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As if you needed a reason to watch more horror, we explore the proven benefits of fear and the many types of genre films that can improve your health.

One hundred and twenty three years have passed since the release of the first horror movie (Le Manoir du Diable (1896), created by one of film’s earliest visionaries, Georges Méliès). Back then, people perceived it as strange. But as more and more horror fans appeared, the quality of films increased, and the genre became deeply ingrained in our culture.

Many of us like to tickle our nerves in the most delicious way, and many horror fans are self-proclaimed adrenaline junkies. Some of us are risk takers and real life thrill seekers. Some of us turn to gambling and online casinos (for more information visit the website of one of such places) in the hope of winning a fortune. But many of us prefer more imaginary risks found while watching genre films. Interestingly, there are many positive effects to be gained from getting your heart racing from the comfort of your own home or a dark movie theater.


Unexpected Benefits of Watching Horrors

Ignore anyone who ever told you that you were sick for loving onscreen violence, terror, and gore. Turns out, you are probably healthier than everyone! While horror fans often get unfairly judged by those who don’t have the same love and appreciation for the genre, a study put on by the University of Westminster uncovered results that suggest how much horror films can improve your mental, physical, and emotional health.

Here are just a few of the benefits of horror the study uncovered:

  • Horror enhances our brain activity through neurotransmitters release.
  • It improves our fight/flight response.
  • It can help fight anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • Confronting scenes of onscreen horror can help desensitize us and make us better able to cope with real-world fears.
  • Scary films are cathartic, giving us the release we need to deal with everything the world throws at us.
  • A 2-hours scary movie can burn up to 200 calories at a time.
  • Watching horror can improve our immune system, as a large amount of adrenaline is released in our bodies. In such quantities, it stimulates and strengthens our immune system.
  • Maybe most importantly, horror helps us connect to others and allows us to be a part of a community.

Now you know…horror is not just entertaining, it’s a prescription for good health! So let’s explore some of the best ways to fill that prescription.


Popular Sub Genres of Horror 

While there is endless debate in the horror community about what specifically defines the genre and what films can be truly classified as horror, the real beauty of the genre is the breadth of diverse options designed to appeal to many different tastes. While fear is a shared emotion among all of us, we’re not all afraid of the same things. Some of us are frightened by demons and poltergeists, while others get chills watching more realistic horrors. Some of us crave buckets of blood and visceral horror, while others appreciate more slow-burning, psychological dread.

While there are an endless amount of sub genres to choose from — zombie films, creature features, found footage, slashers, torture porn, supernatural horror, exploitation, and more — there are three main types of horror films that encompass most of these sub genres. 

Psychological Horror 

This type of horror conquers us with its constant pressure. Psychological horror films often have thoughtful plots and elicit fear through a growing sensation of horror and hopelessness. For this reason, they are often described as slow burners because of how they slowly ramp up tension and dread over the course of the film, rather than bombard you with constant images of violence. Fans of this type of horror often feel that the psychological tension of these films is far scarier than traditional screamers.

These types of films tap into our collective fears and anxieties — often reflecting very real social, cultural or psychological issues. Films that fall into this category are often labeled as smart, elevated, or social horror films. Recent representations of these films include The Babadook, A Quiet Place, and Hereditary.

Trash Horror 

Often referred to as guilty pleasures, many of us can’t help but love ‘trash’ horror films. Typically, these films don’t have much of a plot. They are primarily associated with buckets of blood, graphic and mostly unrealistic or extreme violence, and scenes of human meat and torture. These are the films many critics and non-horror fans often think of exclusively when judging the genre.

Not all ultra-violent and gory horror films fall into this category. Some of the most viscerally shocking films are also quite intelligent and thought provoking. But there are certainly plenty of films made whose only goal is to just entertain you, without regard to winning any awards or breaking any new ground. Most fans know they are watching a movie that is not good by most objective standards, but that doesn’t keep them from begin any less enjoyable. Slasher sequels often fall into this category, as do many (but certainly not all) ‘torture porn’ and exploitation films.

Real-Life Horror 

Real-life horrors are often shot from the first person point of view, through so-called hidden cams or deliberate recordings, which are often ‘uncovered’ after some unspeakable tragedy. This is horror that maximizes fear by making everything that appears onscreen feel as realistic as possible. By convincing our brains that what we are watching actually happened at some point, it increases our investment in the film and allows us to experience the vicarious fear of the actors.

This type of horror includes found footage films like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, as well as films which claim to be based on or inspired by true stories, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Strangers. For some people, real-life horrors may seem boring because, in most cases, the plot develops slowly. But, in reality, that only helps to increase the realism and convince you that you’re watching something that could really happen.


Of course, not all horror films fit neatly into one of the above three categories, and some films are hard to classify as they cross many types and sub genres of horror. A film like Cam, for example, blends elements of both psychological and real-life horror. But the point is to realize that the genre is definitely not just one thing, and there are as many different types of horror fans as there are different types of horror films.

Whatever type of horror you prefer, the experts agree, you should watch more of it! 


Cover photo attribution: “Untitled” by Richard Munckton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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