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I monitored my heart rate while watching the scariest horror movie ever made, according to science

I monitored my heart rate while watching the scariest horror movie ever made, according to science

Scientists found the 'scariest movie' based on the heart rates of viewers, so I put it to the test

Allow me to paint you a picture.

It's the mid-00s, I'm about 9 or 10 years old and I stride into my parents' living room to find my older brother and my dad watching M. Night Shyamalan's Signs.

They tell me it's too scary for me, but I'm a determined young tomboy who refuses to believe them. After all, I'm wearing camoflage pants - the aliens would struggle to find me even if they wanted to.

Cut to a few weeks later, when I'm still waking up in the middle of the night, convinced those slender green beings are about to curl their creepy fingers under my bedroom door.

That just about sums up how I've coped with every scary movie since, so it's safe to say I don't go out of my way to watch them.

And yet, when scientists with the Science of Scare Project got together to determine which scary movie was the scariest of them all, I couldn't help but be intrigued.

The scariest movie is chosen by looking at both heart rate (measured in beats per minute BPM), and heart rate variance (measured in milliseconds, or m/s), of people watching the movies.

I spent much the movie hiding behind my hand, too.
Summit Entertainment

The two scores are then combined to create a Science of Scare score out of 100.

Using this method, the scientists determined that the scariest movie is the 2012 film Sinister.

Starring Ethan Hawke, the film follows a family as they move into the home of murder victims, only to discover they've become part of a horrifying pattern of killings orchestrated by a creepy being known as Mr. Boogie.

I never saw Sinister when it was first released, due to the aforementioned terrible ability to cope with horrors, but after hearing that the highest heart rate spike in the scientists' study was 131 BPM, around double the average resting heart rate of 60 to 100, I decided to see how I would fare in comparison.

I'm definitely much happier when not watching horror films.

Cut to a few days before Halloween, when I roped in a friend to watch the movie with me. I wasn't going to do it alone, after all - I'm not that brave.

Using a FitBit watch, I monitored my heart rate throughout the viewing.

My average resting heart rate, according to the watch, is 66bpm. So, how did it change during the movie?

Well, we kicked things off at 7.30pm, and it's immediately clear that the mere anticipation of watching the movie was enough to get my heart thumping.

Between 7.30pm-7.35pm, my heart rate hit 85bpm as I watched the eerie opening scene of a not-so-happy family.

I was definitely nervous about what was in store.

Things calmed down a bit as I got into Hawke's first scenes - even though I knew there would be some scary parts to come, watching him move house and settle in with his wife and kids was enough to bring my heart rate back down to about 70bpm.

When the more sinister parts of Sinister really started to kick in, however, I was actually surprised by the data caught by my watch.

Rather than a series of spikes for the jump scares, or even a rising heart rate as the music and anticipation of being terrified picked up, my heart rate continued to hover around 70bpm, even dropping to 68bpm in the latter half of the movie.

Now, don't get me wrong, I found the film scary. I screamed at least three times due to the jump scares, and I spent the entire 1 hour and 50 minutes clutching a pillow for safety.

My heart rate went as low as 68bpm while watching the film.

Somehow, though, it wasn't enough to get my heart racing or my palms sweating.

In fact, the highest my heart rate was during their entire viewing process was at the very beginning, when I was clearly nervous about what was in store.

There was one final jump at the very end of the movie - and if you've seen Sinister, I'm sure you'll know what I'm talking about; it's definitely an image that stays with you.

As the scare popped up, my heart rate jumped up to 75bpm. Higher than my daily average, but still nowhere near the heights found in the study.

Given that I know I'm not good with scary movies, I think there were a few factors that helped keep my heart rate down while watching Sinister.

1) There weren't actually too many jump scares.

Though there was definitely a lot of anticipation-building, and the storyline itself was unnerving, there were only a few instances where something popped up unexpectedly. If that was happening every few minutes, I think my heart rate would have been through the roof.

My heart rate stayed fairly steady while watching Sinister.

2) I don't have kids, or an attic in which to find the box of nightmares.

Given that much of Sinister's storyline on both of these things, I think I found comfort knowing that technically, it couldn't happen to me in real life.

I could probably have added 'it's fictional' to that point, but that kind of logic goes out of the window when it comes to horror movies.

So, while I definitely found Sinister scary, I wouldn't say personally it's the scariest film I could see. That being said, I'm not all that keen on finding out which movie would win that prize...

Featured Image Credit: Summit Entertainment/UNILAD

Topics: Life, Film and TV