A Uses and Gratifications Analysis of Horror Film Preference
Patricia A. Lawrence University of Texasat El Paso Philip C. Palmgreen University of Kentucky
This chapter endorses the self-report method traditionally employed by uses and gratifications scholars as a means toward better understanding why some individuals are enticed by horror films. It reviews selected studies that have used self-reports, and it then presents a reanalysis of data from an earlier study by the chapter authors. In both the literature review and the data analysis, psychological needs for affective and generalized arousal play significant roles in predicting horror film preference. Specific film content -- nudity, graphic sex scenes, obscene language, and violence -- emerges as an important avoidance motive and two gratifications sought -- identifying with film characters and using audience reactions to facilitate enjoyment -- are significantly related to liking of horror films.
Horror films can be highly frightening and disturbing for many individuals. These films differ markedly from other film genres because they typically feature a predator-prey relationship, are quite serious in their overall portrayal of their characters, and either display or suggest violence or violent death ( Edwards, 1984). Yet, even though many moviegoers avoid horror films, others are enticed by them. Why?
This chapter suggests that this perplexing question can be approached fruitfully within the broad framework of uses and gratifications (U & G) theory and research. U & G is a theoretical perspective that focuses on mass media audiences and their motives for media exposure and consumption ( Blumler & Katz, 1974; Rosengren, Wenner, & Palmgreen, 1985). Research