The New Classics in Horror Film Formulas

The scary story is nothing new. Take the Grimm fairy tales, for instance. They are filled with horror, blood, and terror to equal most horror movies today. But they served a purpose. They taught children to avoid the dark woods and be wary of the big, bad wolves in the world. Today, scary stories resound lessons as well. They teach us to always look in the backseat and avoid going out into the dark alone. We may not sit around the campfire and tell stories as we once did, but we sit in front of a glowing screen waiting to be scared, tantalized, and shocked. Most horror films follow the same basic archetypes, but that does not seem to hold us back from wanting more. While the formula of scary stories may have changed overtime, the themes remain the same. Horror films have transitioned from haunted house ghost stories and crazed maniacs to the films we see today. These formulas are becoming the new classics in how we view horror films.

Nazi-Zombie

Dead Snow movie image
Dead Snow brings us the scariest form of zombie since 28 Days Later made them fast.

The Nazi-zombie horror seems like an odd combination at first glance, but our culture has been fascinated and horrified with all things World War II, Nazi, and Holocaust for the last seventy years. The numerous “based on a true story” war films always shine as box office gold. So why not incorporated some war stories into the horror franchise? Nazis still serve as the ultimate villains worldwide. With the renewed interest in zombies, why not combine the two and see what happens? The results are some chilling and often funny films set apart from the classic zombie movies.

If you can handle subtitles, Dead Snow (2009) is one of the best available. This Norwegian film combines hormonal students, a secluded cabin in the snowy mountains, and treasure seeking Nazi-zombies. The film is also full of dark comedy, but what else do you expect when treasure seeking Nazi-zombies are involved? Director Tommy Wirkola commented on why he made a Nazi-zombie film:

“Well there are many reasons for us making a Nazi-zombie movie. First we just wanted to be first in the whole of Scandinavia to make a zombie movie so when we were about to sit down and write the actual script, we started thinking ‘What is more evil than a zombie’? A NAZI-ZOMBIE! We have a really strong war-history up in the north of Norway from World War Two, so it was fun to combine actual events with our own story. And you know Nazis have always been the ultimate villains in movies. Combine that with zombies and you really get something that NO-ONE would sympathize with. So we knew that we could kill these creatures in any way we wanted, and no-one would feel sympathy for them.”

As Wirkola stated, part of the fun of the Nazi-zombie formula is that viewers feel no sympathy for the villains. We enjoy seeing them zombified, and the characters mutilating them as enemies. It adds a fun and often comical flavor to an otherwise grotesque story. The zombies in Dead Snow and other similar films are also more terrifying in their SS uniforms and display more intelligence than a typical zombie. A few other films to view are Shock Waves (1977), Zombie Lake (1981), Outpost (2007), and Blood Creek (2009). It is a small, but hopefully growing sub-genre that more filmmakers will continue to explore.

Mockumentary

The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project is one of the first films to blur the lines of reality for the viewer

Taking off with The Blair Witch Project (1999), mockumentaries have become the horror film’s play on reality television. They tantalize and tease the audience about what is real. The Blair Witch Project even tricked many movie goers into believing they were watching a documentary about people disappearing while searching for the Blair Witch. The film was heavily promoted on the internet, and internet news stories, blogs, and fan sites added to the confusion surrounding the film. It’s similar to Orson Welles’s infamous performance of War of the Worlds on radio in 1938. Nowadays we are less likely to fall for the “found footage” ploy, but we still like being drawn into the seeming reality mockumentaries bring forth. As the character of Josh stated in The Blair Witch Project, “It’s not quite reality. It’s like a totally filtered reality. It’s like you can pretend everything’s not quite the way it is.”

There have been several successful mockumentaries in the last few years. One of the most popular franchises to come out of this sub-genre is Paranormal Activity. These films provide scares without the violence and gore that has become standard in modern horror. They are gritty and realistically filmed, and often made for a fraction of the cost–Paranormal Activity’s budget was $15,000, while grossing $107,917,283 in the United States (IMDB). Filmmakers can create these low budget horror films that are almost guaranteed to draw viewers. In a generation where everything is filmed and documented by technology, we can relate to the horror characters face in these films: “It would seem that the trend of found footage horror reflects a new modern fear – not only that something terrible might happen to you, but that there might also be someone filming it” (International).

