Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films

Tor Nightfire. Jul. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781250765215. $25.99. FILM
What is the attraction to fear, and what drives audiences toward images that should repulse them? Nesseth (The Science of Orphan Black) takes readers on a tour of the science behind the scary, showing the parts of the brain that light up when exposed to horror. In discussions with directors, editors, and sound designers, readers learn how moviemakers exploit the senses and perceptions, hacking people’s brains as much as any on-screen slasher. The author’s innovative approach traces the history of horror as well as the literature on what happens to people psychologically when they’re exposed to images of terror. Strengthening the text is her personal reaction to horror—not only her passion for horror movies (and a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the genre) but also her understanding of the horror community.
VERDICT Nesseth combines savvy science writing with a deep love of horror movies, resulting in something both scholarly and eminently readable. Even horror aficionados may stumble across an unfamiliar title she cites.
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