Why Are Scary Movies So Popular?

October 30, 2020
Arash Javanbakht, MD

The answer may lie deep in human history.

Millions of individuals like being scared. They watch horror movies or walk through haunted houses and corn mazes. After Halloween, thrill-seekers can still go bungee jumping, skydiving, or do a dozen different things that set their hearts racing.

Why? Why would anyone walk into a house when they know that zombies and werewolves are waiting for them? In his Mental Health Minute, Dr Arash Javanbakht suggests a surprising answer. Fear is a part of our evolutionary history, a mechanism that helps us recognize danger and survive it. Scary movies and extreme sports may be a relatively safe way of giving this part of our brain a workout.

In that case boys and ghouls, there is nothing wrong with seeking out a little scare this weekend. It might even be good for you. 

Dr Javanbakht is director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine.