Book Review: Nightmare Fuel

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, 2022. 294 pages
By Nina Nesseth

As in the very subtitle of this book states, the Science of Horror, has always been a fascinating subject for me to tackle because usually it consists of a lot of academics using very big words trying to explain to me why horror films scare me, or why I like them. Even better is when they give plenty of examples from movies, usually getting even the most basic plot point incorrect which then makes you wonder if they had even watched the film they’re referring to.

I’ve also found some of these types that try to explain why you are scared that seem to get lost in the woods somewhere to really have it connect with the reader. Not saying they don’t have good ideas or theories, but they just don’t connect with me personally.

What I found with Nesseth’s book, on the other hand, is just the opposite. There is a lot of science in here, discussing the different parts of the brain, what each one does and how it affects what we feel. There’s a lot of technical terms for these for these locations of the brain, most of which I’ve already forgotten, though I now know where to them up when needed. Honestly though, I was really captivated on learning how the brain works with these different types of responses as we’re experiencing different kinds of fear from watching horror films. Such as the explanation of what fear does to a person, such as the fight-or-flight idea or where you just become frozen on the spot because of the fear, and what your brain is doing to cause these reactions or effects, giving us sort of a “behind-the-scenes”.

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