Halloween horror movies may sabotage your social life

October 24, 1999

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- When the leaves are swirling around the sidewalks and trick-or-treat costumes are lining aisles of department stores, many people are thinking about taking their dates to a horror movie Halloween night or renting horror movies for parties. Think about it first. It could change your social life or even your working world.

(If you and your date are both breathtakingly good looking, you don't have to worry much about this. You're pretty much immune to negative effects. However, the so-so among us should take note.)

James B. Weaver of Virginia Tech's Laboratory for the Study of Human Thought and Action and fellow researchers from other universities found some tantalizing tidbits of information in their previous studies of the social implication of watching horror movies. For example, if a great-looking guy and a so-so girl go to a horror movie and she cringes and hides her face in his shirt at the messy scenes, she rises a notch or two in his estimation. If, on the other hand, her responses to the gruesome movie are "Oh, get real!" or "That's so juvenile," she falls a couple of more rungs on his appeal ladder. (Of course, if she's a knockout, she can be as brave as she wants -- it makes her even more attractive. Who said the world is fair?)

Of course, if a young woman goes to the horror movie with a guy, she's probably already playing a game. Weaver's studies showed that men enjoy graphic horror much more than women do and are less frightened by it and that women are, as a group, well aware of this fact. So she's probably watching the horror film for his sake, anyway. She just needs to know how to act.

But so does he, if he's the one who's not the knockout. If he's queasy at the bloody parts, she enjoys the movie even less. He becomes less desirable. But if he's seen so many of these gruesome movies that he has mastered his cringe factor, he's seen as stronger and protective. She not only sees him as more attractive, but she deems him to have more of other positive traits than he likely has in reality.

Not only that. No matter if either is appealing or a loser, if the man has been brave at the movie and he and the woman then work together, she'll more likely acquiesce to his statements, even if they are as blatantly erroneous as to say a five-year-old child is 11. "Playing macho while watching horror movies, then, appears to be most beneficial to the appeal, sexual and otherwise, of men not equipped with an irresistible physique," the researchers wrote.

With so much riding on one little viewing of Nightmares or Friday the 13th, maybe you'd better take your date to dinner and dancing instead.

Virginia Tech

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