What Makes Horror Movies So Addictive?


13 September 2019

What Makes Horror Movies So Addictive?

It seems that modern horror movies are becoming more and more prevalent, with IT: Chapter 2 pulling in this week as the second-biggest horror movie opening of all time (so far), behind its 2017 predecessor, IT: Chapter One and placed at the forefront of groundbreaking horror cinema along with recent momentous successes such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out and US, and Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsommar. The question we’d like to ask is why horror is experiencing a renaissance, and is there something below the surface that’s attributing to their success, and our obsession with horror cinema?

Why do we love horror so much? What is the fascination? And why do we love to be scared? The answer lies within our basic instincts, the fight or flight response, our biological reactions to the tension and heightened suspense these movies create. Sat comfortably in a cushioned cinema chair, popcorn to the left watching the latest horror, you know you are in no immediate danger, however, your brain is responding otherwise. The tension and the heightened, lengthy scenes of suspense trigger adrenaline with every jump scare, terrifying moment and prolonged anticipation, followed up by a relieving dose of dopamine once you have survived your ordeal. Surviving a horror movie can trigger these chemical reactions within the brain, leaving you with a sense of catharsis and an eagerness for the next experiential ‘fix’ (for some at least…)

Find out more about ‘Why Certain Brains Love Horror Movies’ here.

To delve deeper into this obsession, we caught up with Adam Crowther, who runs QUAD’s Fright Club programme, dedicated to monthly screenings of the best brand new and archival terrors from home and abroad:

“Horror has been a fascination of mine since being a child. From films, to books, to theme park rides and beyond, something about a darker and more morbid tone has always drawn me in. I feel that an interest in the macabre is more normal than many will admit, and a certain glee is often found in tragedy and the things we are told to avoid. Indeed, taking enjoyment from something we are told we cannot have is key to an addiction to horror.

As a child, I often found the anticipation scarier than the end product; be it scanning the blurb on a VHS to talking to other kids and their parents about books that were a little too old for me just yet, the horrors that my mind conjured up and the fear felt was much greater than what I eventually experience – although I always ended up enjoying it.  This thrill of anticipation could be nauseating, but it always kept me coming back for more.

As an adult, these feelings have evolved. The anticipation is no longer as exhilarating, and the end products aren’t as scary, but anticipation has instead been swapped out for self-imposed anxiety and the thrill of doing something you maybe aren’t meant to (a carry-over from childhood). As my knowledge and experience of horror grew, and the industry changed and became more extreme (be it the themes or flat out gore), this became the new threshold for myself. Should I be watching this? Can I handle this? Is this something I even want to see? 

Ultimately, horror is addictive because it is exciting. The build-up and impact tends to be greater than any other genre and it responds much more to human nature than anything else. It’s fun to be scared, to push yourself, and to sometimes have something you are told you can’t have.”

Keep up-to-date with the latest Fright Club news by joining the Facebook community here.

Although we’ve only peeled back the first few layers on this investigation into the addiction of horror, exploring chemical reactions and childhood memories, we’re certain that horror cinema will keep pushing these boundaries, providing us with more gruesome and more pulse-raising experiences as the tolerance for thrills increases year on year, movie after movie.

It: Chapter 2
27 Sep – 03 Oct 2019
On the 27th of Sep, our screening will be introducing introduced by Fright Club’s Darrell Buxton.

Clowns are creepy as hell, and it’s due to their ‘uncanny’ nature that they still occupy the fears and nightmares of so many people today. Both familiar and mysterious, sad and happy, mature and childish, clowns occupy a terrifying realm of the unknown – and Stephen King’s Pennywise is certainly up there in the competition for ‘Most nightmare-fuelled clown’; both Tim Curry’s 1990, as well as Bill Skarsgard’s new portrayal of the crazed, red-nosed extra-terrestrial clown.

Not to mention the horrific real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy, 1970’s USA, and the more recent appearances of crazed ‘killer-clowns’ that plagued suburban/urban areas of UK and US not too long ago, to add to the real-life horror of the clown.

Find out more about the Fear Of Clown with BBC’s awesome short from Inside Cinema here.

Book tickets for It: Chapter Two at QUAD

Dead and Breakfast
Saturday 26th October from 8:00pm ‘til dawn

To celebrate QUAD’s obsession with horror movies, we’re also inviting you to take on a terror-fuelled overnight stay at QUAD for 5 back-to-back contemporary and classic horror films in our Dead and Breakfast film festival.

8.30pm: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
11.15pm: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
01.15am: Cat People (1942)
03.16am: Young Frankenstein (1974)
05.20am: Fright Night (1985)
07.10am Breakfast

Think you can take on the challenge?

Tickets: £25, £17.50 for 18 – 25 years, includes breakfast for those who survive the night.

Book tickets for Dead and Breakfast here

Written by Lewie Litchfield (@LewieGLitch)

QUAD is a registered charity.