Why do so many of us enjoy being told frightening stories? What are some of the consequences that result from such exposure? In light of the considerable popularity of horror films over the last three decades these questions have become the focus of growing attention for many scholars. However, research on audience preferences for and reactions to horror films has been done eclectically by investigators from varied theoretical and methodological backgrounds. Although considerable insights have been uncovered by different parties, efforts to integrate such findings have been limited. To our knowledge, there has never been a book published that has brought together the most recent research in this area. This volume was organized in an effort to end this dilemma and to put the study of audience responses to frightening fiction on the map as a significant research venture.
The first chapter of this volume offers a brief historical account of fictional horror. From fireside fables to pulp fiction to the modern horror film, Tamborini and Weaver trace the development of frightening fiction as an entertainment enterprise.
Zillmann and Gibson also examine the history of horrifying story telling, but from a different perspective. In chapter 2 they explore the socialization function of such tales noting, in particular, that the modern horror film may be a last vestige of ancient rites of passage.
Considerable debate has emerged over the last decade concerning the content of modern horror films. In chapter 3 Sapolsky and Molitor provide a review of several content analyses of horror films. They conclude that some basic assumptions regarding the content of these films are unfounded.
In chapter 4, Gomery points out that the horror film ranks as one of the most popular and profitable of film genres. He then provides a detailed analysis of the economics of the horror film industry. Gomery concludes that the horror film should continue to enjoy a stable position in the repertoire of Hollywood.
Cantor and Oliver examine the issue of how children and adolescents respond to horror films. In their exploration of developmental differences in responses to horror, Cantor and Oliver offer an illustrative and informative presentation of young adults' retrospective reports of intense emotional reactions to horror. They conclude chapter 5 with a discussion of how parental involvement is the key to helping children cope with media-induced fright.