How horror movies are influencing your mind

Halloween has been and gone, and, as the nights draw ever closer, we felt it was a good time to peel back the label and have a look at how horror movies operate. The reason horror flicks work so well is that they tap into the fears we all possess – pain, loss, the unknown, etc. All the best horror movies combine great atmosphere with a tight script and are genuinely scary. Some people love the rush they get from watching scary movies, or, more accurately, they love being scared.

The reason horrors are scary is that they tap into your brain and access the part based purely on instinct, and they give it a good tug! Even though we know the movie isn’t real, there are parts of it that still scare us regardless. This impact and effect is what makes people enjoy horror flicks so much, and what keeps us coming back for more. So what is the secret behind the way horror films work?

Let’s hear from an expert

Michael Grabowski is a professor of communication at New York’s Manhattan College, and he believes it’s to do with how our brains operate while watching a film. Grabowski opines that when we watch something we “shut down the motor regions of our brain.” He continues, suggesting that the stimuli our brains get from shocking scenes is so powerful that it overrides the inhibitors in our brain. This is one of the reasons why we feel scared when we watch a movie, even though we sometimes don’t want to be.


The term for the way in which the cinematic experience can affect the mind is actually known as neurocinematics. Grabowski, who has a background in filmmaking, is now turning his attention toward researching neurocinematics. Sure, films have been evoking emotional responses in viewers for decades now, and not just horror movies. But, it’s only recently that we have been able to see exactly how the brain is affected and impacted by this. Despite knowing that movies aren’t real, we still feel an emotional connection to them, especially those that are written well.

Similar responses

What sets horror movies apart from one another is that the people who watch them have very similar responses in their brains. It’s this kind of thing that is helping scientists and neurologists figure out what fear actually looks like in the brain. There are also plenty of other responses that occur when we watch certain types of movies, that actually taps into emotion. This will develop even further in the future, and Grabowski reckons we will reach a stage where filmmakers will be able to trigger different kinds of emotions whenever they want.

This is a really fascinating look at how movies, and, in particular, horror movies, can influence your brain and emotions. When we watch a film, it’s important to engage with it, and with the characters, and this generally happens if the movie is good. Horror films use sound and visuals to tap into the primal fear that we all have and keep us scared, not to mention on the edge of our seats. In the future, we might get movies that are tailored exactly to what the filmmakers want us to experience.