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Horror movies are a terrible first date - here’s why, according to experts

A survey by Tinder and Peacock found horror movies are a beloved date activity leading up to Halloween. Amber Raiken speaks to relationships experts about why you shouldn’t watch the films on a first date

Wednesday 01 November 2023 04:08 GMT
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Related: Why do so many people love horror movies?

Just in time for Halloween, a new, unusual dating trend has risen in popularity: horror movies. While fall is the perfect time to cosy up in your living room and watch a scary film, this isn’t to say it’s the best idea for a first date.

Earlier this month, Tinder reported that there’d been a 42 per cent increase in dating app users discussing scary movies in their bios, prompting the app to launch a “horror movies” option in interests, which could be added to profiles. With that in mind, the company teamed up with Peacock to conduct a dating survey, which found 63 per cent of participants agreed that watching a horror movie was a great activity for a date. According to 49 per cent of those surveyed, a shared interest in scary movies can show a “deeper compatibility between partners”.

Other benefits of horror movie dates rose to the surface in the survey, with 51 per cent of participants saying it was an opportunity for couples to get physically close – cue the typical moment in a theatre when a man wraps his arm around a woman during a jump scare scene. In addition, respondents found that the activity is not only an unconventional way to break the ice among daters, but it also means an opportunity to enjoy feelings of excitement and adrenaline.

Although scary movies may be a popular choice for a date, is it really the best way to break the ice? In the survey by Tinder and Peacock, 74 per cent of respondents confirmed they’d be open to seeing a scary movie on a first date. But, according to relationship experts, Halloween movie dates aren’t necessarily the way to go when it comes to meeting someone new.

Speaking to The Independent, Jaime Bronstein, a licensed relationship therapist and author of MAN*ifesting: A Step-By-Step Guide to Attracting the Love That’s Meant for You, explained that some of the feelings that come with watching horror movies aren’t always tied to romantic relationships. For example, adrenaline – which is a neurotransmitter and hormone – is typically associated with how we respond to a stressful situation. However, this isn’t to say that our frightened reactions to horror movies aren’t similar to the feelings of excitement we have on a good first date.

“You associate it with the fight or flight response, which is I have to run from a bear, or there’s a car coming,” she explained. “During those points, your heart is beating really fast. However, when you think about it, your heart beats fast when you have a crush. You’re all excited and the dopamine – a neurotransmitter that affects how we feel pleasure – leads to an increased level of testosterone.”

Jacqui Pugh, who works as a coach for Relationship Hero, agreed that feelings of adrenaline are heightened when seeing a scary movie. Because of that, how you feel during the date –whether it’s the first or sixth – could ultimately shape your perspective on the growing relationship. “Regardless of if we’re scared or we’re excited, we actually have the same exact visceral symptoms that happen in our body,” she said. “So when the adrenaline gets pumped, our brain can decipher it as this is a really exciting moment with my partner, and that can lead to feeling a deeper connection.”

Despite how much adrenaline is rushing through you when watching horror movies, it doesn’t give you an opportunity to get to know the person sitting next to you. Bronstein acknowledged that, while dinner is a typical activity for a first date, it’s the atmosphere that gives people the chance to learn about each other. She also noted how, because there’s not much one-on-one time during a movie date, you aren’t using that first meeting to evaluate how compatible you and your date are.

“If two people are just sitting and getting food, it’s the best option for when they’re first meeting because that is the real thing,” she explained. “It allows them to form more of an authentic, real connection, versus if you watch a scary movie and the experience itself is giving you this endorphin rush. Then you don’t know. I think the best way to go is to have an average normal date because the point is to meet to see if you have that energetic connection or chemistry.”

Respondents in Tinder and Peacock’s survey also acknowledged that scary movie dates give couples the chance to cuddle and get physically close to one another. While a physical connection may not be an issue with someone you’ve been dating for a while, that interest in getting intimate – in any capacity on a first date – could give off the wrong idea. Bronstein acknowledged that although a common interest in horror movies is a way to bring people together, in both a physical and emotional sense, it’s important to make sure that your intentions on the first date are clear.

“The negative is that the date could turn into being physical too fast, which then could be not the best for if you’re actually looking for a relationship,” she said. “But if you are cognisant about what you do want to do and what you don’t want to do on the first date, it could be a positive. You get physically close, but that doesn’t have to necessarily lead to doing something that you wouldn’t normally have done on the first date.”

In addition to cuddling and feelings of adrenaline, survey respondents described horror movie dates as a thrilling experience. According to Bronstein, those responses ultimately show a bigger picture: the need for a thrill in today’s dating world. She suggested some may be hoping for their date to think of something creative for them to do, in order to strengthen a budding romance and create a memorable experience.

“Besides the novel aspect of it, when you experience something new with somebody, it’s so bonding and so that is where the Oxytocin, which is the neurotransmitter hormone, gets released,” she said. “Anytime you’re doing something new, it’s just building more of that solid foundation of that relationship, and you do start to build that history of what could be a forever relationship. Who knows?”

Although both Bronstein and Pugh urged people to avoid scary movies for the first date, there are still benefits to knowing a new person’s opinion about the genre. As respondents in Tinder and Peacock’s survey expressed that a shared interest in horror movies could show compatibility, Pugh noted that there’s some truth to that, especially when examining your interests in other realms of the pop culture world.

“I have found that the types of music that people like really show what type of energy they have within their body,” Pugh explained. “And energy is something that either repels or draws us into one another and similar energy stays together. So I think a horror movie is a great way to decipher what this person and I have, one: Similar energy, and two: similar interests.”

While Bronstein emphasised that a shared interest in horror movies is not a way to tell if your date is the one, it’s still a little thing that could be beneficial for how you spend your time together down the line. “At the end of the day, couples will just lay together and watch TV or a movie,” she said. “It helps when you don’t have one person taking one for the team by watching something that they don’t like. So it could be helpful if both people like horror movies.”

Ultimately, Tinder and Peacock’s survey found that the third date is the best time to watch horror movies, and both Bronstein and Pugh agreed.

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