Oh, The Horror!

 What’s the deal with people who like horror? Urban Plains takes a stab at an answer.

I remember when I first got into horror movies. My aunt had decided to put on the Bride of Chucky in an effort to scare me. While I remember being unnerved at the thought of my dolls being possessed by a serial killer who wanted to steal my soul, I also remember feeling…intrigued. The older I got, the more horror movies I consumed and the more passionate I became about the genre. But the question I always got was, why

Horror has been around for ages. What’s Beowulf if not early horror? Same goes for Grimm’s fairy tales. Modern horror launched with the creatures conjured up by H.P. Lovecraft, but only began truly terrifying audiences in 1922. That’s when movies like Nosferatu or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered. And in the silent movie age, visuals like Nosferatu’s bat-like ears played a key role in horrifying audiences. 

Next came sound in 1928. It changed everything, and became essential in horror. Sound and visual cues help build suspense. They also terrify audiences even more, sudden tonal shifts from quiet to loud intensifying every scary happening on screen. And when the Universal Monsters came in the ‘50s, followed by the slashers of the ‘70s, horror soared into the mainstream. A new obsession was born. 

Mason Peterson is one of these obsessed fans. 

Horror enthusiast Mason Peterson attending HorrorHound in Cincinnati, Ohio, photographed with Nosferatu.

“The funny thing is, I can’t recall an exact moment of getting into horror. I kind of just gained consciousness with an immediate passion for horror,” Peterson says. 

He remembers reading R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series as a kid. Later, he started to collect the novels but slowly became more aware of the genre the older he got. 

“[Horror movies] used to scare the crap out of me, so I stuck to reading books,” he says. “But something clicked when I transferred school districts in seventh grade—probably because that’s when my family got access to streaming services like Netflix. I began obsessively watching horror movies and realized that I truly do love everything about it. From the writing, tropes, scare tactics, source material, etc.—I find it neat.” 

Peterson loudly proclaims his love for the genre on an Instagram account under the username @mp_horror. He started the account in 2017, and after college he focused more on his posting, garning a small but passionate following. He posts photos of physical copies of horror movies, his collection of Goosebumps memorabilia, snaps from film festivals, and overviews of his horror movie of the month. He has even gotten the opportunity to review a few indie horror films. He recently attended HorrorHound, the annual horror convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was frequently approached by other fans who gushed about their shared love for the genre. 

Attendees at Cincinnati’s 15th annual horror convention, HorrorHound. 

 “The nice thing about my horror account is that I interact with so many different people from such different worlds, all sharing the same love for such a cool genre,” Peterson says. “I chat with some millennials from the West coast, lots of people from the UK and Germany, and some parents whose spouses don’t love the genre and use their account to chat with like-minds. It has really opened my eyes to how wide-spanning the horror world is and also how small it can be.”

The horror community is something Cameron Buell sees firsthand—both as a fan and a business owner. As the owner of Halftone Horror, an apparel company based out of Ohio, Buell travels across the country to horror conventions to showcase his creepy goodies. 

“In my experience, there is no better community than in horror,” Buell says. “It’s a fun juxtaposition that we often joke about. While horror can be gruesome and uncomfortable, most of the people we’ve met within the community and within the industry have been the nicest, warmest, and most genuine people we’ve ever come across.” 

But communities exist everywhere and most people don’t need to get scared in order to find like-minded individuals. It seems like there’s something deeper as to why people like horror, and Haiyang Yang, a behavioral scientist at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, decided to look into it. 

According to Yang in an article with Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, exposure to these terrifying acts on film “can be stimulating [both] mentally and physically.” People actively wanting to get scared have a psychological “protective frame” that falls into three categories: safety, a protective frame in the form of detachment, and a protective frame in the form of control. Watching horror in a safety frame means the viewer knows they are safe from the fictional dangers on screen. Viewing these films in a detached frame allows an audience to appreciate the film as an art form (the acting, direction, costuming, etc.). Finally, that last category falls in line with exposure therapy. Watching a horror movie can be a form of control, a way to overcome someone’s anxiety. 

Peterson grew up living in the closet, feeling lost and isolated from society. Add autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, and depression to that and it made life his own horror movie—but that’s when he discovered the genre.

  “I used [horror] as a distraction from my real life anxieties of navigating a school life, where one misstep could throw off the whole façade I had going on,” Peterson says. “It was nice to feel fear and anxiety while watching horror that had nothing to do with me. It’s like it pushed my real life to the side and put me in the driver’s seat of a whole different lane. Ever since then,  horror has been a safe space for me. When I’m anxious, I watch horror movie trailers and that has helped prolong my love for the genre.”

It goes beyond the blood and guts displayed on screens. Horror brings people together and acts as a safe space for the outsiders of our world. So, go ahead and put on that horror flick—if you dare. You might find that you like it more than you expect.


  • Victoria Soliz

    As one of the Senior Editors for Urban Plains, I pull from my wide range of experience. From Allrecipes’ recent Editorial Apprentice, YourTango’s Editorial Intern, and my many years of work with Drake Magazine, I’m passionate about the way our words make us feel! I love telling stories. A fun fact about me is that I hope to one day blend my love of storytelling and my love for horror into one as a career one day.

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