Some other lesser known mockumentaries to try are Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006), [REC] (2007), Lake Mungo (2008), Troll Hunter (2010), Grave Encounters (2011), and V/H/S (2012).

Torture Porn

“Sure it makes you uncomfortable, but good art should make you uncomfortable.” – Stephen King

Jigsaw - Saw film
Saw’s puppet embodiment of its villain, Jigsaw

While mockumentaries tend to skimp on the violence, “torture porn” films bring out the most despicable and detestable forms of violence and gore. Torture porn refers to horror films that focus on gratuitous violence rather than story. This formula has been written about plenty over the last ten years, but this is not an argument for or against it. Whether we agree with it or not, it has been established in our horror film canon. This sub-genre started with Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972) in which Craven stated that “the violence was inspired in part by Vietnam War newsreels” (Zinoman).

When there is so much violence going on in our world, why would we want to watch more? Maybe that is exactly the reason we are drawn in. It is mind-numbing entertainment to shock and awe us. Stephen King says it best in his description of torture porn:

“There’s another side of that too. The gore obscures, particularly in the minds of critics, some of the reasons why those movies are successful. The gore in movies like Last House on The Left was so new that it kind of slapped audiences in the face, ‘I can’t believe I saw that, let’s go see it again!’ Like driving past an accident. But people get desensitized to that in a hurry and you cease to get involved on a level where there are characters. It’s like watching people in a shooting gallery being knocked over one by one. You can’t go for gore for the sake of gore in movies anymore.”

It is entertainment to make us debate. Is it too much violence? Does it lead others to commit violence or become too desensitized to real violence? Much like skydiving or riding a roller coaster, it is a dare to see if we can handle it and an adrenaline rush if we survive.

If you are brave enough to give it a try, here are a few of the best: Saw (2004), Hostel (2005), High Tension (2003), The Collector (2009), Martyrs (2008), and Inside (2007).

Asian Horror Remakes

The Ring is a remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu
The Ring is a remake of the Japanese horror film Ringu

On the flip side of torture porn is the inundation of Asian horror film remakes in the last fifteen years. They bring a striking scare with little gore. While there are many violent Asian horror films and their remakes, this is referring to those surrounding ghosts and curses we have become so fond of. The remakes are not any better than the originals, but they reach an American audience wary of subtitles with a new type of ghost story. These films are founded in the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean trope of using vengeful ghosts. These are not our grandparents ghosts. These are not the tortured spirits looking for release into the afterlife or to say one last goodbye. These ghosts are bent on revenge, and are, in a sense, immortal. They cannot be easily stopped, and they work on our psyche.

According to the article “Asian Horror Frightfully Successful”, the appeal and scare tactics of these films lies in the psychological scare they provide:

“You have a lot of differences between the Asian horror and traditional horror. The horror of the characters comes not from someone coming at you, with a chainsaw, for instance, but the terror comes from within the characters. Perhaps they are still afraid of a previous terrifying experience, or feeling guilt about something they have done.”

These films, like The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004), prey on our inner guilt and terror of secrets that might be found out. These types of ghost stories leave us terrifying images to haunt our nightmares. Those who see The Ring never forget the television scene when the movie almost comes to life and starts crawling towards the audience. They are the new classics for the ghost and haunted house stories.

For further viewing, check out the following: Dark Water (2005), Pulse (2006), The Eye (2008), Shutter (2008), Mirrors (2008), and The Uninvited (2009).

Based on “True Events”

The real Annabelle doll located in the Warrens' museum
The real Annabelle doll located in the Warrens’ museum

Like with mockumentaries, the many “based on true events” movies try to trap us into faux reality. The “true” in these films may be no more than rumor, but they play on our fears of what humankind is capable of. If audiences imagine any part of these films to be true, they create new and sometimes irrational fears. But we liked to be scared; we like to be tantalized with stories based on reality. It’s how the Lifetime channel survives, bringing us tales of survival and hints that the monsters we fear could actually be real.

