Nightmare Fuel review: The psychology that underpins horror films


Scary movies really get under our skin, but why is this the case and how do film-makers know what will scare us? A new book has some interesting answers


3 August 2022

Woman hiding behind sofa against white wall.

Tuan Tran/getty images

Nightmare Fuel

Nina Nesseth

Tor Nightfire

I HAVE friends who are so afraid of sharks that they won’t swim in the sea – no matter how enclosed the harbour, or full the beach. When I went cage diving with great whites last year, they were appalled. Yet at the same time, I noticed, they couldn’t wait to see the footage.

This illustrates the idiosyncratic and inexplicable nature of fear. While our desires tend to run along consistent lines – love, happiness, health and wealth – what frightens us is often intensely personal and even perverse.

So how do film-makers petrify their audiences? And …

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