Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Horror or Thriller? has an interesting essay on genre, specifically the Horror genre and the difference between it and Thrillers. He makes a lot of sense. I don't think I'll be so snobbish as to actually insist on his definitions in casual conversation, but it's good stuff to keep in mind when sitting down to write a horror story:

"I realized that what I'd been mistaking for true horror was simply terror. Horror movies should horrify, thrillers thrill and terrify. There's a subtle difference.

Let's get down to brass tacks for a minute. I looked up
'horrify' and got 'To cause feelings of horror.' Great, thanks. But for horror, I got this:

• An intense, painful feeling of repugnance and fear.
• Intense dislike; abhorrence.

Painful repugnance. Abhorrence. That works. Now, if I watch a Friday the 13th flick, I really don't feel that. Why? Because most slasher flicks are simply thrillers. There's seldom anything horrific--at least in a movie--about people being stalked and killed one at a time. But compare the feelings you get from watching a slasher flick to the feeling of watching John Hurt 'hatch' in the middle of Alien. I can't imagine anybody who didn't twist and turn when they watched that scene unfold."


Anonymous said...

Interesting food for thought. I would classify Hostel as a horror film: it contained scenes that, while gory, also had that 'make you squirm and bounce' quality. To be unable to keep someone from doing anything imaginable to you, especially painful and disfiguring physical harm, now that's horror.


Michael May said...

From what I've heard, I'd absolutely agree with you. Same with the Saw movies.

Which is interesting for me, because I think of myself as a horror fan, but I can't bring myself to watch those films. Scenes of TRUE horror or more disturbing than I want to put myself through.

So, by this definition, I'm more a fan of the Thriller. I like spooky and creepy stories, because they're exciting. I'm VERY reluctant to subject myself to intense emotions though.

Michael May said...

Make that: "Scenes of TRUE horror ARE more disturbing than I want to put myself through."

Anonymous said...

Sweet, I'm a horror snob! :)

Thanks for checking out the rant. I actually wouldn't stop anybody mid-stream in a convo and say, "Hold on now--horror or terror?" But I just figure the scenes that really stick with you are the ones that horrified the hell out of you. It's a matter of how sticky you want stuff to be.

Now as to films like HOSTEL--I really can't get into the "Let's strap you down and carve bits off of you" subgenre that seems to have gained some traction recently. That's just me. While I agree that's squirmy/bouncy, a whole movie based around that premise (as the trailer made it out to be, anyway) just doesn't hold any appeal for me. I much prefer the "Hold out hope of escape...CLANG!" variety. Like the original ending of EVENT HORIZON, for example. I mean, when you strap somebody down, I keep thinking, "Well, they wanted a slasher movie but didn't want to go to the trouble of having to run through some woods with the camera on..."

But again, that's me. I think far too much about this stuff. Thanks again.

Michael May said...

You're very welcome! Thank YOU for the very useful definition.

I hope I didn't come across like I was suggesting YOU'RE a snob. I was just trying to figure out how I'd put your article to practical use.

Thanks again for the interesting article.


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