As counterintuitive as it may sound, horror movies are good for you, or at least they can be for most. Obviously anyone with heart conditions shouldn't be lining up for an hour-and-a-half (give or take) of any adrenalin pumping, heart thumping, activity. But for your average viewer, thrill-seeker or not, a good horror flick affects your physical health in many positive ways. Furthermore, much evidence exists that points to why horror movies benefit your mental health, including rushes of serotonin and shifting your mind's perception. In ways most still don't understand, the most brutal movies make well-adjusted audiences, who receive their cathartic and chemical release from horror's adrenaline-inducing properties.
So at your next sleepover, suggest streaming one of Netflix's best horror movies to your friends. When they begin to object, tell them how horror movies help you to lose weight and boost your immune system. How could you not sleep easy after that?
According to Dr. Ironside, who researches depression and anxiety at Oxford University, "There's a part of the brain that is largely thought to signal danger, this is called the amygdala. Studies have shown that people with high trait anxiety—[meaning] very anxious people—and anxiety disorders have a hyperactive amygdala, compared to healthy people."
If people repeatedly expose themselves to something fearful, ie exposure therapy, it becomes desensitized to them. Repeated exposure to horror films works in the same manner; whatever the subject matter may be for any particular film, the viewers grow more familiar with that subject as the film goes on. Over time as viewers experience scary scenarios from the safety of home, their brain learns not to fear them.
Perhaps the most random benefit the ever-controversial horror genre offers to mankind is the ability to burn up to 200 calories-all while sitting on your ass. Watching horror movies all day while losing weight? Literally a dream come true.
A study that appeared in The Telegraph explains how watching high tension films burn calories. The experiment included Jaws with a burn of 164 calories, The Exorcist with an unsurprising 158 stressful calories shed, and The Shining with a whopping 184 calories down for the count.
Apparently the caloric burn comes from combination of adrenalin, an increased heart rate, greater oxygen intake and carbon dioxide elimination, and all muscular contractions you make while waving your hands at the nitwit character who's decided to walk down the dark hallway.
In addition to helping anxiety, research shows those suffering from depression could benefit from horror films as well. Firstly, horror movies rely on a build-up to the eventual 'scare,' meaning you must focus on the TV and not your depression. Who knew distractions were so handy?
Secondly, people with depression tend to experience drops in adrenaline, and popping in a good horror film provides a fast way to get those adrenal glands pumping. Once the 'scare' passes, serotonin rushes in to fill the adrenaline gap, giving a depressed person a needed rush of 'happy.'
One of the more obvious physiological benefits to watching horror movies actually stems from a common complaint about the genre itself. People have long worried if horror warps impressionable minds, creates psychos, and glorifies violence. But to many people, these films serve as an outlet to help cut back on aggressive behavior. Unless someone is already a violent, sociopathic, cannibal to begin with, watching a movie isn’t going to magically morph them into Hannibal Lecter. To quote Scream, "Movies don't create psychos, movies make psychos more creative."
Like exercise, horror films can be as mentally and physically rewarding. Both offer a way for the mind to release stress, frustrations, and perhaps even some thoughts of violence. Anyone who has ever plowed their fists into a punching bag while picturing the face of an ex understands this concept.