Why Do We Watch Horror Movies?

Updated on May 28, 2018
Katie Newbery profile image

I have always had a passion for movies as I spend most of my days watching them and ranting about them, so why not share my opinions online?

What is Horror?

A horror film is a movie that can draw a physiological reaction from the audience, this can be a faster heartbeat for example. This is done through the use of fear and shocking the audience. This is often inspired from authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley but horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century.

Horror films can also be used to evoke the viewers nightmares, fears, revulsions and terror of the unknown taking place in the film, so isn't it amazing that we put ourselves through all this fear and panic for hours at a time for entertainment? It sounds almost odd that we do this and will continue to do this for the rest of time.

For the films listed below, I will look into the elements of a story and how these particular elements are adapted for a horror film. For example, the setting.



The main theme in Saw is revenge carried out by Jigsaw on people who do not appreciate the life they have been given by giving them a choice of solving a puzzle or making decisions in order to survive a trap laid out by Jigsaw. The overall aim is for people who don’t deserve their life to die and those who are willing to fight for their own existence can live.

The victims never see Jigsaw, they only hear his voice through a puppet, which is different to typical horror films where the tormentor is seen by the victims. This has an affect on the sanity of the individuals involved in Jigsaws’ game because they question whether the game is real or just a sick joke.

By creating a film where the reason for the characters' deaths are because of their own actions, it makes viewers afraid because they start to think about all the bad things they have done in their lives and might even convince themselves that a real serial killer could do this to them if they knew about all of their bad decisions and immoral actions. Therefore, the film feels quite personal and leaves audiences fearing for their lives.

IT (2017)

Characterisation in IT:

Verbal: Pennywise appeals to Georgie at the beginning and lures him in because Georgie is younger, so he is easily manipulated. Whereas with the older children, they know not to talk to him and to run away as quickly as possible, forcing pennywise to take shape of their fears instead of talking to them as he knows he can't get to the older kids as easily as he could to Georgie as he didn't know any better.

Visual: Pennywise is inhuman because he takes shape of what the other characters fear most. It is infinite, ageless and immortal, which is why he is so terrifying because we are made to believe there is no way to defeat him, so we lose hope for the kids quite quickly.

Another characteristic that the producers included is that Pennywise has one eye looking into the camera and one eye looking at the character he is talking to. This is to make the audience feel like they are there in the scene because he always has one eye on you. It draws the audience in and makes them feel like Pennywise is looking directly at them, so you get put into the moment and feel the same fear the kids are experiencing.

Sub-Genres of Horror

Saw is mainly seen as a horror film, but it is classified by the public as a ‘splatter film’, which deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence to show the vulnerability of the human body.

Another sub-genre is a cult film. This is not specific to horror but a classic example of this is, From Dusk till Dawn, where excessive displays of violence, gore, sexuality and profanity are featured throughout and can lead to censorship or a ban of the film. These types of films have devoted fan bases who enjoy these elements in a movie.

Horror-Comedy is a popular sub-genre as it allows audiences who do not like the feeling of being afraid to enjoy the comedic version of classic horror films by pointing out their flaws. For example, Scary Movie is filled with satirical attacks on slasher movies and Shaun of the Dead is hilarious because of it’s relatable reactions to a zombie apocalypse.

The Silence of the Lambs is a suspenseful horror-thriller movie that has psychological and criminal foundations that drive the entire film throughout. Despite the occasional violent scenes, the main features of this film are the disturbing and eerie conversations between Hannibal Lecter and Clarice. Lecter really changes the detective-chasing-killer formula that is present in typical horror/thriller films.

Audience Expectations

The audience expectations of a horror is to be afraid by experiencing fear through jump scares and suspense created from the film they are watching. To help build tension in the film, music is used to add the effect of terror.

For the psychological-horror-thriller based films, the audience is expecting to have a more thought-provoking plot, which can lead to the audience watching it multiple times to better understand it.

With Scary Movie for example, the audience expects to have the film make fun of the classic horror films and more recent horror movies by adding comedy, so they know exactly what they're in for.


To conclude, all films have their individual differences and that is what makes them stand out from every other movie. However, due to the factors that must be included in horror films, like jump scares and suspenseful music, the movies that fit into this genre can seem very similar. If you compared a romantic movie to a horror movie, there would be many differences. Whereas, if you compared two different horror films, then there would be many similarities due to the common qualities these films need to have in order to be considered as a horror.

Some Horror films are predictable and stick to these general qualities so a viewer can guess what is going to happen to the characters involved, but there are some exceptions to this where a horror film is entirely unpredictable and surprising to the audience. For example, The Sixth Sense has one of the biggest twist endings of all time that no one saw coming. If you haven't seen it already, I would watch it as soon as possible if I were you because you are extremely lucky that no one has spoiled it for you yet!

Overall, I believe that we put ourselves through these harrowing movies, partly because we want to feel a rush of adrenaline and mainly because it makes us feel alive. Of course there are some people out there who do not understand this feeling and they just feel terrified during the whole ordeal. However, for a lot of us, horror films leave us on the edge of our seats whilst we feel genuine panic for the characters involved and we find it thrilling because it is not us in that situation. We are able to sit back and find comfort in the fact that we are not going through what they are. Whereas, if you watched a romantic film and you were single and sad about it, then watching other people happy and in love would make you start to question your own life and feel rather upset. But with horror films, you can find great satisfaction in knowing that you are not being chased by a maniac with a machete and you can return to your joyous life, unlike the characters involved.

Horror movies might give you nightmares for a number of nights and you might be checking under your bed before you go to sleep, but that won't stop you from putting yourself through it all over again in a week or so now will it?

Which of these films is your favourite?

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