Why We Laugh at Scary Movies

By Allison Johnson
Blog Content Contributor

Last week I went to the movies to watch It. I have never read the book, nor seen the original film from start to finish. As someone who was going into this movie without the memories of night terrors from Pennywise as a child, I was hoping this movie would scare me the same way my first horror movie did. I loved the film, and the cast was adorable and so talented, but I did not find it scary. So many people did, though, that I am starting to believe I am immune to jump scares now. I sat through the entire movie hoping something would make me scream.

Let’s backtrack to 2004. Remember the “scary maze game”? Yeah, well, I was one of the seven-year-olds that was too scared to walk past a computer screen for nearly a year after playing it. When the little girl from The Exorcist popped up on the computer screen after I got through the maze I nearly had a heart attack. It was not a pleasant sight. For many nights, I just kept imagining her face over and over.

laughing at scary movies 1
The way we treat scary movies in social situations may change how we respond to them. Photo by Lucero Trevino.

Now fast forward to eighth grade. My sisters and I have some dark humor, and maybe that has something to do with how I react to scary movies now. We would watch The Exorcist and fast forward to our favorite parts that we found funny. “Is she really throwing up pea soup?” we would ask my mom. We would even sing “My neck, my back” during the infamous neck spin scene. The whole movie just became silly to us. Somehow it is one of the most quotable movies to us. “I cast you out unclean spirit!” I say to my phone when an old flame texts me.

I thought it was weird that I could laugh at scary stuff, but cry so easily at rom-coms and war themed movies. Turns out, the ‘COMT’ gene affects a chemical in the brain that is linked to anxiety. People who have two copies of one version of the gene are more easily disturbed when viewing unpleasant pictures, scientists discovered. I guess I have just the one COMT gene–but I’m not sure. Like I said, if you were to set me in front of a screen and play A Walk to Remember or Hacksaw Ridge, I am going to go ahead and prepare some tea to soothe my throat from some post nasal drip. Gross, but that’s what happens when you hold back tears and snot during a movie.

If you don’t cry during sad movies, I think you’re a complete psycho, but if you laugh during horror movies, let’s be best friends.

Featured image by Lucero Trevino.

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