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Horror Films Scare Away the Summer Heat
By Lee Sung-eun  |  oangelx@hanyang.ac.kr
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[8호] 승인 2010.09.01  
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

    A sudden shriek pierces through the dim screens. Blood splatters. Evil spirits brutally attack people, killing them mercilessly with their terrifying tricks. These are the ingredients of horror movies. Nevertheless, the public enjoys screaming their lungs out and sweating through these scenes on a hot summer day. Such a social tendency leads to three intriguing questions. Why are horror films usually released during the summer? Exactly what scares the audience? Despite mental shocks, why do people habitually head towards the theaters just to be scared some more?

Viewers Addicted to the Horror Drug
   Despite the dark side of horror films like its tendency to cultivate violence and induce the risk of heart attacks among viewers, people sacrifice their mental sanity to watch such films. There are reasons other than wanting to be cooled.
   Watching a horror movie is like riding a roller coaster. Despite fear, people ride roller coasters because they experience thrill when overcoming that fear. Similarly, people feel excitement and achievement after seeing scary movies. This can be explained biologically. As people feel fear by watching scary scenes, pain and oppression is applied to the brain and nerves. Such a process triggers the emission of endorphin, which substance has the function to excite the human body. So while seeing spooky scenes, the mind is being stressed whereas the body is feeling upbeat.
   Other than the merit of facing one’s fears and overcoming it by horror movies, the audience also sees horror films as a tool of self expression, according to Yu. Yu said, “People expose their inner repression in the means of horror, and attempt to heal that mental burden by battling through bigger, fiercer horrors of the film. The ancient idiom for this would be fighting fire with fire.”

On-screen Factors Triggering Fear
   Ha Kyung-lim, the marketing manager of The Haunted House Project, a horror movie released on August 19, 2010, said, “The vital purpose of producing a horror film is to make the audience get the chills. So our job is to scare the pants off of the audience as much as possible by using our wicked creativity. We do so by expecting ahead of what the audience does not expect. Experiencing the unforeseen is what shocks the audience.”
   According to Ha and Lim, visionary and auditory effects are what mostly scare the audience. Ha said that regardless of the horror film’s sub-genre, such as monster horror or ghost horror, almost all horror films emphasize blood and dead bodies. This is so because the death scene of the main character plays the most pivotal part in the movie. For this reason, horror film’s makeup team pay extra focus on making fake bodies, also known as “dummies,” as spooky as possible. “By taking our movie for example, we used propane gas and alcohol to make fire in the characters’ death scenes. We also used computer graphic to demonstrate special stunts,” said Ha.
   Sound supervisor of Studio K and sound manager of The Haunted House Project, Lee Seung-yup emphasized sound effect of horror films by saying, “Along with visionary scenes, it is the unexpected sounds that scare people off of their seats. A low sound makes the audience feel nervous for whatever scary scene awaits them. Then when a high pitch pops out, people tend to lose concentration on the screen and literally go nuts. Balancing the distribution of both low and high sounds is very important in a horror film.”


Horror Films Cool Down Human Body
   According to film a critic-and 2005 laureate for The Blue Dragon Awards in movie review, Yu Gina, horror films have been commonly released during the summer season ever since the movie Whispering Corridors made a big hit in 1998. After that, the movie industry has customized horror movies as a summer trend.  “Horror films are most popular among the public during summer because such a genre best satisfies the desire to escape from a sweltering weather, and cool down in the theater. Film producers take advantage of this vogue and release horror films during the summer to make the most profit,” said Yu.
   The bodily temperature decreases when people watch horror films. As the mind senses fear and tension by the scenes, the brain sends warning signals throughout the entire body. As a result, the digestive organs slow in motion and the skin’s blood vessels contract in order to reduce energy release. Muscles contract making people feel shiver and sweat glands are stimulated to emit more sweat. People feel cooled down when this sweat evaporates.
   On the other hand, when the mind senses fear, the body secretes excitatory neurotransmitters (chemicals by which a nerve cell communicates with another nerve cell or with a muscle) like dopamine and adrenalin. Such bodily changes stimulate people to feel excitement, which in turn cools the person from the inside out.

Chill, with a Bite of Horror
   From the thrill of overcoming one’s fear, to the refreshing feeling of releasing one’s agony and anger deep within, horror film lovers may have their own individual reasons for watching such scary movies. But as long as horror films are concentrated in summer, the hope of being cooled and refreshed by the ferocious scenes is going to last. Film producers are continuously going to take advantage of this fashion, and will continue to research for visionary and auditory factors that will blow the audience away.
   As the sun scorches high above the sky, people are finding ways to escape from the hot weather. Why not head towards the box office and buy tickets for a horror movie? The movie will surely sweat down the heat.



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