Movies & TV

The Unspoken But Known Culture of Viewing Horror Movies at Night


13 January 2021

Studies reveal that we watch movies to be entertained. They serve as a form of relaxation, escape from reality, a means to draw creative intuition, atmosphere booster and many other unstated reasons.

We have the romance movies that have us swooning at the idea of love, suspenseful that keep us on the edge, a drama that causes us to rethink life matters, an action that has our adrenaline pumping with each staged act of violence, a fantasy that draws us into its magical/mystical realms and the list goes on.

Journal of Media Psychology enumerated the three main reasons people watch horror movies are the tension, relevance, and unrealism created in these movies. Andrea Ferraro, who identified himself as a Horror Movie Bing-Watcher wrote, “I usually enjoy watching horror/thriller movies as they give me the rush that other genres fail to evoke”. The gory details of blood splash, spine chilling paranormal activity, or mind-twisting psychological scare that come with this movie genre set it apart from others. Horror movies usually aim for the external effect of goosebumps, accelerated heartbeat, jumpy state, ear-deafening screams or worse, sleepless nights, or a state of paranoia on its audience. If this unpleasantness is (most times) identified with this genre, why then do people prefer to view it in the dark (especially before bedtime)?

The first thing to observe is that many horror movies have a darker ambience than other movie types, even scenes shot in the daytime such as in The Inheritance tend to have a dark hue to them. This sets the tone of the movie of which the audience may not even be aware of. Also, has anyone else ever noticed that on getting to the peak of the part where you’d be scared to death, for instance, Insidious there’d be light but sharp suspenseful background sound which then abruptly stops – revealing the scare? Horror movies with a psychological twist such as Get Out do not frighten you right away until you begin to question how normal the abnormal was reeled. Even the ones about the supernatural stories tied to our indigenous background that traumatize our seeming ‘regular’ day-to-day acts just like After School Hours and Diamond Ring. So, it remains a wonder why one says 'Netflix and Chill' then puts on a horror movie that has one scared from his/her skin.

When the question of why people watch horror movies at night was brought up on the popular digital platform, Quora, a user by the name of Ayush Jajoo replied, “I always watch horror movies at midnight with headphones on and minimum lights in the room. I personally think horror movies are meant to be watched that way. When you are so involved in the movie that you actually think you are a part of it”. 

Could it be because the darkness is synonymous with horror movies like in the Nollywood classic Koto Aiye? Or because one gets to hear each high and low pitch of each sound intricately in the quiet of the night as we did in Blood Money? Who made this unspoken yet famous rule of drawing the curtains, switching off the lights, and watching horror movies in the dark of the night?