In our YouTube Episode 1, Robert Zilbauer reminded the rest of the team that we are, as we say, Your Gateway to the Tropes and Trends of the Horror Genre. As such, we should help our readers by including an intensity meter, for our fans who are just getting into horror and want to get an idea of how intense a film might be.
The MPAA does a fair job of providing guidance, as you probably will have an idea of the intensity level of a PG or a PG-13 movie, but there are definite cautions. The movies of the 1970s that carried a PG rating, prior to the advent of PG-13 would include some very violent and intense movies, like Jaws, The Baby, and Poltergeist given the PG label, and thanks to Poltergeist, the PG-13 rating was established.
More important, however, is the HUGE range of R-ratings; there is such a broad band of what is acceptable once you cross that rating threshold, it can be sometimes difficult to determine how stressful a movie might be. The prevalence of horror movies being released straight to streaming as unrated horror movies also removes the limit of the gore content. Unrated movies run the whole gamut, but don’t HAVE to. They just weren’t sent to the MPAA because they were not expecting a theatrical release.
So, it’s time to establish our guidelines for movie intensity. The gore content is a big component in this evaluation, but that’s not all. We would also want to include the raw tension and stress that this movie puts upon you. It’s a combination. Be cautioned, though, this does not account for certain trigger warnings. Violence against children and animals, rape, suicide, torture, and sexual content are not conveyed explicitly in this rating, though certainly if we find notable triggers we will talk about them in our reviews.
Here, then, is our guide:
🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸: NOT Intense.
These movies would be safe for young children and total scaredy cats, though very young children still might get spooked. (And should be!) Movies rated G and PG fit here, and a few R-rated movies could potentially slip down here if the R rating is for sex or language, and not gory violence.
Examples: Hotel Transylvania, Ghostbusters, The Classic Universal Golden Age movies (Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf-Man), most Kaiju (Gojira ’55, Mothra, Destroy All Monsters) movies, and most Atomic Age matinee favorites (It Came from Beneath the Sea, The Deadly Mantis, THEM!)
🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 : Stressful, and a little scary
PG-13 movies will often land here. Direct violence, killings, and some bloodshed are fair game, but not gratuitous killings. These movies might have a single big gory moment, and jump scares are completely fair game here. There are many PG-13 horror movies that in order to remain scary but won’t go to the bloody violence will utilize the jump scare in a big way. Big studio wide-release horror films will often end up here. A number of ghost and haunted house movies would end up here. Some R-rated movies would be included here if low on the gory meter, but are stressful and scary without direct violence. This is a landing spot for many favorite horror comedies, where the gore is present, but used comedically. A bunch of the slow-burn Indie favorites would also end up here.
A pressure point for scaredy cats.
Examples: Poltergeist, Jaws, The Amityville Horror, The Sentinel, Get Out, Insidious, A Quiet Place, Black Christmas, What We do in the Shadows, The Sixth Sense, Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project, Shawn of the Dead, The Witch, Happy Death Day, Session 9, The Babadook, and The Night House.
🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸: Baseline Modern Horror
Violent R-rated movies can show up here. This is the home to many franchise favorites. Killing early and often, with some gore and savagery on display is well within bounds here. Most non-horror normies would consider this a bit too much, but most horror fans would consider these films to be scary but quite enjoyable. Stabbings, beheadings, dismemberment, and violent gunplay are all fair game in this evaluation. Cruel and exploitive gore is reserved for the next level.
Scaredy cats flee the cinema, but everyone else is enjoying the ride.
Examples: Halloween, Alien, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, House of the Devil, Child’s Play, Night of the Living Dead, It Follows, Scream, Don’t Breathe, It, Predator, and The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
🩸🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸: The upper end of Studio Gore
This is the upper limit of most non-hardened horror souls. Brutal, gore-filled, and brain-numbing intensity resides here. Really Gross concepts and memorably cruel actions are here. These will, however still merit an R-Rating. Over-the-top Gory but essentially silly splatter movies can reside here. This is typically the intensity cap of the R-rated movie.
These movies will make even hardened horror fans do the veil of cowardice. (Peeking through your fingers). The violence in these movies is intended to get a strong emotional reaction and will be memorable for their more graphic scenes.
Examples: Dawn of the Dead, The Evil Dead, The Thing, Saw, Halloween Ends, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hereditary, Zombi 2, Re-Animator, Dead Alive, and The Exorcist.
🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸 out of 🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸: The upper limit of intensity and gore.
Your “Bridge too Far” moments occur here. These are typically released unrated or given NC-17 or X ratings, though some R-Rated movies would make this cut (How Hostel got an R rating is a bit stunning). These movies also take violence beyond gore and add a layer of cruelty to the mix. Ordinary people don’t enjoy these movies. This level of intensity even troubles many horror movie fans, and perhaps that’s why we want to watch them. For some, this is what is required to get the dopamine rush of intensity. Children should not be watching these films. There are still some good movies here, but there are BIG red flags for any of these films.
These movies are reserved for audiences with strong stomachs and emotional willpower in reserve. There’s a badge of honor amongst horror fans for having seen these films.
Examples: Terrified, Cannibal Holocaust, Salo, A Serbian Tale, Martyrs, Interior, Anthropophagus, I Spit on Your Grave, Hostel, Maniac, and Audition.
4 comments ›