of your own living room or a plush seat in a dark, air-conditioned theater with surround sound. It is all of the reward of being in those death-defying situations but with none of the actual risk. Scary movies can elevate your heartrate and scare the bejesus out of you for the price of a movie ticket. They provide a break to our ordinary lives. Horror movies also often reinforce the belief that good triumphs over the unexplained evils of the world, even when our reality is trying to show us differently. Sometimes we need that reminder. And if we’re having a bad day, with nowhere to put all of that emotion, watching a movie where a bunch of idiots suffer and die for their betrayals or mistakes can really make a guy feel better.

Scaring yourself silly is a great way to release stress and tension. It is good harmless fun, unlike some of those death defying sports out there. So go catch a movie about a bunch of jerks who die in ridiculous, painful ways. Watch people being held brutally accountable for their bad choices and terrible judgement. You’ll feel better about your own life, I promise.