This time of year, screens big and small entertain our basest instincts with horrifying gore, monsters, insanity and the supernatural. Although considered a mostly niche genre, horror films enjoy an avid following and rake in plenty of bucks at the box office.
It’s not merely an attraction to blood and gore, experts say. People who liked the “Saw” series, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily derive such pleasure from watching a steer being slaughtered in a meat-processing plant. Researchers say one reason we watch is because the thrill calls up primal behavior, mainly in males, to assess threat levels. (The typical horror-flick viewer is a male adolescent between the ages of 15 and 45.)
“People go to horror films because they want to be frightened or they wouldn’t do it twice,” says Jeffrey Goldstein, a professor of social and organizational psychology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Goldstein edited a book…
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