Recently, the horror community has been set ABLAZE by an article by Broadband Choices. What was the article about you ask? Well it did a study of what the scariest movie of all-time was. The answer, if I was writing some clickbait crap, would BE HIDDEN. But I’ll tell you the answer. It was Sinister (2012). Their data is medically driven. It’s by various stages of heart rate during the film. But I find a pretty significant flaw in this data. Besides the fact that some people might have the same resting heart rate of Ric Flair in his prime, it just doesn’t show what’s truly terrifying. It shows that the film might have some good jump scares. But it doesn’t really scientifically or critically provide an answer.

I’ll try to go over why I think it takes more than a heart rate jump for a movie to be scary. It’ll be a bit of a “history of horror”, but isn’t that what THS’s Fright-A-Thon is all about anyway? We’ve got to fill the time somehow, might as well teach you a thing or two about horror. So we’ll get to the biggest part of why their data might be a bit skewed.

Some Of The Scariest Movies In Existence Don’t Rely On Heart Rate To Scare

Think about a movie like The Exorcist or The Omen. The Exorcist got to number 17 on their list of scariest. The Omen was barely on the list at number 32. It wasn’t a subjective list though, so I can’t blame them for that. But when you’re looking at horror, it takes more than just jump scares. That’s not to say that jump scares are the easiest thing to do. They can be done cheaply, but the best ones are true cinematic tools. They’re used to build and build and then finally release that tension that the audience has. I might be willing to call Uncut Gems a horror movie in this vein. That film allows the tension throughout to build and build and build, but there’s no release. You just leave the theater tense.

A film like Alien allows that tension to build until you think something is going to happen, and then releases it a different way. Then you get the scare when you least expect it. So while some might malign the use of jump scares these days, they are one of the best tools in a filmmaker’s arsenal.

Atmospheric horror is one of my favorite genres. It’s the world of the imagination and not reliant on frightening images flashing in your face. It’s the kind of horror where you see something that isn’t quite right, but you don’t know where to place it. So while that kind of horror won’t have a massive spike in heart rate. It could have a pretty sizeable gap in resting heart rate, which is what the study was looking at.

Most Of The List, Including The Top 10 Is Dominated By Newer Films

So the crowd that likes to spout that horror movies these days aren’t scary, well, this might disprove that a bit. While that might be facetious of me to say, it’s partly true. The horror film of dinosaurs like myself, might not cut it for audiences these days. While I don’t think that’s true, something that scares humans, will always likely be able to scare them. It just scares you in a different way. This goes into the overall question of “what is actually horror?”. Well that’s a question for another time and about another 5000+ words. So we won’t get into that. But it does mean that you can ask a question of, does something scare you if it just makes your heart rate go up?

Well, that I can’t answer for you. Because horror is such an individualistic thing. Something that scares the crap out of me, might not scare you. The Exorcist scared me as a kid and still scares me to this day. Someone could very easily look at that film now, and laugh at the effects and what happens to Regan in that film. Just like something like Paranormal Activity might not scare me, it might scare someone else a lot. (You can read my thoughts on the subgenres of demons, ghosts, and the paranormal here, I am not kind).

At The End Of The Day, It’s Up To You, And That’s The Way We Like It

We watch horror films to build our own adventure. That’s really the distillation of it. There’s something frightening and we want to get put into the action. Well the next best thing aside from jumping into the ring with Jason Voorhees is to watch a movie. So we do. Horror films are the ultimate trip into the psyche of the human being. You get into the deep recesses of their minds, where only the darkest horrors reside. That’s how you get such great creations like Freddy Krueger, Dracula, or Leatherface.

Human beings are intrinsically frightening creations. We do horrible things. We’ve done horrible things. Things to survive, or whatever. So naturally most of these horror creations come from things that humans have done or done to one another. It gives us that look inside that we don’t normally do. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you don’t normally take a deeper look into your own soul. Horror allows us to do that.

So when you’re simply rating how scary a horror movie is, based on the heartrate that an audience spikes, take some time to think. Maybe there’s a bit more to it than just that.

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Source: Broadband Choices