The Psychological Effect of Horror Movies on Our Mind - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1904 Words
Date:  2022-10-24


The film industry has significantly grown in the last one century. Different genres have been developed to attract viewers. Horror movies are one of the main types that have considerably attracted millions of viewers. Distinct films exert varying effects on the viewers. While some movies such as comedy excite the viewers making them happy, horror movies are meant to trigger fear and anxiety among other several psychological responses. This paper will discuss the psychological effects of horror movies on the mind based on primary data from Halloween 1978 and 2018 movies.

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Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018)

To complete this research paper, I watched both Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018) horror movies. In Halloween 1978, a character named Michael who is six years old stabs his sister in 1963 Halloween night. Fifteen years later on 30th October, he escapes on the day he was to appear in court. He goes home and kills his mechanic, takes his overall and subsequently steals a knife, mask and a rope. On the following day which was on Halloween, Michael stalks a high school girl called Laurie Strode. She expresses her concern that there is someone following her but her two friends called Annie Brackett, and Lynda Van Der Klok dismisses her concerns. Annie's father was a sheriff and together with Loomis who was Michael's psychiatrist looks for him in the streets and at his home. The search did not yield any fruits as Michael kills Anne by strangling her and then slitting her throat. He later kills Bob by stabbing him. After killing Bob, Michael poses as Bob in ghost costumes and approaches Lynda who was Bob's girlfriend. A moment of tension occurs as Lynda teases him thinking it was Bob. Michael strangles her using telephone wire. When Laurie goes to check on Lynda, Michael slashes his arm, and a fight ensues as they attack each other using any available object. Loomis appears and shoots Michael several times. After Michael falls from the balcony, they go to check on his body but find its missing. At night, Michael's breathing is heard meaning he is still around and ready to make more killings. Halloween 2018 had a similar plot as the Halloween 1978 with several episodes of murder. The main significance aspect between these two movies is that while I watched Halloween 1978 when I was a child, I recently watched Halloween 2018 as an adult. The two films exerted different psychological differences mainly owing to the varying exposure ages.

Effects on Beliefs and Attitudes

After watching the two horror movies of Halloween, I realized that more psychological impacts were seen in childhood experience than in adulthood experience. Researchers have confirmed this notion by ascertaining that children and adults are affected differently after exposure to scary TV programs (Singh (5). The effects of watching movies in children are different from what is experienced in adults since the children have a lower understanding and interpretation of the film. According to the study conducted Singh (5), horror movies have effects on the attitudes and beliefs as well as psychological effects on the child. He sampled 100 children who were exposed to scary movies for a different length of time. Data from the children was subsequently collected using structured questionnaires. The results showed that watching the film have effects on the psychological aspects of the children especially on the children who had an extensive time of exposure. The effects of the movies in mind remain for a considerable time extending up to 3 months. About 95% of the children said they could not watch horror movies at night (Singh 6). The main reason was inclined to the fear that ghosts might appear resulting from the belief that ghosts are real where 97% of the children believed in ghosts after watching the movies. I encountered the same experience when I watched Halloween 1978. I believed someone called Michael really existed and could kill people in the street. The main reason leading to the beliefs and attitudes toward ghosts was due to the fear created after watching the movies.

Fear and Anxiety

After watching the Halloween movie, I expressed anxiety and fear through various means. I remember trembling, shaking, sweating and having an increased heartbeat. Scurry movies are known to cause these two aspects. Although the two occurrences are confused, they are entirely different aspects. Fear and anxiety have similarity in that they both prepare the body to respond to external threats. While anxiety is inclined towards a response to unknown danger and in some cases response to internal conflicts, fear is in response to a known and identified threat (Steimer 233).

While watching horror movies, different scenes exert different outcomes such as fear or anxiety depending on what is displayed. While I was watching Halloween movies, I experienced the two in various stages. Anxiety was expressed in scenes where the killer was in the vicinity of the target, but the targets were not aware. In this case, there is uncertainty in that the viewer does not know what the killer might do but knows there is a presence of danger since the character is a known killer. Movie makers have exploited the aspect of creating suspense and anxiety to keep the viewers glued to the screen with anticipation of what will happen next. The presence of horrifying sounds in the movies also created anxiety. The films incorporate the sound in anticipated but unknown danger. Fear in Halloween movie was also evident as I watched some scenes. Most fears occurred when the killer approached and initiated violent killing. In this case, it is evident that death will occur. Both fear and anxiety are two aspects created in horror movies; however, their effects can be either positive or negative.