The most recent trend has been with exorcism or possessed films. The stand outs have been the ones based on the paranormal investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren including The Amityville Horror (1979, 2005), The Conjuring (2013), and Annabelle (2014). The films are loose adaptations of their stories, but we are drawn to the idea that these events did happen in someway, and that is enough to bring in a curious audience. (The real stories behind the investigations can be found on the Warrens’ website.)

Open Water (2003) is another film in recent years that reignited our fear of going in the water after getting over Jaws. The film implies that the couple’s demise was from shark attack, but in reality, no trace of the couple was ever found to verify cause of death. Nonetheless, the implications are enough to instill fear in us, to make us hesitate to go back into the water and receive the same fate. Whether or not these films are based in reality, the “based on” tagline is enough to entice us to believe we will be learning the characters’ true fates as we watch in terror.

Other films that claim to be “based on true events” are The Mothman Prophecies (2002), Wolf Creek (2005), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), and The Possession (2012).

Conclusion

These sub-genres of horror have quickly made their way into our viewing habits and serve as the new trends in horror films. Nevertheless, we will always have our classic slashers and monster movies, but in the times we live in, the above categories of horror play into what we currently find fascinating in the world. Our tastes as viewers have changed since the days of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Michael Myers. Not that they won’t always have a place in our dark hearts, but changing times reflect in our cinema, and, hopefully, the things that haunt our imagination on the screen will stay just that, a figment of our imagination.

Works Cited

Bennett, Dan. “Asian Horror Frightfully Successful.” Home Media Retailing 27.25 (2005): 18-20. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 22 Oct. 2014.

Cockwell, S. “Interview with Dead Snow writer and director Tommy Wirkola.” (2009). eatmybrains.com.

IMDB. Paranormal Activity. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179904/?ref_=nv_sr_3

International Business, Times. “V/H/S, Chernobyl Diaries, The Helpers and Sinister: Is There Any Life Left in Found Footage Horror? [VIDEO].” International Business Times 6: Regional Business News. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.

Olsen, Marc. “Stephen King on the artistic merits of torture porn”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on July 14, 2007.

Zinoman, Jason. “Killer Instincts.” Vanity Fair 571 (2008): 304. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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85 Comments

  1. all i can say is horror movies gives u the satisfaction of that horrific pleasure you can’t even measure,i am truly show that whatever horror movie you watch it lives you with terry tenderness,last horror movie i recall is nyt of de living dead.

  2. Unpredictability is most important in any style of horror movie.

    • kellyfay

      Agreed. Although it’s meant to be more of a commentary on horror films, The Cabin in the Woods used unpredictability brilliantly. Don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but if you have, you know what I mean.

  3. One thing that impressed me when I finally watched TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: the forumla hadn’t been formulated yet, and people die off in a really unexpected rhythm…the formulaic pacing had yet to get established and standardized blandardized. The first two killings in TCM that happen almost back to back in almost the exact same way are made even worse. Nightmarish.

  4. Really good overview, thank you. I do not think you can make a truly scary movie from a formula, because formulas are predictable. Take a look at all the classics and you’ll find that the scariest films are the ones that break away from the formula and show things that have never been seen before, or at least not in exactly the same way.

    • Believe it or not, there is actually a formula here: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/3537938.stm

      (es+u+cs+t) squared s (tl+f)/2 + (a+dr+fs)/n
      + sin x – 1.

      Where:
      es = escalating music
      u = the unknown
      cs = chase scenes
      t = sense of being trapped
      s = shock
      tl = true life
      f = fantasy
      a = character is alone
      dr = in the dark
      fs = film setting
      n = number of people
      sin = blood and guts
      1 = stereotypes

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree. The best are those few that break the mold, such as Psycho and Halloween. Even though Halloween has become a formula for slashers, it was one of the first and is still scary as hell.

  5. Corrie Wendt
    0

    Personally I consider the typical horror genre to be a sub-category of dark humor.

