Halloween: What Makes The Viewer Thirst for FearOpinion
SAN ANGELO, TX -It is the eve of Halloween, and many people are out and about dressed up in their favorite costumes, and/or sitting down watching their favorite seasonal movies and TV shows. The feeling of fear and suspense is something viewers hope to experience from watching the horror genre.
Have you ever wondered why everyone seeks the thrill of fear these days?
Mark D. Griffiths, Ph.D. referenced this concept in an article, referring to a quote by Dr. Jeffery Goldstein: “You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you. That's certainly true of people who go to entertainment products like horror films that have big effects. They want those effects… [Horror films must] provide a just resolution in the end.”
The article goes on to say that watching bad guys in movies, or TV shows performing overly graphic actions do create disturbing images for the viewer. Goldstein noted, “People have the ability to pay attention as much or as little as they care to in order to control what effect it has on them, emotionally and otherwise."
To associate this concept with a recent viral event, AMC’s The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere opened last weekend with some extremely graphic content. Though some viewers may have been inclined to turn off the episode during this time, a majority watched on to feel the need of being shocked.
Griffiths referenced the works of Dr. Glenn Walters, Journal of Media Psychology, which states three primary factors that make the horror [genre] alluring. These concepts are tension, relevance, and unrealism.
Regarding The Walking Dead, the content in the episode addressed two of the primary factors in a significant way. Walters explained tension is generated by suspense, mystery, and shock, to name a few examples. The episode shows the new antagonist randomly selecting which member of the main cast would be killed in a highly graphic manner. This produces the feelings of suspense and mystery for the viewer. By not knowing who was about to die, viewers are on the edge of their seats. The director of any dram show would want this effect on their audience as to maintain their loyalty, especially after several seasons.
Walters explained the second primary factor, relevance, happens when viewers have a personal experience related to the content, or the fear of death in general. Though it is unlikely the common viewer would have a connection to being lined up for random execution, the fear of death would address strong feeling throughout the episode.
The third factor described by Walters is unrealism, which creates a feeling of distress. With the show being based upon the survival horror genre, this concept is general knowledge to fans of The Walking Dead. The distress comes in the idea that although the world of zombies may not be real now, the show is realistic enough that we could imagine ourselves in such a situation. Hence, viewers feel a connection to the plight of the characters.
As Halloween approaches, try to find these primary factors in the movies and shows you watch. The sensational feeling of being scared will be furthered enhanced as you understand the psychology behind those graphic moments.
Also, click here to read more from Dr. Griffiths article and dive deeper into these concepts.