Can Science Help Us Find the Perfect Horror Movie?

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It’s spooky season again and horror fans all around the world are searching for new films to satisfy their urges to be frightened. The sheer number of movies out there are enough to make a person scroll for hours and hours, looking for the perfect film which will one-up all of its predecessors.

The top 10 lists and film ratings don’t make the hunt any easier. Everyone seems to have a vastly different opinion on what it is that scares them, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to rank them. But what if there was? What if there was a way to quantify the ‘spooky’ index, using science, which would make sorting movies easier?

BroadbandChoices tried doing just that. They recently held a study trying to pick the scariest movie out of a stack of 50, cherry-picked from critics’ lists and Reddit recommendations. They formed a panel of 50 subjects to go through the movies and monitored their heart rates. The study rested solely on the hypothesis that a person’s heart rate is the best judge of a scary movie.

Horror movies
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Sinister topped the ranking, followed by InsidiousThe ConjuringHereditary, and Paranormal Activity. Sinister was consistently scary, while Insidious had the highest jump-scare spike to a 133 BPM.

GIGACalculator performed a similar study. This experiment completely contradicts the previous one. They made 150 volunteers watch just 10 films. The movies were picked in a survey consisting of 2542 horror fans. The ten films ranked as follows – HereditarySawThe BabadookInsidiousA Quiet PlaceThe DescentUsItThe Conjuring 2, and The Exorcist.

Sinister wasn’t even a part of the competition and the group leader, Hereditary, induced an average BPM of 115. This average was a whole 29 beats per minute higher than the average for the previous group’s top scorer!

A jump-scare scene from the 2010 movie “Insidious 
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These studies go to show that you can’t use science to pick a perfect movie recommendation for you. These flaws stand out brightly and illuminate one fact clearly – horror is subjective. No algorithm is going to perfectly realise how one person ‘feels’ and hence, such a recommendation system isn’t possible in the near future. But we sure can dream. Having recommendation systems which personalise our content just for us would revolutionise the entertainment industry. For now, we just have to wait and watch tech catch up.

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