Halloween horror: Heart-racing films

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For Halloween horror, the scariest film to get our hearts pulsing is Hereditary, with an average BPM of 115 – a significant jump compared to the average resting heart (60 – 100 BPM). Although released 16 years ago, the first of the iconic horror franchise Saw comes in second (113 BPM), being described by participants as “harrowing” and “disturbing”. The 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist, makes the top 10 (96 BPM). The psychologist Lee Chambers explains why many of us love watching horror films.

Although trick or treating in your neighbourhood might not be happening this Halloween, it seems that many of us are still planning on having a spooktacular time indoors – with searches for “horror films” having risen by 2,750%, according to Google.

But with so many nerve-shredding horror films to binge-watch, which ones will guarantee the most jumps and jolts? Experts in the art of measurement, GIGACalculator.com have now quantified the most frightening flicks that are likely to give people the chills this month.

To do that, GIGACalculator.com asked 150 brave souls to watch each of the selected films for the first time, while wearing a heart rate tracker to monitor their pulse. The films were selected via a survey of 2,542 “gorehounds” who were asked to name the top 10 scariest horror films of all time.

The results
GIGACalculator.com found the most heart-racing horror film is Hereditary, making pulses rise to an average of 115 BPM – a significant jump compared to the average resting heart (60 – 100 BPM). The volunteers reported that although there aren’t too many explicitly terrifying moments in the movie, the pervasively sinister and dark atmosphere of the film proved enough to make hairs stand up throughout! Don’t calm your nerves just yet, because in second place comes Saw. Although released 16 years ago, the first film of the iconic horror franchise raised heart rates to an average 113 BPM. Participants described the torture scenes in the film as “harrowing” and “disturbing”, making them scared of the serial killer Jigsaw even after the movie ended!

The acclaimed Australian film by the female director Jennifer Kent, The Babadook, ranks in third place. In fact, those watching the film experienced an average BPM of 110. This psychological thriller is definitely one that is sure to keep us up at night!

The 1973 horror classic The Exorcist rounds off the top 10. Based on a true story, this film made the heartbeat of brave viewers jump to an average of 96 BPM. Iconic scenes like the possessed 12-year-old girl levitating and spinning her head seem to still shock people to the core!

But why do we like watching horror movies? Inspired by the thrill of terror, GIGACalculator.com asked Lee Chambers, psychologist and wellbeing consultant, to get a better understanding: “As human beings, there are a wide range of reasons we enjoy watching horror films. First, it’s a form of entertainment. Our desire to seek sensations and avoid boredom draw us to a type of movie where something gruesome could happen any minute. There is also the understanding of limits of our own emotions, in the comfort of our own homes or cinema. You can be terrified but still be safe, you can even hide behind the sofa if it’s too much. This emotional regulation activation is powerful, and it allows us to test our fear and anxiety in a controlled environment. Scary movies are also powerful mindfulness devices. You’re unlikely to be worrying about anything else while watching one, and they are a distraction from the monotony of everyday life, creating a novel experience. They are also a tense experience, and we are able to psychologically distance ourselves as we know it is not reality, which gives us the shock sensation without the disgust.”

*Methodology: To achieve the data, GIGACalculator.com surveyed 2,542 horror film fans and asked them to name the top 10 scariest horror films of all time. From the results of the survey, GIGACalculator.com selected the top 10 scariest films and asked 150 volunteers to wear a heart rate tracker whilst watching them for the first time.

GIGACalculator.com was able to reveal and rank the most frightening films based on the ones that made the participants’ heart rate beats per minute (BPM) race at the most times. According to the NHS website, a normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 BPM. The percentage of “horror films” searches, was given by Google Trends on 13/10/2020. 

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