Are High-Budget or Low-Budget Horror Movies Scarier? We Have the Answer [Analysis]

The results are in from the FinanceBuzz Horror Movie Heart Rate Analyst! Read on to find out if high-budget horror movies are scarier than their low-budget counterparts.

horror movie heart rate analysis chart
Updated May 13, 2024
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Just in time for a last-minute horror movie binge before Halloween, the results are in from our high-budget vs. low-budget horror movie analysis.

A few weeks ago, we reviewed over half a million applications to find the perfect horror lover for hire to join the FinanceBuzz team as our Horror Movie Heart Rate Analyst.

Maddi Koch accepted our challenge to watch 13 of the scariest movies ever made, all while wearing a Fitbit to track her heart rate and help us discover whether or not low-budget horror movies deliver the same quality scares as high-budget movies.

Now it’s time to reveal the results.

In this article

Do high-budget or low-budget horror movies deliver more scares?

It’s easy to assume the higher the budget, the better a movie might turn out. But is that really true when it comes to horror movies? This genre of movie is typically scary not because of spooky CGI effects or editing… horror movies are scary because of the story they tell.

horror movie heart rate analysis chart

Using data from Maddi's Fitbit and her self-reported “scare rating,” we're able to see her perception of how scary the movies were, as well as the physical effects the movies had on her heart rate. We then graphed these two factors against the inflation-adjusted production budgets for all the movies.

Of all the movies, Saw increased her heart rate the most (up to 106 bpm), even though Maddi gave the film a low scare rating. The budget for producing Saw was only $1.7 million dollars, one of the lowest among the 13 movies. Two of the other three movies that made her heart rate jump into triple digits —Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project — had the lowest production budgets of all the movies she watched.

The verdict: Low-budget horror movies got her heart jumping more than higher-budget ones.

You can compare all 13 movies below. They are listed in order from the highest to lowest production budgets.You can also see the scare rating Maddi gave each film and the highest her heart rate spiked.

Movie Production Budget (Adjusted for Inflation) Scare Rating Highest Heart Rate Spike
A Quiet Place Part 2 $64,863,531.20 8 98
Amityville Horror $26,782,579.70 6 94
Candyman $25,067,899.30 6 99
A Quiet Place $18,612,430.45 7 97
Halloween (2018) $10,847,223.05 6 100
Annabelle $7,490,683.99 6 90
Get Out $5,105,909 7 92
Sinister $3,557,585.48 7 94
The Purge $3,532,722.32 5 86.7
Insidious $1,829,497.66 8 92
Saw $1,777,386.61 3 106
The Blair Witch Project $1,081,890 2 100
Paranormal Activity $19,693.35 2 100

The divergence between Maddi's perception of how scary the movies were and her heart rate data shows that the mind and body aren't always in sync when it comes to assessing our own fear. Jump scares and slow-building dread can get the heart racing as well as high-cost CGI effects.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a budget of $60 million or $20,000 ... movies can use all kinds of tactics to induce fear and adrenaline spikes in viewers. The findings of this side hustle reveal that it isn’t the amount of money you have, it’s what you do with it.

Are heart rate jumps truly scary?

Scary movies are known for inducing adrenaline because it's the body’s way of letting you know it thinks you’re in trouble. Whether the movie you are watching is full of killer clowns or monstrous supernatural demons, there's no doubt that scary movies can make your body react.

We reached out to several experts to help understand our body's response to scary movies.

“Horror movies contain psychological tricks that create illusions of suspense and danger through the manipulation of images and sound that some people's brains may interpret as real," explained Dr. Daniel Boyer from the Farr Institute.

“When your brain perceives a dangerous or any stressful situation such as the dangers alluded to in horror movies, adrenalin rush/overdose begins. Drastic shifts and increases in these hormones may lead to fainting or panic attacks.”

Scary movies can definitely get your heart racing, but is that something to worry about?

Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo explains, “Watching scary movies, like other adrenaline-inducing activities, can raise your heart rate. These feelings are similar to those experienced while participating in other sensation-seeking activities such as roller coasters or skydiving. Most people do experience an increase in heart rate or blood pressure due to watching a terrifying movie, but after the movie, your body will return to normal.”

Maddi’s reviews and heart rate details

Maddi has finished watching all the movies, so we’ve collected all of the data and her reviews below. The heart rate graphs show just how many times her heart rate would jump while watching each individual movie. For reference, Maddi’s average resting heart rate was 74 beats per minute for the analysis.

Here’s what the horror movie heart rate analyst has to say about each of the 13 horror movies and their scare rating.

A Quiet Place Part 2

Year released: 2020

Scare rating: 8

Maddi's review: “I love this movie as much as the first one. A lot of sequels don’t live up to the hype, but this one definitely does. There are plenty of jump scares that you don’t see coming in any way, which definitely made my heart rate rapidly increase. I think this movie is one of the best made ones on the list!”

Heart rate graph

Heart rate during A Quiet Place 2


Year released: 2010

Scare rating: 8

Maddi's review: “I think the demon is super freaky and the concept of the whole movie is really good. I would definitely say that the sound track they use for this movie takes it up a notch and makes it even scarier. The music is so creepy and so loud for no reason. I think that the ending has one of my favorite plot twists out of all the movies I’ve seen!”

