Now that it’s the time of the year that scary movies, with pumpkins and falling leaves everywhere, a discussion went about the newsroom about watching 31 horror movies during the 31 days of October.
The interesting thing wasn’t that some of us were going to attempt to do the feat, but what some of the movie selections were. “Halloween,” “Jaws,” “Friday the 13th,” and “What We do in the Shadows” were all thrown out there. Many disagreements came about based on some of the movie selections. Is “Jaws” really a scary movie? Although having vampires, what about “What We do in the Shadows?”
As someone that grew up watching slasher films (“Friday the 13th,” “Halloween,” “Nightmare on Elm Street”), I have my own definition of what I consider a “horror” movie. But as I went back to try to define specific rules in what classifies a “horror” flick it became apparent there is a lot of disagreement and gray areas.
I want to make it clear, that I am looking for movies that would fall under the horror genre. This would mean that the movie can’t be described with a different genre in front of it. So, it can’t be called comedy horror, sci-fi horror, romantic horror or any of the like. It can be the inverse if it was a horror comedy or adding a subgenre to the overall horror element.
So here goes.
First, in my opinion, I nix many of the movies that include aliens. This would fall under the Sci-Fi category and would not be true horror. It may have horror elements, but its main genre is sci-fi. My exception to the rule comes with a film by John Carpenter, “Ghosts of Mars.”
The next element is that there must be three or more deaths by an individual or group. The number is important because otherwise it borders on a thriller. Cop dramas may dive into serial killers, but it is more of a murder mystery than true horror. Also, the movie “Clue,” is a comedy, not a horror movie, despite the body count.
Perspective also comes into play. I believe that a horror movie’s perspective must come from the hero or potential victims to the killer. Movies told from the killer’s perspective fall out of horror genre and are more a psychological look at the killer and their imbalance. As a viewer, we must genuinely be rooting for the protagonist to get away, not the antagonist to catch them.
Last thing I will address is the addition of the supernatural. Most of these movies will get the nod into the horror genre (minus Casper the ghost). Typically, ghosts, spirits, demons and the like are not just background players in the story. They are the focal point and usually the antagonist. Possessed or cursed items such as dolls, talismans or other tings also boost a strong chance of being in the horror genre.
There are several other areas that I could tackle including location, threat, what type of threat and more. Remember, there are a lot of different gray areas that create exceptions to the rules, and on top of that, this is my opinion. I hope that you get enough spooky, scary and downright frightful fun during the Halloween season.
Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Fergus Falls Daily Journal.