    • Liz Watkins

      I almost did a category for Horror Comedies. Those are my favorite, so I decided to write a separate article over it. I love when horror has lots of dark humor and don’t take it too seriously.

  6. Jamie Tracy

    Excellent article.
    Great idea and your analysis is spot on.
    Love the mockumentary section. I remember seeing The Blair Witch while I was a camp counselor and had to walk the other counselors through the woods to get back to their bunks because they were so scared.

    • Liz Watkins

      I think we all have that one horror film that still resonates with us and play on our fears. Mine is Halloween because I used to babysit.

  7. Generally, if a trend lasts less than a year it’s called a fad.

    If a trend lasts more than a year (two is better) it’s called a style.

    I wish the “found” type of horror movies would go out-of-style.

    • I really liked Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity because of the found footage style. Found footage adds realism, increasing the suspense of the horror, which might be a result of creating confusion about the point of view of the movie’s visual narration. Both used the technique very well.

  8. Amanda Dominguez-Chio

    Just in time for Halloween! Cool article. I especially liked that you provided recommendations after each section.

  9. Monalisa08033

    I. Love. Horror movies. I feel that nowadays, the old formulas still apply. Slasher films, things jumping out and scaring you out of your seat films, torture films, exorcism films, zombie flicks. They’re all still alive and kicking. What makes them so desirable? Adrenaline, the “high” that is evoked by fear? I still don’t know. I recently saw “The Conjuring”. That has to be one of the scariest and most well made scary flicks I’ve seen in years. Being 27 now, I can’t say I have the same level of enjoyment of fear that I used to. Even so, gotta love the scary stuff. Happy Halloween:)

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree about having the same level of enjoyment. I think now it is that, as an adult, I know that so much horror actually exists in the world.

  10. The Conspiracy is a cool little horror mockumentary that should have gotten more attention. It defies the usual expectation of the formula by being shot in a pretty convincing documentary style instead of being found footage, which, as others have said, has been overused to the point of cliche.

  11. Found footage horror/scifi and macho women horror/scifi have become the real horror in todays horror/scifi genre……………………

  12. Horror is a genre of copycats.

    • Genre implies shared characteristics, tropes, devices, archetypes. Tradition is the acceptable term for artistic borrowing. If originality is the only thing at stake in engaging with a movie you overlook the grain and particulars that make wonderful cinema worth watching. How does a movie dialog with other movies within the genre? Maybe something copied is an homage, or maybe a way of saying “what you said is almost right, but let me show you how I think about it.”

    • Isn’t every genre filled with copycats? If a comedy writer decided to buck the comedy trend completely, there probably wouldn’t be any humor left. And the comedy would no longer count as a comedy. You can’t stray too far from what has come before without missing the mark.

  13. Fidel Winston
    0

    I feel sorry for people who have had their senses so deadened by copious gore and violence that they don’t find Nosferatu scary. It is scary, we just live in a world too dead to appreciate genuine horror.

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree. I strongly dislike the “torture porn” category, but it is there, so I wrote about it. I like my scares gore free. I just rewatched Nosferatu the other day, and it always holds up. Same with Hitchcock films.

      • Don’t you feel like “torture porn” is too easy a label? It conflates all kinds of films that should never be conflated simply because they use excessive amounts of red corn syrup.

        For example, Hostel, while admittedly a difficult film to view, is much more complex than something like Saw. Saw seems only to be about atmosphere and the complex death machines the villain invents. Hostel seems to be about Western privilege and ignorance running roughshod over other cultures and the way capitalism’s excesses have evolved into a system which allows some pretty terrible things to happen for the whims of the wealthy.

        Another aspect of Hostel that I find interesting is the character who survives does so exclusively by using the skills which separate him from the “typical” American abroad or at least atypical of American foreign policy: being bilingual, being selfless and being loyal to his friends.

        I would say the prime example of real “torture porn” would be something like Passion of the Christ. Everyone knows what is going to happen and the film is marketed as being a visceral experience. Those choosing to view the film, for the most part, believe that everything happening is historical fact and attend the film with something akin to a desire to painlessly endure the suffering seen on screen. Audiences of horror films on the other hand are doing the theatrical equivalent of riding a roller-coaster or peering over the edge of a steep drop – exploring morbidity and death in a safe and thrilling way.

