The Wellbeing Series

How To Watch Horror Films With Style

Gather your cuddly things and switch on some Ari Aster genius…

How To Watch A Horror Film With Style (Especially If You’re Scared Of Them)

Toni Collette, Hereditary, (2018)

A horror film is a sensory experience. It’s primarily designed to evoke physical and psychological responses. For that to happen effectively, you have to be emotionally open to receive it.  Alternatively, to be able to withstand a horror film, you simply have to control your emotional centre by practising both mental restraint and relaxation.

Here are some techniques and tips you can use to help you get through it, poor little lambs!


Hear me out. I know, you’re not about to perform a sprint or a 10k marathon, but your brain is going to be highly stimulated than normal due to potential paranoia and resistance to the film. Consequently, you’re going to accumulate a substantial amount of tension, particularly in your shoulders, your neck and your jaw. This is not a coincidence. You’re trying to protect the most vital parts of your body (where your brain and central nervous system sit). By stretching, you’re expanding your breathing capacity and deepening your breathing which should, in turn, allow you to relax a bit more and focus on what’s taking place on the screen.

Get Out, (2017) – Left to Right: Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener

Research the film.

What’s the poison going to be? Is it a paranormal phenomenon, a slasher sensation, or will your brain be digesting a psychological cocktail of betrayal, deception and deceit? By knowing what the theme is and having a general idea of the plot, you’re dulling the scares that may emotionally take you out. Additionally, you’re reinforcing the metal wall of rationality that helps you to smirk in the face of zombies and laugh out loud in the presence of ghosts.

Either way, know what you’re up against beforehand. I wouldn’t recommend trying to find out details about the end. If you’re that scared by the thought of watching the film, I’d rather you didn’t subject yourself to it.

If you’re prepared, you won’t be scared.

Midsommar, (2019) Florence Pugh with the female ensemble

Remind yourself that it’s just a film.

Even if the film states that it’s based on a true story, what you’re seeing on the screen is all fabricated. In every scene that takes place, there’s a director, a supervisor and several cameramen behind the lens. The music has been skillfully composed and designed to emphasize what’s happening on the screen. To combat these advances, try to imagine the scene happening without any music or atmospheric sounds and see how it changes the context. Different context, different scenario, different feelings.

Watch it with the lights on.

Most of the horrible things we see in horror films tend to happen in dark places. Help yourself out by reversing the setting where you are. This should aid in distancing yourself from what you may be witnessing on the screen. Bring a blanket or cushion to cower behind for bonus points.

Get Comfortable.

Light a candle and have a few favourite snacks to hand. Wear something you feel comfortable in, either pyjamas or some oversized sweats. Don a warm blanket with a cushion or two to lean into and keep some water beside you. Why? Your mouth may go dry. Also, you may be sweating and need to replenish your body. Better yet, why not have an alcoholic drink? I’m not suggesting that you get smashed, but it may take the scary edge off. You may even find the film funny…maybe…probably not.

Recognise the patterns.

Many horror films abide by certain patterns that exist to trick you into falling down the rabbit hole of fear. Whilst the music/background sounds will facilitate this function, you’ll find that there are clues to look out for that could suggest when to brace and keep one eye open. These could be anything from relatively quiet scenes (about 10-20 seconds) to complete silence (about 10-15 seconds). After this point, the scene may attempt to return back to normal before something or someone pounces. This is a classic horror-film trope and it’s something that horror enthusiasts look out for too. The difference is that we’re keen to see how pervertedly scary it is. Sick f@!$&*s.

Other patterns involve:

  • Talking really slowly
  • Making fearful eye contact
  • Unusually mundane scenes
  • The power of Three’s
It Follows, (2014)


The after-care of watching a horror film is a practice that is so excluded and underestimated. Believe it or not, you’ve put your body under a considerable amount of stress. Even for a seasoned horror buff like me, I leave a film with a tense jaw, held breath and (if it was super unsettling) an irrational compulsion to scan my room every 10 seconds for shadows, peripheral flickers or sudden noises. If you’re looking for them, you’ll find them. This applies to almost anything so I’d start by taking a few deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. I’d then let out some forced sighs to allow your body to reject any stray sentiment of what you’ve just seen. Remind yourself of where you are and why what you’ve witnessed in the film can’t happen to you at this moment. Challenge your irrationality.

Host, (2020) – From top right to left: Emma Louise Webb, Caroline Ward, Jemma Moore, Radina Drandova, Haley Bishop

Now that you know how to watch horror films with style you’ll be buzzing to demonstrate your capacity for thrills and spills. No? Well, at least there are Jaffa Cakes…

What’s the last horror film you dared to watch? If you’re a fan of horror films, please let me know!

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