Happy post-Halloween everyone! We hope your Halloween was full of frights and fun as it should be, and I hope you’re ready for a little discussion. We all know horror movies are a big part of the Halloween spirit, but an interesting issue comes up a lot when discussing them. That issue: Is it a horror movie if it isn’t scary? So I thought it was time we got into that, so follow us after the jump to learn more!
So the distinction here is one I know I’ve discussed a few times, but a movie can be a great horror movie without being scary. Some may think that is blasphemy, but stick with me here. Just like the old math addage of “All squares are rectangles” all horror movies, but breaking away from that, not all horror movies are necessarily scary. It just so happens that the nature of horror movies to scare people has become so prevalent because people want that adrenaline that we confuse it.
Let’s delve a bit into the history of horror, because that’ll make it a bit easier to understand I think. Lets start with the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition:
a :painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay
- astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me
- —H. G. Wellsb :intense aversion or repugnance
That’s not being scary, and that’s because that’s because horror was to get into what you dread or are averse from. Early horror writing could be maybe better described as “terrible” in the sense of causing terror. A great reference point is H. P Lovecraft where its not terrifying, its actually strange and dreadful creatures that so defy logic and understanding that they drive you to madness.
So let’s go from there to discuss scary movies and stories. Horror definitely can cause you to be scared as it relates to fear and dread, but it takes more than those to actually scare. The movie that scared me deeply as a kid was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 70’s version with Donald Sutherland. That went horror because it scares you at every turn as you are betrayed by your expectations and trust of the characters and their relations. That famous scene of Sutherland screeching to alert other of the body snatchers as Nancy’s hope to find another human is destroyed. That feel of terror was horror at its purest for me at 12. That is a scary movie right there, and its great for it.
I hope that gives you a better idea of the differences here. But please let me know what you think of this distinction and your favorites of each type!