  14. Fredericka
    0

    I love this stuff. Keep it up!

  15. Takashi Miike’s outstanding Audition doesn’t really qualify as an incredibly frightening movie, but I think it is a great example of elements many “horror” movies are lacking. When I first watched it all I could think was WTF WAS THAT?! but it slowly started to sink in that it started heading in a very nifty direction.

  16. In my horror dose, I need to identify with the setup, or the characters mean nothing to me at the beginning, and I won’t care when the knives start flying.

    • Exie Lu
      0

      Yes! The biggest thing for me is likable characters. Too many horror films today are filled with giant assholes you can’t wait to see dispatched in creative ways.

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree that the horror genre is lacking in character development. How many great characters do we remember from horror films? We don’t. We usually only remember the villains.

  17. I’m so into horror as a genre that I watch them for reasons other than wanting to be frightened.

  18. Jordan

    Great article!
    The asian horror remake thing annoys me because it is often shot per shot the exact same movie… with the Grudge I found the original a lot better, mostly because it built suspense more effectively with use of silence. Have you found this to be the case?

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree. As I stated in the article, I don’t think there has been a remake to equal any of the originals. The closest for me is probably The Ring.

  19. sammmtastic

    Nice article! I appreciate the impartiality, and that you can provide a fact-based overview of the most popular trends in the horror genre. I do wish you had touched a little on the major boom in horror remakes/reboots—it’s interesting to look at the ways horror has evolved but also held onto more classic stories and styles. I really like some of the points you bring up in the mockumentary and “based on” sections. Somehow the idea that a horror film is based even a little bit in our reality makes it all the more enticing.

  20. I don’t like the found-footage style, b/c people act like idiots in them.

  21. Nydia Altman
    0

    I am a huge horror fan and I would argue that horror films are much more formulaic than any other fictional genre. There are films that aren’t so generic, of course (like, say, Let the Right One In or The Exorcist) but there are also hundreds and hundreds of horror films that are front to back copies of similar films. Is there any other genre in which remakes and sequels are so common? When I watch a horror film, however, I don’t really care if it’s original or not. I like the formula. It works.

    • Liz Watkins

      I agree that I don’t think any other film genre does the remake/sequel pattern so much. Comedies usually make several bad sequels based off the original similar to horror.

  22. I do not think horror films have to make you leap from your seat to be good. I’m satisfied with merely “creepy” films.

    • Liz Watkins

      I always think creepy is worse for leaving lingering scares. Gore is just gross and after jumping out of my seat I can just laugh it off. But those hiding under your bed, crawling up your sheets type of things make it hard to sleep.

  23. Lindgren
    0

    If you hear a strange noise outside. Never go out to look at what it is. Then there is always someone who tells them not to and they still do it.

    • Liz Watkins

      I wonder how many of us actually do this? I know I am guilty of going out to check on strange noises, but it doesn’t usually occur to me that there may be an ax-wielding maniac waiting.

  24. This is what I get for googling creepy movies at midnight.
    Thanks for giving me nightmares!!!!

  25. The classics is where it is at. They don’t make movies like they used to.

    • I think if you grew up on these movies you have a greater appreciation for them but kids think they suck no doubt…

      • I’m quite old enough to love many good films from the past, and have introduced many a B&W flick to my students. (I’ve had the best response to Twelve Angry Men.)

        But we tend to remember only the classics. For every classic there were—just like today—many inane pieces of crap. And as much as I love Casablanca and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I think the past quarter century or so, movies are, on average, better than the “Golden Age”.

  26. I find it to be that Horror movies needs to have the strongest connection between the script and cinematography.

  27. I try to avoid horror movies myself. I have an over-(read: hyper-)active imagination. Basements still creep me out thanks to “Amityville” and don’t even get me started on the Weeping Angels!

