"I like the thrill of being scared - it's the equivalent of going on a rollercoaster for me."

Brian Bisesi has been a lifelong fan of horror in films, television and novels. Over the past five years, the father-of-two - who counts The Shining and It Follows as his all-time favourites - has co-hosted a weekly podcast, 'Horror Movie Club', with his friend Ashvin where the pair rate and review a chosen film, from new releases and classics to straight-to-video gems.

Bisesi, a data analyst who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and children, aged six and four, credits it as a form of stress relief and escapism.

He said: "For sure, if I was stressed out or anxious I would be more likely to watch a horror film that any other kind of film.

"I’m not sure why, but does relieve the tension. I don’t want to see a movie about the anxieties of day to day life – I want to watch a movie about a ghost or a killer on the loose, because that seems so far from my reality.

"The toughest challenge in my life right now is parenting - it’s really stressful - but watching horror movies really puts my problems into perspective where I can say ‘okay, nobody tried to murder me today, I didn’t get possessed by a demon today’.

"It sounds silly, but I do feel more grateful for my own life after I watch a horror movie."

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It might seem counterintuitive that films designed to terrify and alarm can actually be good for our mental wellbeing.

But psychologists say there is evidence that - for some people - they promote stress and pain relief through the release of the reward hormone, dopamine, and endorphins - chemicals which have been dubbed the body's "natural cannabis" due to their relaxation effect.

Dr Kristen Knowles, a neuropsychologist at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, said: "Researchers have found that watching horror can improve pain tolerance due to endorphin production.

"Distraction from pain is also a likely explanation, since attention and energy resources are diverted toward threat evaluation and away from other bodily functions."

The Herald: Watching scary movies can be associated with the release of positive hormones including dopamine and endorphinsWatching scary movies can be associated with the release of positive hormones including dopamine and endorphins (Image: Getty)

Knowles added that some studies found that horror fans were "more psychologically resilient in the face of Covid-19", with researchers suggesting this may be a result of their frequent exposure to the "emotional exercise" of artificial threats.

She said: "Watching horror films gives us a safe way to explore a very intense emotional experience.

"The body’s response to fear or suspense is to ramp up production of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, which mobilise your body’s energy resources.

"This is paired with increased heart rate and focused attention; this can all feel rather exhilarating when that tension is released at the end of the film.

"Doing this safely can feel good simply because it is thrilling – consider skydiving as a similar activity, which is frightening but also euphoric.

"One theory about why some people enjoy being frightened proposes that the film format makes it possible to safely play with negative emotions.

"In horror films, the objects of fear are discrete and more simplistic than in real life. Through this safe interaction, we can learn to cope with negative emotions and develop resilience to fear and stress.

"Ultimately this means we can become more resilient when stress comes in real life."

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Beyond the potential mental health benefits of watching scary movies, there is even evidence that they can speed up the metabolism - causing the body to burn more calories - and provide a boost for the immune system.

A 2012 study carried out by researchers at the University of Westminster measured the oxygen intake, carbon dioxide output and heart rate of participants as they watched 10 popular horror films.

It found that watching a 90-minute movie burned between 100 and 185 calories, roughly the same amount as a short walk.

Films featuring the most “jump scare” moments were the biggest calorie-burners due to their effect on heart rate.

Another study by Coventry University researchers in 2009 compared immune system responses in around 30 healthy male and female volunteers aged 20 to 26 depending on whether they sat quietly in a room for 90 minutes, or watched the infamous 1974 slasher Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Blood tests before and after revealed "significant increases" in the levels of disease-fighting white blood cells, known as leukocytes, after an hour and a half with 'Leatherface'.

The Herald: Allison Garner, of the GFT, says she 'loves a zombie apocalypse'Allison Garner, of the GFT, says she 'loves a zombie apocalypse' (Image: Jamie Simpson/Newsquest)

Dr Jan Smith, a horror fan and health psychologist at Glasgow Caledonian University who counts The Exorcist as her personal favourite, said human beings also gain mentally from the "bonding process" of being scared together in a cinema.

She said: "Going to the cinema and sharing that experience - 'surviving' it - can naturally bring people together.

"It creates a bond with those who are around you and you can get a sense of a really strong, intense bond with another person who's gone through something similar which can be really powerful if people are feeling alone and isolated."

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She added that filmgoers may also be "hard-wired" by evolution to seek out the experience of fear in a modern society which largely cocoons us from mortal threats.

"I think it does have some evolutionary roots, which trace back to our ancestors living in that constant fear of threats," said Smith.

"We may be hard-wired to want to experience those dangerous and threatening situations that you can get from watching a horror film.

"As humans today, we're not necessarily going to be putting ourselves into those terrifying situations in real life, but horror films provide an outlet as well as that tension release.

"In research we call it the 'excitation transfer', or sense of release: as humans we have that flight or fight response - you either want to run away or stay and fight - and from that you get an accelerated heart rate, heavy breathing, other physical sensations associated with danger.

"Having gone through that you get the positive experience of relief which can be quite enjoyable.

"You've got through this terrifying experience, so then there's a sense of calm and relief."

The Herald: The Shining (starring Jack Nicholson) is often voted one of the scariest movies everThe Shining (starring Jack Nicholson) is often voted one of the scariest movies ever (Image: Getty)

It's an experience that hundreds attending an all-day horror marathon at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) can look forward to this weekend.

The cinema is celebrating Halloween by screening five gory classics back-to-back on October 29, including Hellraiser and Society.

Allison Gardner, chief executive of the GFT and a lover of "a good zombie apocalypse film", said horror films deserve to be enjoyed collectively.

She said: "The shared, communal experience of fear and relief is much more palpable when you're there with other people.

"When you're in the cinema you have to be in the moment - you can't pause it and make a cup of tea or fanny about on your phone - so you're connected viscerally in those emotions to the other people in the room with you, strangers.

"It's an electrifying emotion."

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Gardner adds that horror film fans seem more likely than other filmgoers to form "friendships and connections" around their love of the genre, but that cinema-going in general can be a great antidote to loneliness.

"As long as there's been cinemas, there's been horror. There's a need [in the human psyche] to see the horrors of life and to see them resolved in some way, it's about closure, and there's nothing better than a great horror movie."

Dundee has been staging an annual horror film festival, Dundead, since 2011.

Michael Coull, the festival programmer for the past two years, said he "was terrified of horror films as a child" but "somewhere along the way I started to enjoy being scared".

His own favourites are The Innocents, Suspiria, and the original Evil Dead.

The Herald: Hellraiser is among the classic horror films which will be screened this weekend at the GFT in GlasgowHellraiser is among the classic horror films which will be screened this weekend at the GFT in Glasgow (Image: Getty)

Like Gardner, he believes there is something special about sharing horror as a group.

"I would always prefer to watch a film of any genre in the cinema than at home, but there is something about watching a scary film with an audience.

"You can get quite anthropological about it if you think about story-telling in human history - that's how they were passed down, in that collective experience.

"The pandemic made me realise how much I really valued that.

"If you take Ari Aster's, Hereditary, there is a moment towards the end of that film where there is something in the frame - you don't notice it at first - but there's just gasps from the audience as we all noticed it at different times.

"It was just a great horror moment, really.

"There's a catharsis, isn't there, if you're watching really scary things happen. It's a sort of safe way to experience those things."