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What Is Horror?

  • #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 2,457 Cactus Col

    Hope it's okay to do this, branching off from the definitive 100 discussions.
    There seems to be a lot of discussion about what constitutes a horror film. It seems that films with strong elements of science fiction (Alien, Predator), comedy (Gremlins, Idle Hands), or any number of genres, are not considered horrors by some. (Cheers Mudskipper, completely forgot half the sentence!)

    So thought it might be worthy of a thread itself, so ... What is horror?


  • For me horror is about challenging the assumptions on which our society and the structures of our lives are based. Whether the question asked is "how would you deal with a seemingly invincible psychopathic serial killer?" or "what would you do if civilisation collapsed?" or "if you woke up one day after going mad, would you know you'd gone mad?", it should be about removing the comforts that we depend on and seeing what happens.

  • Cactus Col wrote: »
    It seems that films with strong elements of science fiction (Alien, Predator), comedy (Gremlins, Idle Hands), or any number of genres.

    are not considered horror? are the ultimate definition of horror?

    Am presuming the first is the end of your question :D

    Only spotted this after replying in the last discussion thread, but to copy and paste:

    for me it doesnt have to be gore or bodycount, the psychological element works just as well if not better, for me anyway :eek:

    Irreversible may not be classed a horror, but show it to your girlfriend or wife and she will likely be horrified and have nightmares for days... just a thought :confused:

    Shaun of the dead may be comedy/horror but it's tongue in cheek-ness is what made it. There's room on our list for all types of 'pure' horror and horror hybrids where it's mixed with other genres. After all isn't alien just a sci-fi ;)?

    It's the unsettling nature that does it for me.

  • Good threat OP, I only got to thining about this the other day when some one called Jaws a 70s horror. It was never a film that I had classed as a horror but when I gave it more thought it was a horror. For me it had always been a disaster movie.... The one with the earthquake, the one with the sky scraper fire, the one with the plane crash and the one with the shark( Jaws ).

    Also Jaws was a movie that was put on for kids in the saturday afternoon cinema in the local school hall. In those days the late 70`s and early 80`s horror movies were an adult only affair and an film wasent concidered a horror unless it got an 18`s cert. But the level of Gore and the tension build up by the music really does make Jaws a horror.

    So it got me thinking can a war movie be classed as a horror. I always thought the openeing sequence of Saving private ryan was one of the most horrific things I had ever seen on screen. But to me this has always been a war movie, should I be thinking differently about the film.

    Can a comedy a horror? Can a sifi be a horror? Can a war movie be a horror? Or a sidaster movie. Well I think any kinda movie can be a horror. Sure even the Twilight movies are love stories and they try to be horror, thought they fail miserbly.

    So I think any film type can be a horror and yet horror is a type all to itself.....

  • For me, Horror is a very broad genre, and it can encapsulate many different aspects and elements. Some people prefer a more rigid definition, and there are even those who don't consider slasher films horror, because they lack a supernatural element; ghosts, zombies, vampires, and so forth. Some would just consider horror films those purely with the intent to scare the audience, but there are many films in the genre that don't try to scare, like Let The Right One In and so forth. There are also plenty of films where the intent is to disturb, or repulse the audiences, or simply create suspense and tension. The point of a film can vary greatly as well, either flat out trying to give you a fright, or the setting/monster can be merely a platform for an element of social commentary.

    As Spooky there points out, Jaws is a horror. So are films are differing as Psycho, Alien, or Night of the Living Dead. A horror film can be supernatural in subject, or it can be based in reality, it can try to scare the view, but it doesn't have to to be considered horror. To put simply, Horror can mean a lot of things, and there's really no rigid definition.

    Also, the idea that if a film has some comedy it can't be considered horror, well I find that ridiculous. Films like Dead Snow or The Evil Dead 2 are of course horror. Is a comedy not a comedy when it has an element of romance, or drama, or anythine else?

  • I think when looking at 'horror', you really must separate the subject matter from the feelings evoked.

    It's such a broad, nebulous genre (if 'genre' is really the right word), as Karl Hungus says above, that nailing it down can be tricky sometimes. For me, if a story has left me feeling fear, anxiety, dread, those kind of emotions, then it's one of horror. It has nothing to do with the supernatural, with murder, with evil from beyond the grave - although these are often used as tools to summon forth the horror-reaction in the audience. The devices are many and varied, but it's that overall effect upon the viewer or reader that defines work as 'horror' for me.

    I think that's why horror always interested me - when it's done right, like in 'Halloween' or a story such as Stephen King's 'The Boogeyman', it leaves such a lasting impression, gets right in under your skin and nestles in there... that's a special feeling, and it takes a great craftsman to get that across to an audience.

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  • A film about forcing abortion is horrifically tragic but NOT a horror film. "It's Alive" showing deformative horrors of thalidomide and attempting to murder a baby born with said deformities while the mother screams to see her baby IS HORROR.

    a woman transformed into a half bird thing by a nazi or stalinist wackjob "scientist" is horror. Bulemic women with delusions brought on by bi polar disorder thinking that they are turning into a birdwoman as their ballet career crumbles is an Oprah epusode

  • For me, the below are not horror.

    Grabbers - Comedy
    Shaun of the Dead - Comedy
    Lost Boys - Adventure
    Warm Bodies is right up there with The Twilight series of romance,non horror.
    Blade - Adventure/Comic.

    I have loads more that I can not think of right now :p

  • Indeed. Angst is not horror. Suffering hallucinations of demons from ptsd or paranoid schizophrenia is not horror and any wanktastic wannabe presenting them as such to get funding or grants by dollying such things up as a horror film is committing fraud.

    However, if a person with ptsd is experimented upon and becomes a demon, THAT is horror. If a new treatment for paranoid schizophrenia causes a patient to have psychokinetic abilities which in in blood and screams, versus becoming the victim of a fake til you make it grad student or talk show host, then you have a horror film. Film noir lighting does make Emotionalist wankage such as all Diablo Cody material aught but what it is: emotionalist navel gazing and arrested adolescent "facebook on camera" garbage.

  • "Does NOT make" I hasten to add as an edit. My loathing of Oprah crap and Juno/Jennifer's Body garbage led to rushing the post.