The Effects of Horror Movies on Paranoia

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This paper will evaluate the effect of horror movies on the levels of paranoia. Many people see films as a way to escape reality and horror films have been one of the most popular genres for generations. This cult classic genre can spark emotional responses before the audience even steps foot through the theater. Before viewing the film moviegoers can feel all sorts of emotions, from anxiety to excitement. Whether it is based on a true story or not, these movies are intended to trigger fear and angst within the audience. A horror movie may have you double checking your locks and looking behind your shower curtains as you enter the bathroom. What happens if your escape from reality begins affecting your reality? This paper will specifically focus on the increase in paranoia levels after watching a horror movie.

Classic horror movies such as, The Shining, Halloween, and Scream have integrated the genre into society for countless generations. Humor and horror work hand and hand. According to director, Walter Campbell, building off of paranoia is essential in sci fi. Despite being wildly popular, many people are unaware of the potential psychological effects of horror movies. While watching a horror movie the sympathetic nervous system is aroused which promotes the production of adrenaline. Those who like horror movies will get an adrenaline rush while those who do not like horror movies will feel distressed. Interest in horror movies does not technically correlate with psychopathology. 

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A study was done to determine if certain personality traits would make someone more likely to watch horror movies. The study showed that personality traits can not predict horror movie genre, however, it demonstrated that loneliness can have an effect on horror movie preferences. Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most influential filmmakers, was a master at manipulating emotions. He used suspense to heighten fear within the audience. The viewers heart rate will increase throughout the movie due to the imminent threat of danger and intrigue. Watching a hair raising horror film can be compared to riding a roller coaster because people experience rapid heartbeats and increased breaths. 

In hopes of creating innovative and more frightening horror films researchers have begun scanning the brains of horror movie watchers. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to capture real time pictures of the brain and monitor its activity, which takes the bias out of focus groups. This research is important because it allows us to see the neurological effects horror movies have. Traditional psychoanalytic readings of horror focus on the personal element, leaving the viewer focused on the films which can result in fear driven responses. This attributes to why many people tend to be hyper vigilant after watching a horror film. 

The painful nature of emotional responses triggered by horror movies is why they are a cult favorite. The act of taking pleasure in something painful known as hedonic ambivalence, is what has kept the horror movie community thriving. A study in North America was conducted which surveyed horror preference and personality. The respondents completed a fifteen to twenty minute survey titled “Answer a survey about yourself and your relationship with horror media”. 

Some of the other topics the survey focused on included: horror enjoyment, ease of scaring, intensity preference, and scared after. The study showed that respondents were more likely to experience fear, anticipation, and surprise. To test the catharsis effect hypothesis the research conductors asked the viewers if they were more scared after watching a horror film and 52.2% answered yes. The research revealed that the popularity of horror films is a result of moviegoers finding pleasure in the imaginative threat in horror films.

Research has shown that horror movies have an effect on levels of paranoia. My method would begin by having fifty adults watch a horror movie then complete a survey on paranoia levels while also having fifty more adults watch a comedic movie then complete a survey on paranoia levels. Before watching the movie viewers will be unaware of the surveys to eliminate any bias. This is a clear method to indicate whether the horror genre has an effect on the levels of paranoia.                

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