The horror genre has displayed remarkable durability and appeal, from Hammer Horror films to the latest Stephen King novel. One of the goals of a horror writer or producer is to induce fear in their audience, which prompts the question: Why do we like to get scared?
The thrill of not knowing what is going to happen
If you watch a feel-good film, you pretty much know that nothing too bad is going to happen to the characters and that the film will conclude with a happy ending. That's not the case with a horror film. A character that you have invested in may suddenly be eaten by a werewolf or stabbed to death in a shower. Maybe there is still a tendency for the main character to prevail against all the odds, but at least there's the possibility that he or she may suffer horribly along the way.
If you've ever walked through a graveyard or a park on a foggy night, you will probably appreciate that eeriness and a fear of the unknown can cause a sudden adrenalin rush. This is the body preparing itself for a fight-or-flight response to a possibly dangerous situation. Even though it may feel like a bad experience, and something you want to get out of as quickly as possible, there is also a positive feeling of vitality that comes from being scared. The ability to appreciate both negative and positive emotions lies behind a lot of the appeal of the horror genre.
A shared dare between friends
Many people have experienced a situation where a group of friends dare each other to do something that may not be wholly pleasant. An example of this is friends going out to eat curry and daring each other to pick the hottest dish or to eat raw chilies. Choosing to watch the latest horror gore-fest is the film equivalent of this. There may be trepidation over how scary it's going to get, but you don't want to be the one in your group who runs screaming from the theater.
Horror as a form of rebellion
An interest in horror novels or films is often formed during adolescence; a factor in its adoption as a favored genre will often stem from the disapproval that emanates from parents and other authority figures. The more parents, politicians or religious groups rail against the immorality of violent stories, the more attractive they will become to teens.