    As an occasional professional actor (who is in an upcoming zombie comedy), I think a good reason for these types of horror to be so popular is that they are cheap to produce. Horror always sells and a studio can knock out a film of this type with minimal time and budget.

    • Liz Watkins

      Love the Weeping Angels! They are by far my favorite Who villain. A close tie would be the Silence. They remind me of the silent men from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I like it when television show that are not typical horror can bring occasional scares.

  28. As someone who is new to watching Horror films, this was incredibly interesting to read. Recently I’ve started “American Horror Story,” but besides that I can count the horror movies I’ve seen on one hand. Season one of AHS had some plot, but relied heavily on gore. Halfway through season two I can definitely say that it falls under Torture Porn. I knew there were subcatagories of Horror, but I had no idea what they were. This article was very informing. I also very much appreciate the suggested films listed at the end of each section. Thanks!

    • Liz Watkins

      I have not seen all of the “American Horror Story” seasons, but I agree they try to rely heavily on gore. The best I’ve seen is the Asylum season. It had more scares than gore, and it was scary on a realistic level of how people were once treated in asylums.

  29. Greg Beamish

    Nice article. Horror is an genre that can lead us down many dark paths. Some of my favorites are “The Blair Witch Project”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Exorcist”, and “The Others”.

    History’s nazis were pretty much zombies anyway. It can be fun to see this irony manifested. There’s a sort of sonic quality to the phrase “Nazi Zombies”. It probably has something to do with the double Z.

    I agree that “Paranormal Activity” does a good job of creating clean suspense. It can make an audience scream at the swinging of a door or the ruffling of a sheet. The sense of reality it induces makes subtleties scary.
    I do believe no other movie achieves the sense of clean suspense quite as well as “The Blair Witch Project”. Unlike most horror movies that escalate to a “jump” moment quite a few times throughout the film, “TBWP” is one continues escalation of suspense. There are no “jump” moments until the very end, and even that requires a bit of thinking before the dread really sets in. “TBWP” is like running a horror marathon. It starts out easy, but by the end you are literally gasping for breath. I’m more of an analyzer when it comes to films, they don’t usually get under my skin, but “TBWP” was captivating.

  30. Such an incredible topic! It’s nice to see someone took the time to write a decent piece of literature about a subject that so many people sit around talking about day to day (or at least I have on numerous occasions with multiple parties).

  31. Joslyn Robinson

    Wonderful article. Very informative, thorough and insightful. I have little experience in many of the genres of horror films listed. My favorites tend toward the more classic: The Exorcist, Halloween, Psycho, An American Werewolf in London etc. I look for characterization, story, high stakes and above all tension. The classics seem to hold to this idea of creating true tension. The story and the writing in classic horror screenplays labor-even if formulaic-to create surprise rather than shock which-as Mr. King pointed out- becomes predictable, desensitizing and boring and is, in my opinion, just lazy writing.

    • Liz Watkins

      I think all those films you listed are great because they hold up with the times. We will always be terrified and fascinated with werewolves and crazy, psycho killers.

  32. Giovanni Insignares

    Great article! Very much enjoyed it. For a classic, my favorite horror film has to be The Shining. To this day, I still believe that is one of the greatest horror films ever made. While that style of horror isn’t very prevalent today, as you pointed out, there are some effective scary movies for this generation. The Ring and The Grudge remain two of the more frightening films I’ve seen in my lifetime and Paranormal Activity reminded me of the simplicity of a movie like Jaws, with how its simplicity didn’t take away from its ability to scare.

    • Liz Watkins

      The Shining still has all the great qualities that continue to scare new generations. It is one I hope does not do a remake since it holds up today.

  33. I was a huge monster/horror movie fan as a kid.

    • Liz Watkins

      There are so many great ones. I wonder why they don’t do as many anymore? You would think with the technology nowadays, they could come up with some pretty spectacular monsters. I think Cloverfield is one of my favorites of the last several years.

  34. Have you ever seen Drew Goddard’s 2012 film The Cabin in the Woods? I’d be interested to see which “sub-genre” this movie would fall under. It seems to be a satire of the horror genre as a whole and possibly even a grim representation of humanity. The film seems to depict a horror audience’s reactions to the victims’ misfortunes on screen – we are entertained by their peril. What does this say about humanity and the horror genre?

