"If it's not Scary, it's not a Horror Film"

A discussion revolving around how horror films are more than just about how scary they are and that the scare factor does not solely define a movie as a horror.

There are films that are visually/semantically not horror films (Alien is THE example) yet the arc of the film strongly resembles that of a horror film.

Horror films usually have some sort of political/social/cultural message to them. There was an Israeli called "Rabies" (or "Kalevet") that had incredibly strong political viewpoints about it’s home country wonderfully summed up by the last line in the film, "Country full of shits."

Of course, this could be taken to include how horror movies should also be scary and how that is still an important but not integral aspect to the genre. Also the concept of how what we are scared by/how scared we are is more subjective than objective would be an interesting point for discussion.

  • I love this topic idea. I feel like "scary" in modern terms tends to deal with "how many jumpscares are there," which is a technique typically misused in many contemporary horror movies. There are many movies as you mentioned that create a certain atmosphere (Alien; Silence of the Lambs) to the point that while they don't traditionally get labeled as horror (sci-fi; thriller), they have a certain tension and resonate on certain visceral levels of both the audience's and the characters' fears. This is similar to how a lot of people didn't see "The Babadook" as scary because it didn't have many jumpscares or scenes where it openly showed the monster, but it relied on dread and the topic of suppressed grief. Similar to how the movie you mention deals with politics, sometimes horror movies are terrifying because of what they reveal about humanity, i.e. Psycho. I'd also say that this goes back to Ann Radcliffe's "horror vs. terror" debate and the issue of ambiguity and unclearness. Unclearness creates terror, but it seems obscuring certain elements like not revealing the monster or not having obvious jumpscares can make viewers impatient or have the movie be seen as "not trying to be scary enough." For this topic, I'd definitely look into what "scary" means to viewers and if that element is necessary for an effective movie. Or can "scary" be wielded effectively? – emilydeibler 8 years ago
  • I forgot to add in the main body of the topic that also the "monster" within a horror film can also represent fears of nations, societies, governments etc. For example, in the film "Them!" giant ants attack an American city and they are portayals of the fears of nuclear and atomic bombs, both those used during WWII and the testing of such weapons done in some unpopulated space in America. Along with this the "monster" can also be representative of sexual repression of certain groups (homosexuals I think is one example) of people; I believe Robin Wood wrote something regarding this that would be incredibly helpful. – Jamie White 8 years ago
  • Along the same lines of what Emily wrote, it seems these days that a "good" horror film incorporates a lot of gore, jump scares, and violence. I don't think a horror film has to have all of these, but they do have to be scary in SOME way to be billed as a horror film. That being said, horror, like violence, can be implemented into a film in a purposeful way without making it simply spectacular or gratuitous. It's about balancing between cringe-worthy and necessary. – Christina Legler 8 years ago

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