The history of cinema is full of unashamedly bloody films, and they’re far from a niche interest: just look at the success of the Saw franchise. So if there’s something wrong with you, there’s something wrong with millions of other people, too.
The appeal of gory films lies in their ability to provoke visceral shock and excitement. Of course, not everyone gets a buzz from them: studies have shown that those who enjoy watching gore are more likely to score lower on empathy and higher on a personality trait known as ‘sensation seeking’.
Brain imaging research by psychologists at the University of Jena in Germany has shown that sensation-seekers (such people also often enjoy fairground rides and dangerous sports) tend to have lower than usual neural activity levels when watching mild films, yet their brains are extra responsive to frightening or violent scenes, providing the stimulation that they crave.
One other thing: you didn’t mention if you watch these movies on your own or with others. If you enjoy cuddling up on the sofa with your partner while watching, another possibility is that you love scary films because of the way they bring you closer together – what psychologists in the 1980s called the ‘snuggle theory’.
- Why do some people love horror films?
- Can being scared really turn hair white?
- Why do we gasp when we are scared?
- Why are clowns so scary?
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.