    • Liz Watkins

      I saw Cabin in the Woods falling under the horror-comedy or horror-satire category. It is probably my favorite type of horror. It is already a well established sub-genre, going back to films like Evil Dead and Night of the Creeps.

  35. Nof

    It’s absolutely crazy how much scary movies have changed – some of them are almost just plain dumb, but still there are many great ones too. Great topic!

  36. The only horror movies that I’ve honestly enjoyed were Halloween (original) and Saw, but regarding the latter, I don’t see it as a full blown torture porn (unlike it’s atrocious sequels). It effectively mixed regular scares with the gore effects.

  37. Venus Echos

    Thank you Liz, Dead Snow and Nazi-Zombies one of my favorites!

  38. I love the new torture porn genres, but they almost seem to be almost their own genre. They aren’t really scary as opposed to just being uncomfortable. On the other hand no love for the combining of sharks with other creatures/tornado genre?

  39. Kahlia Sankey

    This is incredibly apt in term of the rising sub genre market. I do have to agree with ahartgrove here that there has been a uptaking of the tornado genre but also the [x] versus [x] horror films.

  40. Aaron Hatch

    Another popular trend in horror movies these days is not just remaking foreign horror movies, but any remake of an older horror classic. We get some bad one’s like the “Nightmare on Elm Street” remake in 2010, but we also get really good one’s like the “Evil Dead” remake in 2013.

  41. As mentioned in your “Based on True Events” sub-heading, what is your take on the seemingly rampant genre of possession-based horror? do you find it reflective of any greater societal trends?

  42. One of most interesting horror-comedy series is Scream. There’s no debate that formulas are constantly thrown around, about how the killer will act, where/when he will strike next, etc. This is particularly true in the newest addition to the series Scream 4 (2011). Even technology and pop culture is intertwined with the movie, and it makes it seem much more realistic than a Friday the 13th movie or something. Of course, it may just seem more realistic because the killer is actually human in this movie, but the social aspects add to the effect and make the Scream series one of my favorites.

  43. Terry Adams

    The horror movie franchise has certainly changed over the years. Indeed, the type of horror movie that I’m the most familiar with normally contains the ever-popular, archetypal “final girl,” otherwise known as the “slasher film.” These films, such as “Halloween” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” provided a different type of “scare” than horror films of the present extrapolate onto their audiences. This intense need of what you describe as “torture porn” is readily apparent even in films that are not situated inside of the horror spectrum. For example, films such as “Django Unchained,” which would otherwise be fantastical, historical films, are able to draw in large amounts of crowds based primarily on the fact that the films contain an immense amount of violence.

  44. bstrelluf

    This was a fun read!

  45. samcel

    Good article! I love horror movies so I’m excited to see the ones you suggested that I haven’t watched yet! Especially Dead Snow… I always passed it over on Netflix because I thought it looked a bit dumb but I think I’ll watch it now!

  46. I don’t like horror movies much, but I found this article to be well-written. It opened my eyes to which kinds of horror movies I might like better than just avoiding the genre as a whole. I find I gravitate toward not liking the “Based on ‘True Events'” genre and I find myself more interested by the “Asian Horror Remake” and the “Mockumentary” genres. This gives me more appreciation for a genre that I might have otherwise avoided completely.

