Fear FX

Oct 242006
Authors: Kate Dzintars

It buys Stephen King’s dinner. It pays Wes Craven’s mortgage. It catapulted Jason Voorhees, Freddie Krueger and Mike Meyers into infamy.

It’s fear.

Back in the day when we didn’t have aluminum siding and doors to keep the beasties at bay, fear was the instinct that allowed the alert to survive. When faced by a predator, the body tenses and the nervous system gears up – like a rally pepping you up for the big game.

Nowadays we don’t have to worry about animal predators, but we use that natural fight or flight response to entertain us.

“I love scary movies,” said Beth Buczynski, a graduate student in technical communication. “I guess because getting scared and knowing there isn’t any real danger is fun – the fear rush.”

If fear is supposed to help us survive harrowing situations, why do we like making ourselves feel that way on purpose?

It’s the same reason people stand in line for hours for roller coasters, pay people to help them jump out of airplanes and catapult off cliffs to land in snow – adrenaline addiction.

The human body releases the hormone adrenaline in times of high stress or excitement. Watching a scary movie and getting scared makes you feel high when adrenaline and dopamine flood your system.

Halloween would be the perfect occasion to get high with your favorite monster.


Arachnophobia : spiders

Sociophobia : social embarassment

Aerophobia : flying

Agoraphobia : not being able to escape

Claustrophobia : enclosed spaces

Acrophobia : heights

Emetophobia : vomit

Carcinophobia : cancer

Brontophobia : thunderstorms

Necrophobia : death


1930-1950: Early horror films adapted classic characters like vampires and werewolves.

1950-1960: Science fiction flicks where technology goes wrong mirrored the fears at the time of atomic energy.

1960-1970: Zombies and psychological thrillers take over.

1970-1990: The blood, guts and gore slasher flick is born.

1990-Now: Horror spoofs and remakes of Japanese films overshadow any new originals.


Nightmares, and regular dreams, occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.

Scientists hold different theories about what actually happens in our brains during nightmares, but some events seem to cause them like stress, fever, reaction to or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol, sleep disorders and genetics.

Exercise and avoidance of drugs and alcohol can help to prevent nightmares.

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