Why Do People Like To Watch Serial Killer and Horror Movies?

Ariana Meza Aguilar, Hour 2

Have you ever wondered why horror series or movies about serial killers are so successful, and why so many people like to watch this type of video? If no one likes to be scared, but at the same time people want to be scared just for fun, the question is why did this non-traditional genre dazzle viewers, break box office records, and become among people’s favorites?

When we watch a movie, documentary, or series about serial killers, sometimes we think that we are detectives, and we carry out a little investigation in our minds. Watching these documentaries gives us an adrenaline rush, and makes us feel proud of ourselves for what we have “discovered” as if we had solved it ourselves. However, this is not the case, since the same tape reveals data to us while it tells us the facts. The scientist Baruch Fischhoff calls this event “hindsight bias” a term in psychological error;  it is the belief that we have predicted or discovered something for ourselves, but not actually.

What do we Feel When we See Horror Movies or Documentaries About Murderers?

Lola Dickey, a student at SPASH, asked when what makes these movies interesting to her, to which she responded: “I like the suspense in movies, and also the characterization. It’s terrifying to see, but comforting to know I’m not in danger.” Analyzing her response, I was able to conclude that when we see a horror movie, we consequently feel the adrenaline rush; being scared is one of the reasons why people love watching horror movies, plus we know we are in a safe environment where we know nothing bad will happen to us.

Why do People Romanticize or Idolize Serial Killers?

In general, documentaries about serial killers not only present us with the murderer or psychopath on the scene but also show us their childhood. They focus on the killer but not the victim, so everything revolves around them. In addition, as spectators, we praise certain characteristics of the actors who play these roles, so that the acts are justified through the life story of the murderer. If they looked more into the lives of the victims, the illusions they had, their relationships, and their past and didn’t just focus on the murderer, perhaps people could stop empathizing less with the criminal. Many people forget that these tapes are of murderers, physical and sexual offenders, people who must seem despicable to us.

However, what happens is that they begin to justify their actions, empathize with them and even idolize them through real life and social networks. An example of this is when the series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” came out, many people started talking on the social network TikTok about how “sexy” Evans Petter (the actor who plays Jeffrey Dahmer in this series) looked or even worse, how “sexy” Jeffrey Dahmer looked. There are fan clubs and communities on the Tumblr social network dedicated to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. 

Mrs. Schoenfeld, a teacher at SPASH, said “I feel that serial killers represent parts of our social problems and problems that need to be solved” which is true, since we can see that there is a serious problem in our society, not just with serial killers but also with people who praise them in a nasty way, which is disrespectful towards their victims and the families of the victims.

Can All People See These Movies? 

As Mrs. Schoenfeld says “People have to be able to detach emotionally. If they can’t, then they should be avoided.” People who don’t know how to emotionally detach from watching these tapes tend to romanticize the murderers, so it is recommended that these people avoid watching these movies. Also, there are people who, after watching horror movies, become a bit paranoid, distance themselves from the event, and try to find differences between themselves and the victim to reduce the feeling of vulnerability. 

So we can conclude that not all people can see this type of tape since many of them can become paranoid, also empathize with or romanticize these murderers, many people remember the killer but not many of his victims. It’s good to watch and enjoy horror movies or crime documentaries without feeling emotional attachment, you have to know how to differentiate between fiction and reality.