The worst case scenario movies show the folly of a combination of dumb bad luck and poor decisions, in these movies about the will to survive against the odds, and most importantly avoid a horribly ugly demise. Cue the propmaster! Make those walls shake!
Yes, survival is the name of the game for almost all horror movies. So what do we mean by a Survival Horror movie that makes it different than say… Friday the 13th? Which, by any rational standard would suggest that the Protagonists are motivated to stay alive. The nature of a Survival horror flick is that the protagonists are almost always in remote locations, and subjected to an event, an extreme circumstance that puts all their plans to an almost certain deadly outcome, and that will force the survivors to endure, and find safety. Help likely isn’t coming and it will be up to the courage and the ingenuity of the protagonists to make it. This is situational horror, usually, more than a classic protagonist vs. antagonist showdown. In these movies, there is usually a moment that one of the survivors declares “I can’t believe this is happening to me!”
The other thing to consider… at what point is it an adventure story more than a horror story? Imminent GRUESOME death usually points to a horror movie. Movies like Alive, Touching the Void, Everest, Gravity, All is Lost, and the like are all battles of human vs. nature and speak more of adventure and tragedy than horror. They are, by nature heroic, and aspirational tales. However, there are some movies that bridge that gap. Where the outcome is likely horrific. Shark movies are perfect examples of this sub-genre. Cannibal movies would fit that bill. Zombie movies almost to a tee fit this idea if you see the zombies as an environmental effect rather than a true antagonistic villain. But for the purposes of this episode, we’re not going to include zombie films, we talked about those way back in Episode V. One of the telltales if a movie is supposed to be a horror movie, is how it is advertised. The Martian, though chronicling a man in dire circumstance, NEVER pitches itself as a horror flick.
The way I approached this topic was to go with a “This could really happen to me” situation. All of my selections did not involve supernatural or villainous humans as the antagonist or MacGuffins. I was really tempted to select The Ritual, Deliverance and The Descent to be in my picks, but I opted for the man vs. nature route. Mike stretched the boundaries a little more than I did, going with more monstrous situational horror for his fearsome foursome.
One thing that I would suggest is common for me in all of these movies is that they are very tense. Because they are so plausible and could happen in real life, if acted well, these films can be very hard to watch. Bad things happening to good people. An innocent mistake that could mean the difference between life and death… and if we’re talking horror movie… a horrible and painful death usually is the likely outcome. Just… hold… on… a little longer! Listen to Eric and Mike talk about the fine points of not dying alone in the outdoors.