OPINION28 February 2011

True horror: The spectre of neurocinema

As this year’s Oscar winners congratulate themselves, future hopefuls are experimenting with a new route to movie success. Fastcompany.com has an interesting article about “the rise of neurocinema”.

Neuromarketing firms have been applying their technical wizardry to movie trailers for a while (our own James Verrinder had his brain scanned while watching the Alice in Wonderland trailer a few months back) but now they’re talking about using brain science to refine the films themselves.

According to psychologist Uri Hasson, action, horror and sci-fi films in particular rely on stimulating a certain part of the brain to provoke excitement, and scanning people’s brains allows filmmakers to measure and hone how successfully they’re doing this.

But not surprisingly, the application of neuroscience to filmmaking divides opinion.

James Cameron apparently said of Avatar that “more neurons are actively engaged in processing a 3D movie than the same film seen in 2D” – which would certainly explain the headache I was left with after watching it. I dread to think what would have happened to my neurons if he’d done the characterisation in 3D too.

A K Pradeep of NeuroFocus is also quoted in the article, predicting that the future of movies lies in “real-time instant consumer brain response-based personalisation”. What I think he means is that the film adapts itself while you watch in response to your brainwaves. Your Train of Thought: The Movie.

That sounds to me like the true definition of a horror film, and if it’s the future of cinema, I’ll be staying in with a good book.