Thursday, October 22, 2009

Suspense movie? Horror movie? Which is which?

This weekend, I'm heading to HorrorFest III at the Little Art Theatre in the little town of Yellow Springs near little old me. Looking at their lineup ....

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I got to thinking ,,,,

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Just what IS a horror movie anyway?

Sometimes it's easy to tell. Any of the Saw movies? Sure. The original Night of the Living Dead? Oh, yeah. The Exorcist? Again, gets my vote for the scariest movie of all time.

But then there are movies, and certain directors, who blur the lines. The Birds, for instance, is in the 'thon, but I've never really thought of if as a horror movie - I call it a "suspense thriller." Same goes for Psycho, even though it's often referred to as a "horror" film. Maybe that's just because Hitch was and is the Master of Suspense, so I have a hard time thinking of any of his movies as "horror." 

Is it buckets o' blood? Psycho and The Birds are two of Hitch's bloodier efforts, but I don't think blood alone makes a horror movie. I feel pretty comfortable calling John Carpenter's original Halloween "horror" but most of that movie's effectiveness relies on Hitchcockian suspense, not actual blood and guts.

The Silence of the Lambs had a fair amount of blood in it, and it certainly gave me the shakes, but I've never called it a "horror" movie either, but a "psychological thriller." And what about Paranormal Activity? Or Blair Witch? Both are called horror but have very little actual blood.

By now I've confused myself, but hopefully I'm not confusing you. I pose the queries: What, to you, makes a horror movie? When does a "suspense thriller" cross the line into being a horror film?


ME said...

I think you hit it just right. There is a difference in thriller and horror. A horror film to me makes you "horrified" - it's unbelievable and gross to me. No a good scary movie sends chills down your back and makes you not want to watch it at night before bed. I think the first time I saw The Shinning or Poltergeist I was scared and really I don't like watching Shinning before bed. The Birds was intense. That's a good thriller making you sit on the edge of your chair. I remember being a young teen seeing Nightmare on Elm Street...I didn't sleep that night.
I thought Scream was that whitty yet edgy kind of film. Making fun of a scary movie, but still making it a bit of a thriller and who-done-it.
It's that season and will I watch anything scary ... maybe the original The Haunting.

HollyGoKimsy said...

A horror movie is different than a scary movie. Horror movies can be scary, but generally aren't. The converse of that is also true. Horror movies involve gore, usually shown. Dario Argento, for example, makes horror movies - that aren't scary in the slightest. Where it gets a bit blurry would be, for example, A Clockwork Orange. Disconcerting, yes. Scary, YES. Horror - no. I don't usually use the term thriller, because to me that's a designation for netflix - not a term.

Sir Critic said...

Fascinating discussion already, as I had hoped! I've heard of Clockwork Orange described as sci-fi too, and while I can see the line of reasoning, I've always balked at that. The first two Alien movies are good examples of the distinction. The first movie can be called horror, as it's basically a "haunted house" in space. But while Aliens is certainly scary in places, I consider that more action than sci-fi.

Sir Critic said...

Oh, and ME: the original The Haunting is a thriller. The remake is horror - as in HORRIBLE. ;)