Horror movies fascinate us. They allow us to enter narratives in which everything is possible, where we can fulfill our desire to get our blood pumping with a creepy nun, a children's toy that gets possessed by a serial killer or a ghost that's camera-shy. We love those experiences.
The thing is, there's a whole lot more that we don't realize about horror movies, either from their creation or their cultural and even sometimes physical impact. Seeing how Halloween is finally here, I've compiled a list of fun facts that I bet you never knew:
1. Forget The Gym! Lose Weight With Horror Films
For all of you who want to lose wait without pesky workout routines, here's an alternative: Watch a horror film. Scientists at the University of Westminster conducted a small study with 10 individuals by having them watch different horror movies. It turned out that the scary experiences made each participant lose a significant amount of calories. Here are how many calories each movie burned on average:
- The Shining (1980) = 184 calories
- Jaws (1975) = 161 calories
- The Exorcist (1973) = 158 calories
- Alien (1979) = 152 calories
- Saw (2004) = 133 calories
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) = 118 calories
- Paranormal Activity (2009) = 111 calories
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) = 107 calories
- The Blair Witch Project (1999) = 105 calories
- [Rec] (2007) = 101 calories
As you can see, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining takes the cake as the best calorie burner. In case you're curious to know why this happens, a metabolism specialist for the University of Westminster, Richard Mackenzie, gave this explanation:
"It is the release of fast-acting adrenaline, produced during short bursts of intense stress, or in this case, fear, which is known to lower the appetite, increase the basal metabolic rate and ultimately burn a higher level of calories."
On average, each participant burned 113 through 90 minutes of horror-movie-watching. To help you make up your mind on whether that's enough to replace a harder workout routine, that's more or less what you'd burn with a 30-minute walk.
2. One Of The First Horror Movies Was Unintentional
The Haunted Castle came out in 1896. The plot deals with two cavaliers (you'd know them as knights) who come face-to-face with a malevolent entity in a castle. The movie is considered one of the, if not the first, horror movies. The funny thing is that it wasn't initially intended to be that.
The director, George Méliès, set out to make a funny film. But, given the circumstances and the themes explored in the story, it was considered a scary movie by audiences...at least the 1800s version of one. While watching it, I got chills. It's easy to why it's known first and foremost as a horror movie, even though the director was trying to create a fun experience for the public.
3. "Horror" Wasn't Used To Describe The Genre Until The 1930s
It's natural for us now to call any kind of scary movie, whether it's about killer animals or ghosts, a "horror movie." The thing is, the term "horror" wasn't used to describe the new genre until the 1930s.
Throughout the 1920s, movies like The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame were early influences on the genre. However, they weren't considered "horror movies." It wasn't until the '30s, with Universal Pictures' release of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) that the label began to be applied.
4. There Are 13 Different Horror Subgenres
With thousands of horror movies out there, several recognized subgenres exist for the different types of stories that can be told in the horror genre. There are 13 in total:
1. Splatter: Movies in this subgenre depend completely on their graphic violence and gore. Keep in mind they're different from "slasher films," which deal with a killer on the loose.
- Examples: Saw, Hostel
2. Body Horror: These deliver horror through any sort of body disfigurement, such as mutilation and deformities.
- Examples: VHS, The Fly, Silent Hill
3. Holiday Horror: Have you ever had a nightmare of Santa Claus chasing you around your house, knife in hand, threatening to kill you? Yeah... me, either. Anyway, these movies deal with holiday-themed killers or entities, haunting people during said holiday (usually Christmas).
- Examples: Krampus, Gremlins, Silent Night, Deadly Night
4. Science fiction Horror: This genre deals with the deeper side of of our imagination: Science-created monsters and aliens.
- Examples: Apollo 18, Alien, Resident Evil
5. Slasher Horror: This is all about dealing with a killer running around on the loose, picking their victims off one by one, usually in very gruesome ways.
- Examples: Scream, Halloween, You're Next, Stepfather
6. Action Horror: These fuse the typical horror elements with a more action-oriented narrative. They rely more on cool action scenes rather than the common jump scare.
- Examples: Resident Evil, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
7. Psychological Horror: These movies focus on the mind of their characters and their mental conflicts, with ghosts and monsters only adding to the tension. Sometimes, there aren't even monsters at all and the conflict is entirely mental.
