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!