It's October once again, which means that genre fans are of course looking towards the spookier side of cinema for all their chills and thrills. Hardened members of the horror film fandom are probably searching for some movies that will push them beyond their already warped comfort zones. Unfortunately, those seeking the most frightening, the scariest of the scary, probably shouldn't turn to science for recommendations.
BroadbandChoices recently held a study trying to pin down the scariest horror film, subjecting a panel of 50 people to 50 different horror films while monitoring their heart rates. Aside from already limiting their scope to a preordained 50 (allegedly compiled from "critic's lists and Reddit recommendations"), this seems like a flawed methodology. Scary movies don't rest entirely on pulse-pushing fright or dread, though sure, some do.
Of the ones tested here, Sinister topped the ranking, beating out the others in the top five: Insidious, The Conjuring, Hereditary, and Paranormal Activity. A pretty serious modern trend, if nothing else. While Sinister was the most consistently scary, with the highest average difference between resting and in-movie heart rates, Insidious actually had the biggest jump scare spike at 133 BPM.
But then you have GIGACalculator's study, which completely contradicts it. Their study gave 150 volunteers just ten films to watch, curated by "2,542 horror film fans" who took a survey asking for the "top 10 scariest horror films of all time." Already, the data seems limited. These 10 — which, listed in order by results, are Hereditary, Saw, The Babadook, Insidious, A Quiet Place, The Descent, Us, It, The Conjuring 2, and The Exorcist — are also hyper-modern and have a glaring flaw if looking for a definitive answer: Sinister wasn't even in the running! Instead, Hereditary took the top spot with an average BPM of 115. That's a full 29 beats per minute higher than the average for the previous study's leader. Were these participants just an unhealthier group?
Regardless of the reasoning, simply comparing these two studies illuminates tons of flaws with letting science pick your content for you. Truly finding the scariest film probably isn't possible because defining the parameters and methodologies won't solve the biggest problem: horror is subjective. Looks like fans will need to watch most things themselves to find out what really scares them the most...science be damned.