The 'dark factor' - Deepstash

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Trick or treat: The psychology of Halloween and horror movies

The 'dark factor'

A love of horror movies is associated with an underlying dimension of entertainment preferences, dubbed "the dark factor".

Those with dark tastes value intensity, edginess and rebellion. Their personalities lean towards risk-taking, antagonism, imagination, and tough-mindedness.

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Why some people savor scary movies, and others hate them
Why some people savor scary movies, and others hate them
  • The Excitation Transfer Process. How you feel AFTER the movie.  When watching frightening films, the heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increases. After the film, the physiological arousal lingers. If you had fun with friends, these positive emotions are intensified. If you did not enjoy the company, negative feelings are intensified.
  • People are wired differently. About 10 percent of the population enjoys the adrenaline rush.
  • Novelty. Everyone pays attention to anomalies in our environment.
  • Gender Socialization. Men often like [scary films] as date movies because women are more likely to seek physical closeness when they’re scared, and men can show off their strength and bravery.
  • Some people enjoy the adrenaline rush of being scared while being safe.
The Horror Movie

Horror is a genre that has a reputation of being a low, somewhat trashy, titillating genre that appeals to our basest instincts. 
"Its also a wonderful, popular art form through which very complex ideas and creative techniques can manifest themselves—and if you can get past that very cliched view, you realize there’s an embarrassment of riches in the genre.” Malcolm Turney

For a work to be classified as horror...

... it has to have a monster, which has to be threatening in some way. The monster is often otherworldly or violates the laws of nature, as in Alien or Jaws—but some argue that a human character can be a monster, as in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and Halloween.

The monster generally is otherworldly or violates the laws of nature and is designed to elicit disgust as an emotion.

"The beast within"

This is the most popular theory explaining the genre’s popularity and it argues that an unconscious, repressed part of every human is actually savage; that the veneer of civility is very thin, and beneath that is essentially a monster.

Although we consciously disapprove of what the monster is doing, deep down part of us enjoys seeing the murder and mayhem the monster unleashes—because if we could, we would do that.

Ancient Origins of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in the area that is now Ireland.  On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.

All Saints' Day
  • On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
  • The influence of Christianity spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It was probably done to replace the Celtic festival.
  • All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas, and eventually, Halloween.
Halloween Comes to America

The celebration of Halloween was limited in colonial New England, but as the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups and the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with Irish immigrants, fleeing the Irish Potato Famine. This helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally.