Go Back  DVD Talk Forum > Entertainment Discussions > Movie Talk
Reload this Page >

What makes a horror film?

Movie Talk A Discussion area for everything movie related including films In The Theaters

What makes a horror film?

Old 03-11-10, 12:44 AM
  #1  
DVD Talk Special Edition
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,232
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
What makes a horror film?

I was thinking about this long before the Oscars, but with that tribute to horror films they put together and the ensuing debate over its content in the Oscar thread, I decided now would be a good time for this.

Movies like Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street are all horror. No question. Graphic death scenes, creepy atmosphere throughout.

I grew up believing that Jaws and Alien were horror. But through adult eyes, I realize they were really just action and sci-fi, respectively. The level of violence in Jurassic Park is about equal to that of Jaws, but no one has ever considered it anything more than a sci-fi thriller.

So, what makes a horror film? What places a film into that genre?

--THX
Old 03-11-10, 04:26 AM
  #2  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Sub-basement 3b
Posts: 3,752
Received 25 Likes on 17 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Originally Posted by CertifiedTHX
I grew up believing that Jaws and Alien were horror. But through adult eyes, I realize they were really just action and sci-fi, respectively.
--THX
Alien is horror, the Sci-fi portion is irrelevant.
Old 03-11-10, 04:28 AM
  #3  
Banned
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 84
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

As far as the Elm Street films...

The first two Elm Street's feel like horror films... I would classify them both as horror films -- and I know how much people hate Part 2, but I felt it wasn't the worst sequel. That was Freddy's Dead.

Elm Streets 3, and especially 4, feel like MTV Hollywood talk shows doused with action and comedy fare. Take a Karate Kid sequel, a Disney Channel prime time movie, Dungeons and Dragons, and a predecessor to the Harry Potter films (maybe the author of Harry Potter ripped off the Wizard Master), and you have these two sequels. Kids favored parts 3 and 4 heavily (they were the most successful sequels), but that's the problem with them. They started gearing them towards little kids at this point. Remember the board game, lunchbox, trading cards, shirts geared to 8 year old boys (the sizes were this small), etc... They were marketing these two sequels heavily towards little boys. However, they were still fun for the cool kid back then.

Part 5 tries to return to horror, but tries mixing it with the two predecessors which doesn't really work. It has some style in some shots, but falters heavily.

Freddy's Dead is the worst one yet: it's one of the dumbest films I have ever seen. It was targeted towards pure morons. Even at the age of 10, I thought it was stupid. It's a mockery to Mario Bros. and Loony Tunes which were both good projects on their own. This film was geared towards mentally challenged retards.

These are the very two first MTV promotional spots! This is what really destroyed Scary Freddy who people were terrified by only two years beforehand. Freddy introducing music groups, etc. This isn't the Freddy who scared people in 1984. It's a mockery! Tragic!

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/cIPmgZ6qdO8&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/cIPmgZ6qdO8&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Wz3HR1cQN2I&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Wz3HR1cQN2I&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Last edited by Cocacoladude78; 03-11-10 at 04:31 AM.
Old 03-11-10, 09:30 AM
  #4  
DVD Talk Gold Edition
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Update: BACK
Posts: 2,642
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Originally Posted by Trout
Alien is horror, the Sci-fi portion is irrelevant.
Uh no, it's a sci-fi movie that used some horror-esque techniques that are more psychological in nature. But ultimately it's a discourse on humans' inherent belief that we are the most superior of forms, and deconstructing that illusion through Ash, "mother", and the Alien; everything thereafter stems from that, imo.
Old 03-11-10, 09:37 AM
  #5  
DVD Talk Hero
 
Join Date: May 2001
Posts: 45,324
Received 1,021 Likes on 812 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Horror films, imo, are movies that deal with the fear of a situation - successful or not. Alien is horror flick (trapped with a monster). Nightmare of Elm Street is a horror flick (inescapable monster). Friday the 13th is a horror flick (killer).

A real horror film, imo, is one that takes its time to try and unsettle its audience with potential grotesqueries and dread.

Last edited by RichC2; 03-11-10 at 09:40 AM.
Old 03-11-10, 09:42 AM
  #6  
Moderator
 
Groucho's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Posts: 71,383
Received 122 Likes on 84 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Alien is not sci-fi with horror elements. It's horror with sci-fi elements.

Aliens is action with sci-fi elements.

All the rest of the films are poop with crap elements.
Old 03-11-10, 09:43 AM
  #7  
Senior Member
 
notkevinbacon's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 782
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

I've always considered Alien a horror film first before a SciFi film. In some respects it's much like a haunted house movie set in space. The sequels contain far less horror elements... For example, Aliens is an action movie with almost no horror element at all.

I don't think the themes presented in Alien negate the fact it's a horror film.



Would Event Horizon be a horror or a scifi film?


Edit: Groucho beat me to it. Except Alien Resurrection is insane and I kinda love it for that. I'm not sure I've met anyone else who likes it.

Last edited by notkevinbacon; 03-11-10 at 09:46 AM.
Old 03-11-10, 09:48 AM
  #8  
Moderator
 
Groucho's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Posts: 71,383
Received 122 Likes on 84 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Originally Posted by notkevinbacon
Would Event Horizon be a horror or a scifi film?
Horror. Much like Alien, it uses the isolation of space as a scary environment.

