How Horror Movies Have A Positive Influence On Your Brain

How Horror Movies Have A Positive Influence On Your Brain

Watching a horror film can be a divisive activity. Some of us absolutely love watching them, whilst others find the very thought of scary movies too much to contemplate. The enduring nature of scenes within horror movies proves that psychological elements or particularly gory aspects are still powerful tools to use on a cinematic audience, keeping the genre well and truly alive.

This can be further evidenced by the huge number of highly-anticipated horror films already being released through 2019 as well as in 2020. Movies like Us, It: Chapter Two, Brightburn, Doctor Sleep, and the creature-feature Crawl were all released in 2019, while The Grudge remake, Underwater, and the sequel to the superb A Quiet Place will be commanding the crowds in 2020. In fact, there’s even a movie that is set to put a horror-spin on the superhero formula next year. The New Mutants is supposed to align with the X-Men movie franchise, will be released under the Disney banner and is set to be nothing less than a “‘full-fledged’ horror movie”.

The release of Doctor Sleep highlights the continued popularity of horror films.

To help you to convince your less-enthusiastic mate to come along and witness the scares, gore, and psychological torment, here are some intriguing ways in which horror movies can have a positive influence on your brain.

Horror Tropes Have Become Familiar

In the modern cinematic landscape, certain classic features of horror have seeped into other genres, too. One particularly popular example is the vampire and even The Marvel Cinematic Universe is looking to expand to more movie fans (after the success of the Infinity Saga) by bringing in new genres and character types – most notably in the form of a dark and twisted vampire.

Vampires are making a comeback in modern pop-culture as horror icons with Morbius in the Marvel Cinematic Universe being an example.

The vampire is a notorious being of the horror genre. And after being used differently in the box office-conquering Twilight series, the fame of this supernatural being has thrived across all mediums, taking on various depictions. The romance-heavy Twilight depiction is given an edge with more adult scenes and graphic murder in True Blood, showing us how vampires are now used not only as icons of horror but also as romanticised immortals in movies and television.

That’s not all. Less horror and more love interest-themed vampires have even escaped the bounds of television and film to come into gaming. These new-look vampires have proven to be popular with the adult audience. In a review of 2019’s best slot games, the 243-ways Immortal Romance slot game clocked in alongside the ever-popular Starburst and the progressive jackpot behemoth Mega Moolah. This shows that the horror creature still upholds a great deal of appeal in entertainment. Could it be that familiarity with this “being” in other areas allows us to view horror in a new and more relaxing light?

Audiences have indeed been very accepting of the newer forms of vampires. Now Marvel will be pulling up one of its most horrifying Spider-Man villains to bring the fear back to vampires and introduce it to the MCU with their living vampire, Morbius. It’s quite possibly this long media relationship with vampires that makes us so accepting. But it seems horror can soothe in other ways too.

The Sheer Horror Can Calm You

Getting your head around the idea that horror movies can help to calm you down, help with some of your anxieties, and reduce stress in your day to day life seems almost an impossibility. However, this is actually one of the many benefits that horror movies have the potential to bring.

The horror genre manages to achieve this by distracting viewers from the strains and stresses of the everyday lives they lead; after all, there really isn’t any logical reason to believe that your next vacation will bear any similarity to some of the storylines in films like the movie that won Jordan Peele an Oscar, Get Out, or that your trip to the casino will involve the sort of storyline seen in Haunted Casino (originally titled Dead Man’s Hand), where the main character inherits a derelict casino inhabited by a brutal range of ghosts.

A Rollercoaster for Your Brain

It’s well documented that ‘up and down’ emotions release dopamine, serotonin, and glutamate due to increased brain activity, and the release of these chemicals can help to make sure that your brain is staying sharp. One of these chemicals is particularly interesting: serotonin, a chemical that has a huge amount of influence on the way your brain works, can have negative impacts if a lack of it is reported. 

Horror movies have the ability to produce these chemicals in a far more ‘blockbuster’ way than comedy movies, or even generic drama movies. This is because the high and low points can truly be extreme. Good examples are arguably the likes of Martyrs or The Shining, which is still a must-see movie, as they end up reaching a truly awful end with a small amount of joy – and sometimes even comic elements – invoked from sudden one-off moments during the action.

An Adrenaline Rush for the Brain

Keeping your brain healthy, active, and in a happy place is nowadays recognised as being as important to your overall wellbeing as exercising regularly and not smoking. Doing interesting activities that help to stimulate your brain is important. What isn’t right, though, is the school of thought that says adrenaline and thrills cannot ever be achieved when you’re sat in your chair. 

What this argument ignores is that you don’t need to go base jumping or skydiving in order to feel any level of adrenaline rush. Adrenaline rushes can, in fact, be achieved when you’re sat still, perhaps by playing online games such as poker, online casino, or social games, all of which involve heart-stopping moments, or horror movies as you sit there hoping that your hero succeeds and observing in terror as the bad guys start to gain the upper hand.

A Cleansing Experience

With all of the positive impacts that horror movies can have, it is perhaps strange to think how divisive they can be, with some people simply refusing to get involved in the genre without ever having watched a minute of horror screen time. The movies might leave you dripping with sweat at night as you wake up from that latest nightmare, but, more importantly, the issues raised and the challenges the movies present should allow your brain to be engaged and active. 

Perhaps in the future, we may look back and consider that some of the most interesting movies, from a psychological perspective, may well be horror films.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.