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There is a great Wall Street dictum that says ‘greed is good’. In this article, we say the same thing about fear, but only the sort that bears no danger to your life. We’re of course speaking of horror movies, and why we think – and research proves – that horror movies are useful in building an emotionally fuller life.

How many times have we heard that watching horror movies gives us nightmares, desensitises us to violence, turns us all into monsters etc? How many times have our mothers not allowed us to watch horror movies on movie nights because they’re not ‘family movies’? How many times have you refrained from admitting in polite social company that you love The Exorcist or The Poltergeist?

Well, those days are behind you now, because new research shows that horror movies are better for you than previously thought. Here are a few quick advantages:

1. We don’t really believe in the ‘horror’.

Common wisdom states that watching horror movies makes us fearful in real life because we’re unable to differentiate fiction from reality. But research has shown that a normal functioning adult is very able to separate the two, and very few people actually become truly scared watching a horror movie. It’s like the brain is saying, ‘Yeah, okay, go ahead and get a little scared, but don’t worry, I know it’s not real.’ What this does is make us actually more prepared for real life horror situations. Paradoxical, huh? But true.

2. It burns calories.

Nearly everything burns calories these days, but this is the real deal. Sitting at one place and watching a horror movie might seem like a sedentary activity, but the fight-or-flight response and the increase in adrenalin that the movie causes in you will burn up to 200 calories throughout the length of an average film. Do note, though, that prolonged exposure to the same kind of movie dulls your reaction as well, so don’t expect to burn 1000 calories per day by binge-watching five movies on the trot. On the other hand, go ahead and reach for the popcorn without feeling guilty.

3. Fear makes us happy.

Let’s make it clearer. Fear in a controlled, safe environment makes us happy, because it pushes up the heart rate, and the pump up in adrenalin gets us excited, pushes us out of our more mundane lives. Now, human beings evolved in quite dangerous times where there was a thrill a minute: a sabre-tooth behind the bushes, a snake skulking in the undergrowth – but as we’ve made our lives safer, our thrills have gone down too, which has made life a lot less happier. With horror movies, you can have all the thrills you want without the danger of losing your life.

4. They make great date movies.

Enough said. As anyone who has been to a horror movie on a date knows, the genre is made for hand holding and cuddling. No other category – not even romance – comes close.

5. They boost our immunity.

Now this might seem like a tall claim, but studies have shown that horror movies watchers experience a higher rate of White Blood Cell production which leaves them better equipped to fight off disease and repair the body. This means that watching scary movies – and actually being scared – can have a positive effect on your immunity system.


Priyam Chatterjee

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