Outland is a western with sci-fi elements.
Old 03-11-10, 09:49 AM
  #9  
Senior Member
 
notkevinbacon's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 782
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

For the record, I agree completely with you. I figured it's a good example of a horror film with sci-fi elements.
Old 03-11-10, 10:03 AM
  #10  
DVD Talk Legend
 
islandclaws's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Behind the Orange Curtain
Posts: 20,085
Likes: 0
Received 7 Likes on 7 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

A foreboding sense of dread at all times.

I'm a hardcore horror junkie, and this will earn my praise every time.
Old 03-11-10, 10:05 AM
  #11  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Ash Ketchum's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 12,627
Received 277 Likes on 212 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

As a child and then an impressionable youth watching all the 1930s, '40s and '50s horror/sci-fi films on TV, the label I recall being applied in conversation to so many of these was "monster movies." Anything that focused on a "monster" was a monster movie. FRANKENSTEIN, KING KONG, THE WOLF MAN, THE THING, THEM!, GODZILLA, RODAN, THE CRAWLING EYE, THE BLOB, THE GIANT BEHEMOTH, GORGO, etc.

I remember the term "science fiction" being applied to space movies or time travel stories like WORLD WITHOUT END, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE, THE TIME MACHINE (1960), ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, etc.

When did I become conscious of the term, "horror," as applied to certain of these films? Probably with vampire movies like DRACULA, since vampires were more "human" than monster, and ghost movies like 13 GHOSTS (1960), which was considered "scary" and hence, a horror movie. Also, movies with gruesome killings in them, even when there were no supernatural elements, were considered "horror" as long as they were meant to be scary. These included two films I saw in theaters back then, DEMENTIA 13 and PSYCHO.

As an adult, I tended to keep these labels going, even when lines were blurred. I consider ALIEN to be sci-fi because it all takes on a spaceship traveling through outer space, even though it's essentially a monster movie, like THE THING, and even though it has horror elements. I never found it particularly scary, so it's hard for me to think of it as a horror film. One film I did find scary that same year, DAWN OF THE DEAD, would, I believe, be classified as a horror movie, as would its predecessor, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which changed some of the basic horror film grammar for all time. The DEAD films also have sci-fi elements but the horror elements seem to me to be the dominant ones. Those two DEAD films are among the very few films I've ever found genuinely scary.

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 03-11-10 at 10:13 AM.
Old 03-11-10, 10:07 AM
  #12  
DVD Talk Limited Edition
 
Larry C.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Let's Go Heat!
Posts: 7,494
Likes: 0
Received 3 Likes on 2 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Groucho is on fire here. Not only did the
All the rest of the films are poop with crap elements.
make me But he also makes reference to Outland? Kudos sir!
Old 03-11-10, 11:05 AM
  #13  
DVD Talk Legend
 
Sean O'Hara's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Vichy America
Posts: 13,533
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

Originally Posted by naitram
Uh no, it's a sci-fi movie that used some horror-esque techniques that are more psychological in nature. But ultimately it's a discourse on humans' inherent belief that we are the most superior of forms, and deconstructing that illusion through Ash, "mother", and the Alien; everything thereafter stems from that, imo.
No, no, no. Back in the 1950s, Galaxy magazine ran an ad proclaiming that they would never publish a Bat Durston story. And as an example, they put up the following two excerpts side by side:

Jets blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj, a tiny planet seven billion light years from Sol. He cut out his super-hyper-drive for the landing...and at that point, a tall, lean spaceman stepped out of the tail assembly, proton gun-blaster in a space-tanned hand.

"Get back from those controls, Bat Durston," the tall stranger lipped thinly. "You don't know it, but this is your last space trip."
Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the narrow pass at Eagle Gulch, a tiny gold colony 400 miles north of Tombstone. He spurred hard for a low overhang of rim-rock...and at that point a tall, lean wrangler stepped out from behind a high boulder, six-shooter in a sun-tanned hand.

"Rear back and dismount, Bat Durston," the tall stranger lipped thinly. "You don't know it, but this is your last saddle-jaunt through these here parts."
Alien is a Bat Durston story, just with horror as its basis instead of a Western. You could easily rewrite it as a group of people staying at a secluded cabin, and one of them finds something strange in the woods. The only challenge, none too great, would be Ash's motivation.

Machen, Bierce and Lovecraft were challenging notions of human superiority fifty years and more before Alien.
Old 03-11-10, 02:57 PM
  #14  
DVD Talk Platinum Edition
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Sub-basement 3b
Posts: 3,752
Received 25 Likes on 17 Posts
Re: What makes a horror film?

All that Alien is is a remake of the Old Dark House/Cat and the Canary movies. Instead of a haunted house it takes place on a ship.

Originally Posted by naitram
Uh no, it's a sci-fi movie that used some horror-esque techniques that are more psychological in nature. But ultimately it's a discourse on humans' inherent belief that we are the most superior of forms, and deconstructing that illusion through Ash, "mother", and the Alien; everything thereafter stems from that, imo.
Uh no, Alien is about mans fear of sex or rape and birth (penentration and expulsion).

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service -

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.