- Examples: The Gift, The Visit
8. Comedy Horror: As the name implies, this subgenre mixes comedy and horror. However, there are different levels. It could be a horror movie that slightly touches upon comedic elements, such as Teeth (if you don't want to be scarred for life, don't watch this movie), or one that goes into complete "spoof" mode, such as the Scary Movie series.
- Examples: Shaun of the Dead, Army of Darkness, Zombieland, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
9. Gothic Horror: These movies have a much more mysterious and atmospheric and rely on more disturbing imagery than on jump scares and gore. They often utilize themes set in place by the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s.
- Examples: Nosferatu, The Phantom of the Opera, Crimson Peak, The Woman in Black
10. Natural Horror: These movies have creatures of nature, such as plants and animals, as their primary source for scariness.
- Examples: The Happening, Jaws, Piranha 3D
11. Zombie Horror: I'm confident in saying most of us are familiar with what this subgenre deals with: Brain-eating walkers, the undead, or whatever else you want to call them.
- Examples: Dawn of the Dead, World War Z, 28 Days Later
12. Horror Drama: Focuses on characters dealing with deep emotional struggles; those in turn create an eerie atmosphere that's complimented by a paranormal conflict. It often overlaps with psychological horror.
- Examples: The Babadook, Let the Right One In, Lights Out
13. Supernatural Horror: I've found this type of movies to be very open about showing their main entity. This subgenre is the one we're most familiar with, which includes everything from jump scares to creepy ghosts with their hair in their face.
- Examples: The Grudge, The Ring, Paranormal Activity
Chances are if you're watching a horror movie, it falls into one of those subgenres.
5. A Lot Of Spooky Things Have Happened During Filming For Some Of These Movies
When we're watching a scary movie, it's easy to escape the paranoia by reminding yourself that what you just experienced was a work of fiction. Unfortunately, quite a few behind-the-scenes experiences for these movies have emulated what frightens us so much on the screen.
In Poltergeist 2, there's a scene when the character Diane swims in a pool full of dead bodies. We would never think a production would utilize anything else other than props for that moment. Turns out those were real skeletons the production crew used to save a portion of the budget.
A similar yet scarier situation occurred during production of the remake of The Amityville Horror (2005). The stars apparently went through quite a lot of supernatural experiences behind the cameras, some even violent ones.
We could argue these situations were circumstantial. However, it's not far-fetched to believe weird things can happen when being so close to paranormal environments.
6. They Can Really Get Into Your Head
It's common knowledge that an ill-timed scare can physically harm you, such as provoking a heart attack or fainting, but this is on a whole other level. Professor of the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University, Glenn Sparks (who has spent quite a bit of time studying our reactions to horror movies), revealed that horror movies could have a very big psychological impact on us:
“The brain is wired to treat what it sees as real. It is very difficult to tell the primitive brain to ignore the apparent reality of what it is seeing, and if the images appear to be real and terrifying, the brain tells the body to react accordingly.”
Turns out that a horror movie can even trigger PTSD. President of the Society for Media Psychology and Technology, Bernard Luskin, described the issue like this:
"Since the brain cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, memories that relate to a situation shown in a movie that have elements of a previously traumatic situation can trigger both a physical and psychological response".
Surprisingly enough, watching a horror movie can also affect your behavior. Glenn Sparks had this to say about that:
“Any activity that heightens emotional response, especially in a person with emotional problems, can trigger aftereffects.”
These are very serious problems, and you should be careful when watching a horror movie: Just remind yourself it's on your screen.
7. One Of The Most Famous Horror Movies Is In The Public Domain
It's rare for a very brand or character to be completely up for grabs for anyone who wants it. Yet that's the case for 1925's The Phantom of the Opera. Back in 1953, Universal Pictures was unable to renew the copyright, so it's free for anyone who wants, it, at least in the United States.
The movie is a classic, one which has inspired countless other films and just as many different versions of its own story. The incredible amount of effort put behind it, such as color upgrades, sound insertions, and being considered "culturally significant," make the fact that's it's in the public domain much more interesting.
- 5 Famous Film Sets Which Have Been Haunted By A Series Of Very Terrifying Events
- The 7 Most Terrifying Movie Monster Reveals To Give You Chills For Halloween
- The True Stories of Horror Child Stars: What It's Like To Star In A Movie You're Too Young To See
Horror is a genre that's captivated us for decades and it's fun to learn these trivia facts about it. Now you can show off to all your friends about your recently-acquired horror knowledge.
Have more random horror genre trivia facts? Let me know in the comments!