Anna Gregoline | October 26, 2004
How do you account for the popularity of horror films? Why do people like to be frightened in this way?

Kris Weberg | October 26, 2004
It lets us confront death, the terror of the unknown, the fear of random urban violence, and usually -- through the "having sex = death" formula -- a degree of vestigial moral guilt, without actually having to deal woth them. The monster/slasher/serial killer embodies the way we're afraid the world functions, lets us "safely" indulge our fears, and usually ends up being dealt at least a temporary setback or outright destruction by the movie's end.

Lori Lancaster | October 26, 2004
[hidden by request]

Scott Hardie | October 27, 2004
I beg forgiveness from horror fans here (John), but I've always wondered why the horror genre produces, on average, so much crappier material than others. Every genre has its hits and its misses, but with the possible exception of children's films, no genre produces as much Z-grade bottom-feeder garbage as horror films, and it seems to me that a lot of horror fans enjoy that straight-to-video crap. Unless I'm wrong in my perception (which is probably the case), why aren't horror fans more discriminating viewers? What is it about horror that inspires amateurs to make their own terrible films?

Anna Gregoline | October 27, 2004
I agree, Scott, I think the same thing and it's awfully puzzling.

Kris Weberg | October 28, 2004
I have an idea -- they're easy to write, featuring stock characters, stock situations, and are entirely "effect"-oriented -- all a horror movie needs to do to succeed is get the audience to jump from their sats now and again, something much easier to do than write a decent joke or a believable drama or mystery. And, like comedy and drama, you don't need a colossal budget -- a Halloween mask, a knife, and some relatively cheap red stuff and you're set.

And second, perhaps because there's a degree of "stock" elements to nearly any horror movie, even the good ones, they provide a tempting arena in which aspiring filmmakers can hang their accumulated "tricks" or pet themes. With less to worry about in the writing epartment, the director feels able to go to whatever excesses they can. And since, in amateur films, the director and writer are often the same person, well, so much the better.

Think about it this way -- f you were talking to someone, would it be harder to a) tell a good joke; b) tell a convincing story; or c) yell 'Boo!" and watch 'em jump?

Anna Gregoline | October 28, 2004
You're right, Kris. Horror movies are one of those things that don't have to have a plot. As long as it freaks you out/makes you jump, the mission is accomplished. I can't think of another movie genre where it's so easy.

Scott Horowitz | October 28, 2004
Most horror movies just don't scare me. When I saw Dawn of the dead (the new one), I would have been scared for the first scene where you see the little girl. The fact that it had been spoiled in every advertisement for the movie seemed to make it less scary. I find myself laughing at stuff more than getting scared. I think a suspense/thriller type movie can be a lot scarier than an outright horror.

Anna Gregoline | October 28, 2004
I'm only afraid of horror movies if there is extended chasing - I'm so frightened of the idea of running and running and having something/someone right behind me trying to kill me. This is why Texas Chainsaw Massacre freaked me out so much, despite other things.

I'm never afraid of things that aren't real, like ghosts or monsters or "evil forces." Murderous psychos, however, no matter how rare, are still real, and still possible. So that freaks me out.

Jackie Mason | October 29, 2004
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | October 29, 2004
Blair Witch made me nauesous because of the camera work, so I could hardly enjoy it. But I liked the concept of it.

I don't want to know if there's anything scarier than Texas Chainsaw Massacre, cause it would make me go insane.

Scott Hardie | November 2, 2004
Maybe my disdain of most horror films comes from my disdain of jump scenes. As mentioned, they're just so damn cheap. Any movie can startle you with a sudden, loud noise; it takes no skill whatsoever to achieve the effect, and I feel burned by a movie that pats itself on the back for every gotcha. I prefer the films like "Rosemary's Baby" that meticulously take time to establish dread and tension, and work on a psychological level, because the effect can last for days, weeks, or even years, instead of seconds. And the really good ones, like "The Shining," are capable of some shocking moments without being startling; their surprises arise from the characters and the situation, not from some costumed stuntman lurching at the camera with a jolting chord on the soundtrack.

Kris Weberg | November 2, 2004
This is true -- it's much more terrifying, and satisfyingly terrifying, to have something horrible but inevitable unfold in front of you.

Kris Weberg | November 2, 2004
One question -- where would you guys put the dividing line between "horror movies" and "thrillers?"

