The horror genre is a film genre which seeks to trifle with the negative emotions of the viewer by playing with their fears creating feelings of foreboding and suspense.

Its important to understand the key attractions of horror and know what conventions of horror appeal to people and what and why they like to watch horror to so we can make sure that we apply these attractions to our own horror piece.

People are appealed to horror for various reasons:

Brain Phycology

Brain Phycology - Viewers have a large attraction to horror films and the horror genre as they love to be scared and feel fear. This is due to when a person is afraid, the amygdala, two neurones in the brain, send neurological messages to pump the body with dopamine and adrenaline. Dopamine and adrenaline are neurotransmitters or neurohormones which make the human body feel good. When the human body has large amounts of dopamine to can make you feel good. Adrenaline also gives people a 'rush' which causes senses to be heightened causing sweaty palms, and dilated pupils. This rush also provides the human body with a feel good sensation and can become something people are addicted to. This is the reason we keep watching horror films even though we know we are going to be scared by them.

The right amygdala in our brain processes emotions, survival instincts and memory and it is heightened when we see animals, especially reptiles and small creatures like rats. This is why many people have an appeal to Godzilla as it is a large reptile which heightens the part of the brain which produces the emotion of fear and adrenaline, something we now know people are attracted to.

The Uncanny

The Uncanny is where something is familiar yet unfamiliar, it is a phenomenon used numerous amounts of time in the horror genre especially in physiological horror where it is made to create strange and unsettling sensations for the viewer. It is a key attraction to many horror lovers as it heightens the senses and brings up deep seated anxieties.

Movies such as the Curse of Chucky directed by Don Mancini use the "uncanny valley" to create fear. The "uncanny valley" is a phenomenon where people are repulsed and fear something which has similar appearances and features of those of a human such as human like robots. The character Chucky is an example of "uncanny valley" as he is a character with similar appearances to a human but it is in reality an evil doll.


Catharsis is where somebody loses themselves in the movie. A Greek philosopher, Aristotle hypothesised that we all have an attraction to the horror genre as hearing scary stories and watching violent plays allow us to purge all our negative emotions and thoughts. The same applies to modern day violent and scary horror films. Studies have also revealed that watching horror movies provide us with a cathartic effect - an emotional release that allows us to escape from the real world and the stresses which are entailed in daily life, such as paying bills, mortgages and maintaining relationships. Horror movies allow us to escape into this realm after the lights go down where we can release all our built up anger and tension.

New theories have also told us that we receive pleasure from when the protagonist survives the horror and ordeal that they are faced with. The strong negative emotions of the protagonist being tortured or scared intensify the positive emotions of when they are heroic and survive the horror or antagonist. This is known as the excitation theory, also seen as another from of catharsis as the viewer release and exemplify their emotions.


Fascination - the events within the horror genre exists outside normal life which in result attracts people to keep watching and in result glue people to the screens. Additionally most characters in the horror genre have transgressive behaviours– going against what you should do – behaviours that would be considered unacceptable in the real world and it is suggested that as an audience, we watch films to release these transgressive behaviours of our own.

Thrill seeking

Thrill seeking - A theorist Mark Zuckerman suggested that people who are placed high on the sensation seeking scale, so those who love adventure sports such as bungee jumping or cliff diving also love watching horror films suggesting that people just love thrills and want to be scared to experience an adrenaline rush similar to the same rush that you would get from dangerous sports such as bungee jumping or sky diving. As we know adrenaline is an antidote for boredom and also makes you feel very alive. It is a feel good hormone which is why so many people like to be scared.

Societal Fear

Societal Fear – A theorist DJ Skall has hypothesised that watching horror pieces such as zombie movies and television shows such as the walking dead - where there is a fear of national security - allows the audience to release their societal fears and satisfy their interest into what could or would happen if their was an apocalypse within our society. Other societal fears often seen in the horror genre include, climate change, war or immigration.

Why do people watch Horror movies? There are an additional 4 main motivations of why people like to watch horror movies and what attracts them to the genre

Gore watching - this is pretty divided as gore and violence in a horror film can deter people away from a horror film and for some be an attraction of the genre - gore for these people can stimulate the amygdala and release that adrenaline and dopamine rush and give them that feel good feeling making them feel alive.

Thrill watching - people are motivated to watch horror films as they receive a thrill from enduring the suspense of the films.

Independent Watching - many people are motivated to watch horror films alone as they get to overcome their fears and feel the satisfaction of being brave and build a connection with the protagonist as they also have to be brave to survive.

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