California Prof Breaks Down Horror Movie Appeal

Just in time for Halloween, Stuart Fischoff, emeritus professor of media psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, has put together a treatise on why some people are more attracted to scary movies.

It’s complicated. Depending on a person’s lifestyle, age, gender, personality, heredity and physiology, they may or may not choose to fork out premium first-weekend movie bucks. Fischoff found that older people prefer “haunted, existentially pained monsters” and that the way people behave in the movie darkness depends partly on who the make-up of those they brought along:

My students did several small samples on how the sexes behave in theaters while watching horror movies with the same or opposite sex. Males show more bravery and females more fear than they do when watching with the same sex. This is classic exaggerated and stereotyped gender role playing. It can also be viewed as a chance to enact tribal rituals and rites.

Maybe Fischoff’s next project should be sampling the horror known as dealing with high-priced concession stands. The fright factor there seems to be more universal and generally unaffected by a person’s individual means.