A horror movie is appealing because they often are about our big fears. Those things that go bump in the night, that we think about when we can’t sleep and are lying awake at night, the boogeyman from our childhood unleashed from the closet and lurking in the shadows. Even if nobody actually dies, everyone is scarred somehow. These films rely on fear and shock to keep viewers interested and provoke a reaction (a scream, a gasp, or even just an elevated heart rate). Horror is actually a complex genre of film. There are subcategories within it. I’m going to highlight my three favorites.
The first is the slasher film. The antagonist is often a nearly indestructible psychopathic serial killer. Usually there is a past trauma that is retriggered by an anniversary or other event. The action is usually centered around stalking and killing prey. Victims are usually seen shortly before they are dispatched committing some kind of minor vice (mostly teenagers and sex). There is often a “final girl” left alone to face the killer. You will know which one she is because she typically is the one portrayed as ‘pure’, doesn’t drink or do drugs, and is generally obnoxiously virtuous while everyone else has fun and is murdered. You usually think that the “final girl” is victorious until the next movie in the series comes out and you learn that all she achieved was making the killer even more angry. Halloween is considered to be one of the leaders in slasher-film tropes. I like these mostly because you pretty much know what you are going to get. They don’t often make you think too hard about what happens, and you know which characters you should not care for (check out the Sorting Algorithm of Morality if you don’t already know.)
The next film category is splatter. It differs from slasher films in a few ways. There is not a lot of suspense. You know just about everyone, everywhere, is going to die. They are also going to die really nasty and graphic deaths. They don’t get you with the anticipation, they try to gross you out (or turn you on, as “torture porn” films fall into this category) with each kill. There doesn’t have to be a good-triumphing-over-evil bit at the end like typical slasher films. There is often a complete lack of order (and sometimes even really a plot), no snappy dialog and no big backstories. Everything is sacrificed to the almighty terror that comes from dismembering or gutting other people. Movies like Hostel and the Saw franchise find themselves here. These are good movies to watch when you have a really bad day and have no beer left in the house.
Last is the horror-comedy. I like stupid-funny movies, and stupid-funny movies where people get hurt is about as good as it gets to me. These films are often not scary, instead exploiting the way people think about situations or spoofing horror-movie stereotypes or tropes. I was a big fan of the Scary Movie franchise. I also think the Evil Dead franchise belongs in here (although it fits other places as well). Those movies are just so… funny, for lack of a better word. Movies like Ghostbusters belong here too.
What’s your favorite type of horror movie?