The Benefits of True Crime and Horror Movies
A true crime obsession might have a positive impact on coping skills.
Posted July 29, 2021 | Reviewed by Kaja Perina
- The True Crime Genre has the potential to help prepare you for anxiety-provoking situations.
- Your interest in horror movies might be your brain trying to cope with current or past anxiety.
- The adrenaline of a fright-night marathon can temporarily increase your metabolism.
Do you already know how to dispose of a pesky dead body? Would you ace surviving a zombie apocalypse? Is an evening of true crime and a bottle of wine your ideal evening?
- “Prepper” films that imagine surviving an end of the word scenario -- no matter how unlikely -- have been linked to a greater ability to prepare for unlikely events, and higher levels of resiliency, or the ability to bounce back when things go wrong. Aliens? Zombies? Natural disaster? No problem!
- Horror films help you prepare a plan and practice coping skills that can translate to real-life survival tips. A recent study conducted during Covid-19 found that fans of fright reported better mental health during the pandemic. Over time, exposure to frightening experiences or gruesome bloodbaths tends to have less of an effect, which translates into the person being less reactive when faced with something frightening in the real world. Like a global pandemic, perhaps.
- A good horror film can give your heart quite a jolt! But, this jolt might help your blood pressure. When you’re watching a scary flick, your systolic blood pressure increases significantly in people who tend to be more fearful. Controlled increases in systolic blood pressure increase flexibility in your arteries, which is a good thing! As we age, our large arteries stiffen due to the long-term build up of plaque, which contributes to the likelihood of heart disease. But for horror fans, short bursts of systolic blood pressure is akin to stretching your muscles before and after exercise. These small movements (or moments!) may exercise your arteries and keep your heart healthy as you age.
- A fright night movie marathon is the easiest workout ever! Fear causes your body to release adrenaline. This sets up a chain of events that results in an increase in heart rate and oxygen intake -- which is exactly what happens when you go for a long walk, or a brisk run. If you prefer being a couch potato to being a gym rat, watch some scary movies and credit yourself with a solid workout.
- Your brain works more efficiently when you hang out with the things that go bump in the night! Some people avoid death and dismemberment as if it’s a bad thing. But, the truth is, frequent exposure to the stuff that nightmares (and horror movies!) are made of, actually changes the way your brain processes information. The human brain is designed to keep us alive in the face of the threat. Perhaps you have heard of the “fight or flight” response? In neurological terms, when you encounter something that threatens your survival, like a big scary werewolf, your brain releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes the release of adrenaline, which in turn makes you a better fighter or a faster runner. Cortisol also increases your fear memory. And fear memory helps us avoid harmful things in the future. On the downside, this contributes to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On the upside, this increases our odds of survival the next time we come across a big scary werewolf.
- For fans of horror films or the true crime genre, the neural pathways in the brain appear to change over time. Specifically, the brain develops neural pathways that function as a shortcut in between the visual reaction (ick or yuck) and the emotional reaction (fear or fright), and the active parts of the brain that kick you into action and preparation. Technically, this shortcut makes horror fans more likely to survive the next zombie apocalypse.
No need to feel guilty about your interest in morbid events of the past. Remember, you're actually teaching your brain to think differently, which means you are actively learning a new skill. And, according to several studies, possibly lessening the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's Disease.
Coltan Scrivner, John A. Johnson, Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen, Mathias Clasen,
Pandemic practice: Horror fans and morbidly curious individuals are more psychologically resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic,
Fear: A Psychophysiological Study of Horror Film Viewing M. Adam Palmer Texas State University-San Marcos
Jensen J, Ruge T, Lai YC, Svensson MK, Eriksson JW. Effects of adrenaline on whole-body glucose metabolism and insulin-mediated regulation of glycogen synthase and PKB phosphorylation in human skeletal muscle. Metabolism. 2011 Feb;60(2):215-26. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2009.12.028. Epub 2010 Feb 12. PMID: 20153492.