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The Thrill Of Horror

Why Do We Enjoy Being Scared?

By Source Staff

Fear​ is probably one of the most negative emotions that we experience. Yet, the horror movie industry in Vietnam
is booming. What’s up with that? Why do so many people ​enjoy​ being scared so much that they are actually willing
to pay money to feel it?

Feeling of Euphoria

When we're feeling scared - whether that's in a haunted house, a roller coaster, watching a horror movie, or an
actually dangerous situation - our body's ​fight-or-flight-response​ is being triggered. All at once, we are blasted by a
release of hormones - adrenaline, endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and more. Our body is getting ready to face a
dangerous threat, it prepares us by supplying us with a lot of energy, and shifts the attention away from pain.This is
actually a similar experience to a regular feeling of excitement, but the difference lies in the context. When we're in
real danger, we would focus on the threat itself and probably not notice these euphoric feelings. But if we ​know​ that
we're in a safe environment, like in the cinema, we can actually ​enjoy​ it. That's why people on rollercoasters often
scream, and then burst out ​laughing​ right after.

If we experience a scary situation ​together​ with someone else and we successfully go through it we share a bond
with that person. When we see our friends scream and laugh, the same areas of our brain are activated as if ​we
had laughed ourselves - so it not only intensifies our ​own​ experience, but also makes us feel more ​close​ to
them.​Memories​ from experiences that triggered our fight-or-flight-system are being stored and remembered very
well - so if it was a positive experience, we'll want to keep going back to that euphoric feeling again and again.

The Feeling Afterwards

Of course, like mentioned above, the feeling of ​relief​ afterwards is one of the best parts of a thrilling experience.
During a dangerous situation our heart rate and breathing increases, our muscles tense and we're getting ready to
fight (or run away) - but afterwards, the sense of relief is actually stronger than the stress from before. When
people were interviewed after getting out of a haunted house, they mostly remembered the great feeling afterwards
- and not so much the actual terror inside. When we're watching a horror movie our ​brains​ may know that we're
actually safe - but our ​bodies​ don't. So the danger ​feels​ real to us - and the feeling of relief and accomplishment
feels ​real​ too. It's a boost for our self-esteem, having completed a challenge and overcoming our fears!

Why do Vietnamese kids love ​watching horror films?

There is no doubt about it, Vietnamese teens love to challenge their friends and classmates to try and watch the
scariest movies on YouTube. Every time, it’s just shrieking and peeking through covered eyes — but they can’t
stop watching.

One obvious explanation why it seems Vietnamese kids, in particular, love watching scary films is that we live in​ a
culture that believes in the supernatural.​ We grew up listening to mysterious stories shared by our parents and
grandparents about our ancestral spirits and their haunting antics, and each year our families set plates of offerings
for them. Not only do many vietnamese kids accept that ​ghosts exist, but also that they often cannot break their
connection with the living world until their deaths are avenged.

Internet accessibility is another factor which has likely contributed to the surge in popularity. Until very recently,
strict rules and regulations enforced by government censors have made it very difficult for local filmmakers to make
horror films at all. Saigon born writer/director Derek Nguyen, explains why he had such a difficult time with censors
before finally being allowed to release his 2018 horror film, “The Housemaid”.

“In Vietnam, you’re not allowed to actually have ghosts in a film. I asked why, and the explanation I got was that it
might incite panic and havoc in the countryside. Apparently, that was also the issue in China. But interestingly
enough, they have been pretty relaxed recently about this particular regulation, and now my film is considered the
first Vietnamese film that has a ghost in it,” said Nguyen.

The fact that the government believes ghost films could possibly “incite panic and havoc” says a lot about how
deeply rooted Vietnamese culture is with the supernatural, and the lengths to which the government is willing to go
to prevent that relationship from turning “scary”. And it also explains why there may be so much excitement in
watching horror films by kids looking for answers, cheap thrills and the forbidden, all with an internet connection at
their fingertips. Let’s just hope these kids are living in the countryside.

Not ​everybody​ loves it, though...

Keep in mind some people love the thrill more than others. Scientists estimate that about 1/3 of the population
actively seeks horror/thrill/being scared, while 1/3 actively avoids it and would never voluntarily get themselves in
such a situation. The rest of the people are just in between - they do enjoy thrill from time to time, but probably
wouldn't actively look for it.

Are ​you​ someone that enjoys the thrill of getting scared?