We have all seen the horror movie advertisements that say that your blood will curdle from fear if you watch this movie. The bloodcurdling claim is usually left for the most gruesome and gory movies of the genre, but watching a horror movie can’t do that, can it? A new study now shows that bloodcurdling does occur in people who watch movies in the horror genre.
Researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands have published a study in the British Medical Journal in which researchers analyzed blood samples taken from individuals directly after they finished watching a horror movie. For a control group, blood samples were also taken after individuals finished watching a documentary about the wine industry in France. Apparently, the Dutch researchers considered this as the opposite end of the spectrum when compared to horror movies. During the blood analysis, the research group discovered that blood from those that watched a horror movie had higher amounts of protein factor VIII, the protein responsible for blood clotting.
The horror movie study was led by Banne Nemeth and Luuk Scheres, both doctors that specialize in blood clots. They were drawn to do the study due to the nature of the field they work in and the fact that the term for bloodcurdling fear can be found in many languages across the globe. They wanted to find out if there was any scientific rationale for the term. Dr. Banne Nemeth commented on what his hypothesis was for this study.
“When you experience fear, things begin to happen in your body. It becomes activated, adrenaline gets released, and your fight or flight response is triggered. So we thought it would be interesting to explore whether this phrase is really true.”
The horror movie study saw 24 people who were deemed to have no health issues. The participants were invited to the university where they sat in a makeshift theater setting. Half of the group watched the horror movie Insidious while the other half watched the documentary A Year In Champagne. A week later, the two groups switched and watched the other movie. Blood samples were taken from the participants 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after their respective movie was seen.
When analyzing the results, the doctors saw that the blood drawn after the viewing of Insidious had increased levels of protein factor VIII along with other blood clotting complexes such as thrombin-antithrombin.
Why was Insidious chosen as the horror movie used in the bloodcurdling study? Nemeth explained that it was chosen based on the fact that the movie did not ebb and flow with build-ups to scares. Nemeth said that Insidious is scary throughout its entirety. In an interesting twist, one participant fainted during the blood draw after watching the documentary but did not pass out after viewing the horror movie.
This study was not the first to try and determine if there was a link between fear and physiological bodily functions. Other studies performed have shown a definitive link between a person’s increased ability for blood clotting while they are exposed to a situation that induces fear or anxiety. These studies have put people in physical situations such as bungee jumping, skydiving, and riding roller coasters. The horror movie study is the first study done in which the people participating did not have to exert themselves physically.
Is there an evolutionary benefit to increased blood clotting ability and being exposed to fear? Nameth believes there is.
“We think that from an evolutionary perspective it is actually a good thing to clot a bit faster if you experience fear. Fearful situations often come together with trauma or injury. So from this evolutionary perspective it would be good to prepare your body for blood loss.”
Does this study prove that bloodcurdling is real when watching a horror movie? What movie would you have chosen for this study as the scariest horror movie ever made?
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