Heart rate graph

Insidious film heart rate score

A Quiet Place

Year released: 2018

Scare rating: 7

Maddi's review: “I loved this movie. I think the concept sucks you in and it’s full of action, despite the characters not being able to speak. Even though there are no ghosts, ghouls or demons, it’s definitely scary in some parts because the scenes in the movie look like they could happen anywhere.”

Heart rate graph

A Quiet Place film heart rate score


Year released: 2012

Scare rating: 7

Maddi's review: “First of all, this movie had horrible lighting! I liked the concept of the film a lot, and my heart rate definitely jumped especially in moments where I was anticipating what was next. Even though some parts were really cheesy, on the other hand, some parts were REALLY creepy.”

Heart rate graph

Sinister film heart rate score

Get Out

Year released: 2017

Scare rating: 7

Maddi's review: “It’s not scary as much as it is super creepy. A few points throughout the movie my heart rate jumped from some of the surprises. Along with the thriller aspect of the movie, I think it makes some good societal points which makes it feel more realistic and creepy.”

Heart rate graph

Get Out film heart rate score


Year released: 2018

Scare rating: 6

Maddi's review: “I liked the movie overall, but I thought there were some slow parts that could have been done better. Other than that, the thrilling parts had you on the edge of your seat. The jump scares really got me! The classic Michael Meyers theme song makes it even better.”

Heart rate graph

Halloween 2018 film heart rate score


Year released: 2021

Scare rating: 6

Maddi's review: “This movie wasn’t very scary, but it was interesting to say the least. I think the remake was excellent and the concept was well-developed even if some parts of it were gruesome. I think that makes it even better, though! It made me nervous at some parts! I’m hoping there’s another one coming out.”

Heart rate graph

Candyman film heart rate score

Amityville Horror

Year released: 2005

Scare rating: 6

Maddi's review: “This was a good jump scare movie in my opinion. The movie gave me a few really good scares! It’s definitely one of the better stories on the list; it’s freaky knowing it’s based on actual events. This movie is well done and creates a chilling atmosphere - I was so stressed during this movie but the plot was great.”

Heart rate graph

Amityville Horror film heart rate score


Year released: 2014

Scare rating: 6

Maddi's review: “The film had some unexpected parts as well as some you could have expected. They both scared me pretty equally, though. It’s a much creepier movie knowing that it’s based off of a real story. I thought the acting was beyond and the cinematography was great, too. I probably won’t sleep tonight, and I definitely like knowing Annabelle is locked up in a glass cage where she belongs.”

Heart rate graph

Annabelle film heart rate score

The Purge

Year released: 2013

Scare rating: 5

Maddi's review: “It’s not scary, but it is thrilling and even terrifying at times because I can imagine myself in this position. The movie is so well done and directed that it’s easy to be empathetic to the movie. Along with a small feeling of dread there were a few jump scares that made my heart jump a beat!”

Heart rate graph

Purge film heart rate score


Year released: 2004

Scare rating: 3

Maddi's review: “For some reason, my heart rate was high during this movie but I didn’t find it scary. I guess it could be because I have a real fear of being kidnapped and tortured (like everyone) and this movie makes you feel like you could be taken easily. I think some of the acting could have been better, but the plot is definitely interesting and well thought out. I love the build up towards the ending, and even the ending itself!”

Heart rate graph

Saw film heart rate score

The Blair Witch Project

Year released: 1999

Scare rating: 2

Maddi's review: “I didn’t like this movie much, personally, but I’ve never liked documentary type movies, and I thought this one was just like all the others (even though it was the first). I didn’t find it scary, but I did think it was thrilling toward the end.”

Heart rate graph

Blair Witch Project film heart rate score

Paranormal Activity

Year released: 2007

Scare rating: 2

Maddi's review: “Just like The Blair Witch Project, this movie wasn’t good. I’ve never liked documentary style movies though -- I found this one especially cheesy. The acting wasn’t great and there wasn’t anything that scared me, which is why I’m confused why my heart rate jumped at all! It wasn’t scary, but it definitely was entertaining.”

Heart rate graph

Paranormal Activity film heart rate score

Ready to stream some horror movies?

If Maddi’s reviews have convinced you to binge some of the best horror movies before Halloween or you’re curious to see if you agree with the scare ratings, you can stream all of these movies on one of the top streaming services.

Movie Where to stream
A Quiet Place Part 2 Paramount+, Amazon Prime
Insidious Netflix, Amazon Prime
A Quiet Place Paramount+, Amazon Prime
Sinister Showtime, Amazon Prime
Get Out Amazon Prime
Halloween (2018) Amazon Prime
Candyman Hulu, Amazon Prime
Amityville Horror Amazon Prime
Annabelle Hulu, Vudu, Amazon Prime
The Purge Amazon Prime
Saw HBO Max, Amazon Prime
The Blair Witch Project Hulu, Amazon Prime
Paranormal Activity Amazon Prime

If one of the films you’re looking for isn’t on the list above, before you sign up for a new streaming service you should consider one of the best credit cards for streaming services. Loyal subscribers could use the savings!

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Author Details

Rebecca Wright

Rebecca Wright is a media maven who loves making her money go further with deals, coupons, and personal finance hacks. Since money makes the world go ‘round, she’s interested in exploring the intersection between personal finance and today’s consumer. Her work has been featured on a variety of publications from Reuters, Nasdaq, and Business Insider to Southern Living, Real Simple, and more.