Each of us has something, deep within our hearts and minds, that terrifies us. These things are not merely the everyday sort of “scares” that come with concerns over employment, and other elements of the existential reality we share. Here, we’re talking of deeply rooted, and perhaps even irrational fears of monsters, evil, and the immutable void that is darkness itself.
Even among seasoned horror aficionados, there are films which will manage to “bring the fright” from time to time, although what any one individual may find frightening–or not–is about as wide and varied as tastes in food pairings with fine beverages. Hence, terminology applied to the true fright that well-executed horror is able to bring has given rise to a number of unique phrases and sayings; no less among them, the time-tested idea of the “blood curdling” that some horror is able to cause.
Few would have ever taken the phrase literally, in the sense that some actual coagulation or other thickening of the blood might occur when viewing horror films. But that’s precisely what some are now suggesting, based on a recent study of the physical effect that horror films may have on our bodies.
The British Medical Journal featured a study carried out by researchers at Leiden University in the Netherlands which recently examined blood samples taken from two groups of individuals: those who had observed a documentary film, and those who had just observed a frightening horror movie (the documentary, for those interested, had been about French wine). As reported in the Guardian, “those who sat through the horror title had higher levels of the blood-clotting protein factor VIII,” which researchers say had interested them due to preexisting similarities between expressions relating fear to being “blood curdling” in numerous different languages (more on that in a moment).
Despite the fact that holiday versions of the British Medical Journal feature what some might consider to be information less worthy of scientific interest (content in the holiday editions are generally based on particular themes that are geared somewhat toward fun and light-heartedness), the studies are nonetheless peer reviewed under the same rigor and watchfulness of studies featured any other time of the year.
Some readers may be wondering exactly what horror film might have produced such an effect in its viewers (since, obviously, the documentary about French wine failed to do so… despite the fact that it may have been more compelling, and perhaps even more frightening, than a lot of modern horror films). The scary movie that the researchers selected for the study had been the 2010 film Insidious, in which a couple’s son becomes a sort of conduit for ghosts in the netherworld that wish to be channeled through him in order to live again.
Admittedly, the fact that various different cultures would all refer to the particular brand of fright stemming from horror cinema as capable of “curdling” one’s blood is interesting, particularly since the idea is only confirmed by these latest indications of increased levels of protein factor VIII. Had it been merely coincidence that actual blood-clotting proteins are produced in response to the shock that such films can present to viewers?