Development of Phobias

Development of specific phobia can also arise in connection to horror movies. Phobias refer to extreme fears toward particular triggers. A person with a certain phobia will express the fear even when there is no real danger. Horror movies are known to cause phobias in relation to what is causing the fear. Fear of darkness is one of the aspects connected to phobia in horror movies. In regard to darkness, night phobia is a possibility, especially in children. While not all violent scenes in the horror movies are connected to darkness since some of the acts are done in light, darkness increases development of fear of the unknown. With constant thoughts and memory of the scenes in the horror movies, a person will most likely prefer staying in the light where he/she can see everything in the surrounding. Children are more affected than the adults owing to their age and understanding of the surrounding. According to the study conducted by Singh (7), about 89% of the research subjects developed a fear of darkness and did not want to go out during the night. Children prefer to sleep when lights are on. In my case, after watching Halloween 1978 and 2018, the difference was notable. Although I did not develop dark phobia after watching Halloween 2018, I developed considerable phobia after watching Halloween 1978 probably because of the age difference. This observation confirms that the development of dark phobia is more prevalent in children than in adults.


Fear and anxiety are associated with psychological trauma that causes sleeplessness. According to the research conducted by Singh (7), 35% of the individuals exposed to scary TV programs did not sleep well. Researchers have classified a lack of sleep as a mental disorder (Krystal 1389). In this case, it means that by causing fear and anxiety, horror movies directly contribute to the development of a mental disorder. While I watched Halloween 1978 as a child, I experienced several nights of sleeplessness and nightmares all connected to the mental disturbance of horrifying acts in the movie. The memories of the disturbing scenes from the film are connected to heightened alertness and psychological disturbance (Johnson et al. 562). Sleeplessness occurs as one of the immediate psychological impacts after watching the movies. The effects may last for several days to weeks depending on how long the affected person remembers the horrifying scenes (Singh 6). Although lack of sleep might be harmless in the first few occurrences, repeated lack of sleep might lead to chronic insomnia that in turn lead to more severe psychological effects such as depression and on the physical health including respiratory problems (Hungin & Helen 319). From my experience after watching the Halloween movie, I experienced a few days of disrupted sleep. The effects were more pronounced in my ten years old nephew who we watched Halloween 2018 together than what I experienced. The impact was seen even after a few weeks have passed since we watched the movie. The same case happened to me when I watched the Halloween 1978 as a child. Although my sleep disruption was not concurrent on each day, I lost sleep each time the thoughts of violent movie scenes came into my mind.

Horror Movies in Treatment of Anxiety

Although most researches have concentrated on the adverse effects of horror movies, some benefits of watching scary films have been reported. Some people have indicated that horror movies can be used to cure anxiety disorder. According to Dr. Patricia Grisafi explanation, anxiety can interfere with someone's daily activities, but watching horror movies and bringing their memories while in the middle of the panic effect created by the horror movies is useful in that it trains the brain in dealing with real worries in the context of the worriers created by the film. The person watching the movie knows that there is a worry, but it is not immediate. Just like the forgetting and healing from the panic, the mind is triggered to believe that the real psychological problem will be overcome. The principle behind this occurrence lies in the functions of the nervous system. The tolerance and sensitivity of the nervous system vary in different people, and thus they are affected differently. Individuals with a sensitive nervous system have difficulties in dealing with real-world situations but watching horror movies assists a sensitive nervous system to be acquiescent with the daily challenges in life (Grisafi). Although my nervous system is relatively stable, I observed that thinking about small worries in life while at the middle of panic mode created by watching Halloween 2018 movie made my mind more focused with subsequently reduced worries of daily life challenges.

Impacting Positive Growth

Horror movies are also thought to be useful in impacting positive growth in children and adolescent. According to Terr and Derdeyn (165), some horror movies are beneficial to individual watching them. He concluded this assumption after watching a 13 years old boy during psychotherapy. The boy was preoccupied with horror films. The movies work similarly as the bedtime stories and by allowing the affected individual deal with their problems makes them more adapted to solving the problems with ease. Horror movies are associated not only with adverse behavioral changes but also on the positive changes. They have been associated with desensitization from violent behaviors. They have also been associated with improved moral aspects in society. Children grow to associate some acts as immoral. For example, they associate bloody scenes of underage sex as inappropriate. In the Halloween 1978, Bob and Lynda were killed after just having sex. A child watching the movie is likely to associate sex with punishment. At the same time, they will associate killing as an act punishable by law especially when the victim is caught at the end. In Halloween movies, the victims were not caught, but the simple act of the search of perpetrators by...

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