20 July 2020

The Back Page: Horror film fans cope better with COVID

The Back Page

If putting your feet up and watching people getting eaten alive on The Walking Dead is your idea of a fun Saturday night, you’re probably handling the pandemic – I mean the breakdown of society as we know it – rather well, a non-peer-reviewed paper suggests.

The study, “Pandemic Practice: Horror Fans and Morbidly Curious Individuals Are More Psychologically Resilient During the COVID-19 Pandemic” was posted to the preprint server PsyArXiv on 30 June.

It found that people who watched a lot of horror movies were more psychologically prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic than their peers.

The theory goes that watching catastrophes unfold in safe environment like a cinema prepares you psychologically for the real thing.

“Though lumbering, flesh-hungry zombies do not exist and thus represent no real threat to humans, situations that present themselves in zombie movies may be analogous to situations that would occur in real-world events,” said the researchers from the University of Chicago and Pennsylvania State University in the US and Aarhus University in Denmark.

(I mean, when you think about the toilet paper hoarding, wild conspiracy theories, abandoned pubs, and fear of other people… COVID doesn’t seem too far away from a zombie film.)

I find horror movies scary – even the gifs are scary! – so here’s some dope moves from Thriller instead

The researchers had around 300 people in the US fill out questionnaires about their movie-watching habits and their feelings about the pandemic.

People who were fans of zombie, post-apocalyptic, and alien-invasion films were significantly less psychologically distressed by the 2020 pandemic than fans of comedy or romance movies.

People in the study were also asked to fill out the“Morbid Curiosity Scale” to measure their interest in blood, guts and all things gory.

Those people who scored high for morbid curiosity were much more resilient during the pandemic, the researchers found.

I guess this study helps explain why people are turning to the 2011 thriller Contagion for answers about how dark the future might get…

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