Back from the grave, we are going back to one of our earliest and favorite podcasts, where we declare whether the horror adjacent films we know (and sometimes) love are horror movies or not! This is often a criticism of the criticism of films. “THAT’S NOT HORROR!” So, this is a hot take episode where we (mostly) take a definitive stance.
Horror is a big broad tent that blends genres. You can blend horror with science fiction, thrillers, psychological dramas, westerns, comedies, and even musicals. For the movies that toe closely to the line, sometimes it’s hard to figure whether you would qualify it as a horror film.
If you go into the way-back machine, you can listen to the Mike and Eric show in Episode III: Horror Movie or Not. Brace yourself for some old fashioned direct to iPhone audio quality, but if you enjoy this discussion, go back and listen to one of the very first Scariest Things Episodes. This type of discussion is evergreen, and the roster of movies to discuss is endless. This time we get the benefit of having Liz Williams participating, and we get to prod her about her love of Horror-Thrillers, and get a reading if they are horror movies… or not!
For an outside source, The Scariest Things Team likes the Britannica definition of a horror movie, and this is what Liz has offered up for her guideline definitions:
Horror film, motion picture calculated to cause intense repugnance, fear, or dread. Horror films may incorporate incidents of physical violence and psychological terror; they may be studies of deformed, disturbed, psychotic, or evil characters; stories of terrifying monsters or malevolent animals; or mystery thrillers that use atmosphere to build suspense. The genre often overlaps science-fiction films and film noir.Britannica.com
Eric’s criteria would expect a horror movie to provide a number of these elements:
- Dread. Do you fear for the protagonists? Is this the driving intent of the movie, or does the movie just provide a few moments of tension?
- Fear. Does the movie intend to induce an emotional response?
- Fantastical Elements. This can separate horror movies from thrillers.
- Protagonist / Antagonist balance. This is where the separation between horror movies and action movies happen. If the hero is a muscle-bound near-unkillable freak, it’s an action movie.
- Production intent. Sometimes you CAN get some information from the movie poster. The music and lighting will often suggest whether you are watching a horror movie… or not.
- Societal norm-breaking. Horror movies like to push the limits of social acceptability.
Mike has an equation: Witches + Werewolves / Zombies
Or… simply… the more chainsaws there are, the more horrific it will be.
- Physical response. Will the movie make you curl up in the fetal position? Will it raise your heart rate?
- Fantastical or Supernatural components
- Identifiability: Can you place yourself in the place of the protagonists?
So, settle in, and give us a listen, and yell at your speakers that we are wrong. It’s a favorite debate for all horror fans. We hope you enjoy Episode 109 The SON of Horror Movie or Not! (Next time it will be the Bride of the Son of the Revenge of Horror Movie or Not.)