What is Horrifying?

I sometimes enjoy horror movies, but it’s similar to my “enjoyment” of spicy food. Both make me a bit uncomfortable. Horror movies that rely on psychological terror are much more interesting than horror movies like the Saw series, which rely on gore and “shock” effects to “scare” you. Often, movies like that aren’t even scary at all; they’re just plain stupid. When I was watching Saw IV I was tempted to either burst out laughing at how ludicrous it all was or get up and leave because I couldn’t take all the gore. I did not enjoy that movie at all.

Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake of Halloween was a pretty neat horror film, mostly because it was interesting to think about how a child (Michael Myers) can get so screwed up and turn into a vicious killer. The movie did have blood, gore, and nudity, but it was far better than Saw IV in that it was vaguely plausible.

There are a multitude of other horror movies that also feature a “creepy” child – The Omen, The Changeling, The Poltergeist, The Exorcist, The Last Exorcism, Let the Right One In, The Ring, Insidious, and many more. This technique is so common that it’s practically become a cliche.

But what really irks me about horror movies (besides the “creepy” child factor and the amount of blood, gore, and nudity in a lot of them) is that they rely on moments that make you jump to scare you. The scary aspect of a movie should have more to do with the characters, setting, lighting, and psychological motivations and backstory than the amount of blood or “shock” moments that make you jump. Some horror movies pull this off really well – The Silence of the Lambs was one of those, although I’d argue that it’s more of a thriller than a horror film.

Older horror movies like Night of the Living Dead and a few of the Hammer films (The Curse of Frankenstein and Taste the Blood of Dracula) are good because they don’t rely on “shock” moments as much. They’ve got blood and gore, but it’s definitely not as much as what’s portrayed onscreen today. The only reason these movies don’t seem as frightening is because they’re about zombies, monsters, and vampires that don’t exist. Night of the Living Dead seems almost comical when you watch it, then compare it to horror movies that come out today.

Do you enjoy horror movies? What makes a good horror movie?

6 thoughts on “What is Horrifying?

  1. No. I don’t like horror films. I do like thrillers . . . even if there is a bit of blood and gore. But I prefer psychological twists and turns to broken bones and bleeding bodies.

    I enjoyed LIMITLESS. A bit more cerebral than some thrillers . . . with plenty of twists and turns. 😀

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  2. No horror for me, thanks. I liked Scream, but it was more because it made fun of horror films. I hate getting scared like a sucker, too (those jump moments you mentioned).

    Creepy kids are the absolute worst. I don’t care if they’re vampires or just freaky kids (hello, The Good Son?!). Can’t stand ’em. One time my own daughter gave me this scary smile when she was just a baby, and I shuddered.

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  3. I don’t like “horror” per se, and I don’t go to see those types of movies. That’s the thinking that kept me from reading Stephen King for many years (I don’t read horror, he writes horror, so I shouldn’t read him), so when I did finally read The Green Mile I found out that his writing was very different than I’d expected.

    As I wrote about on my blog a while back, it’s always easy to dismiss a genre if you don’t really know that much about it:
    http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2259

    I do like some zombie films, particularly the Resident Evil films, though they are now only nominally zombie films (mostly they’re female-centered action-adventure). Not really horrifying at all.

    I do have to say that I thought Let the Right One In was a great film (not a great genre film but an actually great film, Oscar-worthy — it showed up on a lot of Top Ten lists for that year, and it was #1 on some).

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    1. Stephen King is far better than the typical “mainstream” author. His style is almost literary at some points.

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