  47. What is so fascinating about horror is exactly what you brought up – its longevity. I personally have never enjoyed horror films (apart from the B-grade remakes of classics, which I enjoy purely for their campy and ridiculous nature), however I have studied the horror genre quite a bit and you make a very valid point that I would just like to perhaps add to. At a narrative base, the horror genre has three options: 1) the invasion narrative (Dracula is the archetype), 2) the knowledge narrative (Frankenstein), and 3) the transformation narrative (Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or any werewolf movie ever). You’ll find virtually any horror film/story fits into these broad categories in some way shape or form. So how can we keep watching these films if the plots are that basic? For exactly the reason you mentioned. Our changing cultural and social anxieties have allowed us to take those aforementioned narrative styles, and manipulate them to whatever current fear society has taken on.In the 30s, with the old-school originals of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, King Kong, and Frankenstein, it was the “other,” particularly African Americans or Jews, unfortunately. This can be seen by the unsubtle depictions of the monsters (Hyde looks basically like an ape with a suit on, whereas Jekyll is the typical attractive white male). In the 50s-70s, it was the Red scare. Monsters and villains almost always in some way or another represented the large, mysterious, lurking in the shadows Soviet Union. The zombie craze came about with the fear of losing individuality and the effect of mass consumerism etc. So now, as you mentioned, we have these new subgenres of horror that make horror such an extensive cinematic and literary genre, as well as making it hard to exactly pin down and explain. I’ve generally read it is divided into Gothic, supernatural, psychological, monster, slashers, splatter gore, and exploitation, but what is so fascinating is your divisions are just as accurate. Horror is unique in that is so diverse. Sorry I rambled but I really enjoyed your piece. Horror is just so fascinating. (Although I still probably wouldn’t choose to watch it over something else on a Friday night)

  48. Horror films is an interesting topic. A lot of people like horror films. Horror films illustrates a binary. People enjoy them but are still scared by them and kind of enjoyed being scared. The article also brought up how there are several types of horror movies. The idea is logical. However, I never realized that. Over all, great article.

  49. I myself love torture porn i think its something that can be better and have some stuff, disturbing stuff and a bit of terror, something that makes you think “Holy Crap, Whats Wrong with this guy?” and in a personal way i always prefer something that has lots of gore.

  50. Visenya

    The label ‘torture porn’ takes a lot of credit away from the movies that are labeled so. Even from the few mentioned by the author, I see clear themes that transcend the violence. The Last House on the Left: rape revenge, familial love, and justice. Saw: life taken for granted, appreciation of what you have in life. Hostel: corruption of the wealthy, morality. These are just a few. I think that these themes are the real reason these movies are popular, the violence is there to serve a purpose and make a memorable point… To get our attention. The movies are about something more than the violence.

  51. crispychips

    Great piece.
    Here’s my opinion on the horror genres and sub-genres:
    1) Nazi zombies: the first NZ I watched was ‘Dead Snow’ and yes, I did find it rather ridiculous but it was nonetheless entertaining because at the time it was actually rather original. Most NZ movies I watched after lacked substance and were pretty boring.
    2) Mockumentary: can be gripping if done well enough. I am aware that the things happening on the screen are scripted, but the reality element always kept pulling me in.
    3) Torture Porn: A genre I absolutely HATE. Senseless violence was never my thing. It’s like they are exchanging substance for gore and are hoping to get away with it unnoticed. It’s cheap and usually done in bad taste – I suppose you’ve got to love it in order to enjoy it.
    4) Asian Horror Remakes: I can never get enough of those. A good remake will always look more visually appealing than the original (at least in my opinion) because I assume there is more budget and the cinematic style is different. I love original Asian horror as well, providing it’s a good title of course, however, for some reason I usually tend to prefer the remake. Maybe it’s a cultural thing..?
    5) Based on “True Events”: these guys can be really hit or miss, I’ve got to be honest. ‘Annabelle’ could have been better, ‘Amityville’ was not bad. The ‘Conjuring’ was enjoyable as well… I really loved ‘The Possession’. I guess it all comes down to the execution and the original urban legend/rumor into film.

  52. I’m interested in your article about the movie, interesting movie can certainly attract a lot of spectators.
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  53. Joe

    I think the lack of originality found throughout the genre generally makes the prospect of a fresh, innovative horror film more exciting. There’s definitely room for manoeuvre within the limits of the genre, which has been proven by fresh-faced releases such as Under the Skin and It Follows. Ultimately, due to the general lack of creation in the genre a window is opened for filmmakers to exploit an element of surprise.

    As the article states, horror is a genre plagued by copycats and predictability; when a new trend or gimmick eventually arises it’ll doubtlessly be copied and built upon to no end, destroying any initial freshness surrounding the original film.

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