Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Discussion of the Week - Horror? What's Horror?

Before I get into this week's discussion, just wanted to follow up on last week's. I said that I would watch whichever Stephen King mini-series you guys collectively chose as the best and the winner was The Stand. I will hold true to my promise and will be sitting down to watch The Stand in full real soon! Now that that's established, let's move onto this week.....

My brother brought this incredible discussion to me earlier tonight and we spent a good half hour talking about it. It's something i've thought about from time to time and have had problems with when it comes to putting DVD's on my shelf (I seperate them by genre) and although i'm pretty sure we've finally pinpointed the correct iron clad answer to the question, I wanted to discuss it with you guys....

What constitutes a "horror" movie? In other words - What is the one common thread that a movie must have to make it a "horror movie", in your mind?

My brother first presented me with the idea that a movie must have supernatural elements to make it a horror movie. While supernatural elements in a movie usually would make it a horror movie, we quickly debunked this idea. There aint nothin supernatural about Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for example. My initial feeling was that a horror movie is a movie where someone or something is going around killing people with no motive or reason. My argument was that a movie like The Departed or No Country For Old Men has tons of gore, killing, and death, but it's all for a reason, at least in the character's minds, whereas a movie like Chainsaw or Jaws is just a dude/animal going around killing people really for no reason other than that he likes killing people. While that seems like a good definition for a horror movie at first, it opens up a whole can of worms. You can argue that Leatherface had motive (people trespassing) and a movie like Seven or even Saw pretty much debunks that myth totally. John Doe had a motive. Jigsaw had a reason. Does that make those movies cease to be horror movies? Obviously not. And what about Taxi Driver? Why is that not a horror movie? It's essentially just a dude going around killing people so shouldn't it be considered horror going by this rule I came up with? Sure you could argue that he had a motive in his own mind but we've already proven that a viable motive alone does not make a movie not a horror movie. There went that idea out the window. At this point we were totally stumped and so I regrettably turned to Wikipedia in my desperation, which turned out to provide the ultimate answer to the question :

"Horror films are movies that strive to elicit the emotions of fear, horror and terror from viewers."

In other words - any movie that is TRYING to scare you is a horror movie. It's pretty much iron clad and i'd challenge you to come up with a movie considered to be horror that is an exception to this rule. I certaintly can't come up with one and American Psycho has now been moved to the Drama shelf of my collection. Sure it's got a dude chopping up people with an axe and a chainsaw but its goal isn't really to scare, is it?

So even though i've kinda already answered this one (or Wikipedia has, rather), I still want to get your guys' opinions. Can you come up with any exceptions to this rule or do you have your own definition of what makes a movie a horror movie? Leave a comment and let me know!

10 comments:

Zach said...

For me, horror is all about one thing: isolation. The best horror movies distill all of your feelings into feeling all alone. Even in a group of people, even in a city full of people, there's always that feeling the characters are all alone and helpless. Horror is taking situations and characters and making it seem removed from the norm. Hence the disbelieving characters, desolate landscapes, and preternatural situations that tend to permeate the genre.

Quanthor said...

Yeah, it's tough isn't it?

I usually have difficulties with this too especially when it comes seperating "Thrillers" and "Sci-Fi" because often times you can attach "Horror" to both of those.

I really can't think of any film that doesn't have the intent to terrify that I would consider a horror movie. Even comedy horror films like 'Ghostbusters' have their scary moments. Who doesn't get creeped out by the Librarian?

'American Psycho' is a tad difficult to categorize. It's very unique satirical character study film that has elements of horror but I'm not sure if I would classify it in the horror genre though.

Johnny said...

I've always had trouble classifying American Psycho. I guess there are some films that border on the edge of horror without really being horror and that movie is definetly one of those.

Zacery Nova said...

Well, I watched "2001 Maniacs" and it didn't illicit fear, terror or horror - it was hilarious. Yet it's rightly categorized as a horror, but not a comedy. How do the camp humorous horrors fit in?

Johnny said...

Well, horror/comedys are just a sub-genre of horror.

Adam7T said...

I agree that a horror films intention is usually to illicit fear and terror from the viewer, but I think the really good ones also make some kind of a statement about mankind as well.

OMGSeriously said...

Yeah in the end no matter how it's done I think it's supposed to strike fear, or terror and in a way at the same time maybe even gross out the viewer.

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lilly said...

I loved this movie- this was just as good as the 1st. Great traps and kills!

kimmel59 said...

Horror is hard to define, because it's based pure emotion. There are many aspects to this emotion and it effects individuals differently. What terrifies you, could be tame to me. Acts that horrorify you, may be a daily occurence in my life. You get the point.

So to me, the broad definition of horror is anything that attempts to tap into emotions of fear through physical or ceberal actions.