This article was updated on September 19, 2021
If you’re looking for the scariest movie of the hundreds of horror flicks this Halloween, look no further than the science behind the scare.
From the gory bloodbaths of modern horror to the jump-scares of time’s past, a new study uncovered which scary movie is actually terrifying.
Broadband Choices, a cable provider in the UK, recently conducted a study of 50 people who watched more than 120 hours of the best horror movies in a setting of 5.1 surround sound. Each participant was equipped with a heart rate monitor to measure the level of a scare through monitoring blood levels.
The movies, which consisted of research from critic’s lists and Reddit recommendations, included 50 of the best horror films ever made, including modern flicks like “Paranormal Activity,” “A Quiet Place,” and Stephen King’s “It,” to the classics such as “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
The scariest movie is…
This might come as a surprise, but “Sinister” was deemed the scariest movie, according to the study. Starring Ethan Hawke as a true-crime author, Scott Derrickson’s 2012 horror film centers around Hawke’s character discovery of Super 8 movies of gruesome murders in the attic of his new home, putting his family in danger.
While the average resting BPM of participants was around 65 beats per minute, viewers’ heart rates spiked to around 86 BPM during the movie, which was the highest score.
Here is what The New York Times had to say about “Sinister” at the time of the release:
“A twitchy Mr. Hawke builds a persuasive portrait of desperation with little help from the script and despite playing a character who makes so many mistakes he might as well be on a suicide mission. Mr. Derrickson, keeping the lights dimmed, effectively puts his pieces into play, even if their familiarity — a man struggling with his art, his foolishly supportive wife, children in peril, possible evil — brings to mind superior entertainments like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining.” Mr. Derrickson’s cleverest detail is the box of Super-8 home movies that turn out to be diabolical mementos and which suggest that film, even when it’s small gauge, is one awesomely powerful medium.”
“Insidious” ranked second but had the highest spike — 133 BPM — of all the movies tallied, according to the survey. “The Conjuring,” “Hereditary,” and “Paranormal Activity” all rounded out the top five scariest movies.
Classics like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” ranked in the teens, 13 and 14, respectively.
While “Insidious” recorded the biggest jumps scares by heart rate, others recorded high marks including “Sinister,” “The Exorcist 3,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Descent.”
Modern favorites like “Scream” ranked No. 20, while “The Blair Witch Project” was No. 23 on the list and Jordan Peele’s 2017 award-winning “Get Out” was No. 34, according to the study.
Horror fans handling COVID-19 pandemic better than others
Psychologists said that fans of horror movies and TV shows were better equipped to handle the horror of the coronavirus pandemic because of their “psychological resilience” in helping them better adapt and prepare for the fallout of the pandemic.
“Our ability to imaginatively inhabit virtual worlds – worlds of our own making, as well as those conveyed by movies and books – is a gift from natural selection; a bit of biological machinery that evolved because it gave our ancestors an edge in the struggle for survival,” a researcher said.
“If you’ve watched a lot of what we call prepper movies, you will have vicariously lived through massive social upheavals, states of martial law, people responding in both prosocial and dangerously selfish ways to a sudden catastrophic event.”