Scott Hardie | November 2, 2004
I'm sure there's a generally accepted dividing line, but for me the two are apples and oranges because "horror" is about content while "thrillers" are about tone. A horror film is about its villain and his/her misdeeds, while a thriller invents the conflict only to set up an exercise in style, which is what the film is really about. Certainly many good horror films have style, but that's never their essential element. This is not to say that one kind of film is superior to the other (I happen to prefer horror anyway); it's just how I see them.

Scott Horowitz | November 2, 2004
My distinction between "horror" and "thriller" are that horror movies will try to go outright and scare you with gore, while thriller movies are more of a psychological scare. Meaning the thriller is the more intelligent movie.

Amy Austin | November 2, 2004
You guys *really* ought to go see "Saw" and come back to this thread -- all these questions are so relevant... I'm dying to talk about it!

Scott Hardie | November 2, 2004
You can't have been the only one who saw it, no pun intended. I suggest starting a new discussion about it to see what replies you get, and besides, that would keep spoilers out of this one. ;-)

Amy Austin | November 2, 2004
Sure, but it's just that the questions being asked here are *so* innate to my thoughts on it... and besides, I'm more of a responder than an initiator in these things. Go see it, Scott!!! ;>

Scott Hardie | November 2, 2004
I will, after the dozen or so other movies I want to see in theaters right now. My ten-best list is going to be so anemic this January.

John E Gunter | November 2, 2004
Most horror films in the theaters now are goreorror films, not horror films. Horror films used to be about getting a scare out of the audience and the really great ones where the ones in which you didn't see the "monster", till toward the very end of the movie. There was never a lot of blood on the screen, or in fact lots of times, the violence was implied, not shown.

Now part of that original philosophy of not showing the monster was the fact that the monster was usually some schmo in a rubber suit. So they really didn’t act like a monster. So that’s why the movies never showed the monster until the end.

The music score heightened the mood, and the very best horror films were created in a similar way to an artist painting a picture. Everything would slowly but surely build to a climax, images, action and music until you had the show down between the good guys and the monster. The same way an artist slowly but surely adds paint to the canvas.

Course for some reason, Hollywood in all of their wisdom has determined that the viewing audience isn’t interested in that kind of thrill. They seldom have a movie anymore where you don’t see the monster in the first few minutes.

A good horror film comes to mind, El Sonido Prehistórico, which was called, The Prehistoric Sound in the English version. This was a very low budget film and even though it was low budget, it was a thrilling movie to watch. The best thing about this movie is that the monster, is invisible for almost the entire movie. For some reason, it can completely camouflage itself, but bending light around it or something along those lines. But still, you have a creature that hunts the group of good guys for the whole movie and you don’t see it until the end.

Course, I’m much harder to scare now then I was back then, so I haven’t seen a horror film that really scared me anymore. Some creep me out with the subject matter, but they really don’t scare me anymore. Most films that are just gore fests, i.e. goreorror films as I call them are ones that I avoid.

Also ones where the monster is so super powerful that the good guys will never be able to defeat it, are ones I avoid. Plus, ones where the good guy has taken a tremendous beating by the monster and then suddenly, something happens where his resolve is strengthened and he suddenly gets a burst of energy and all his wounds no longer bother him! So he can defeat the monster and save the day, don’t really care for those kinds of movies either.

After all, I’m going to the movies to be entertained, and I pretty much want to see the good guys win at the end or at least appear to have won for the moment.


Amy Austin | November 2, 2004
That El Sonido movie sounds a lot like "Predator", John! You didn't really get a good look at him 'til the end -- did you like that one?

What about the "thriller" vs. "horror" distinction... do you make one? What about "psychological thriller" -- is that the same thing as "thriller", or just a finer distinction yet... (I choose the latter)?

I remember the very first date movie I saw with a previous boyfriend -- it was "Seven"... I should have taken it as an omen for the relationship, but it took four years to get a clue. This is the type of movie that I would classify as "psycho thriller", whereas Chainsaw and that ilk would be "horror"... it's the elements of suspense & *mystery* vs. straight-up gore & scare tactics. Even though I thought "The Grudge" did a much better job of the latter than I have seen in a while, I'd still only put it in the "horror" category. Now "Saw", however...

John E Gunter | November 2, 2004
Yes, Predator is very much like El Sonido, because Sonido was released in 1964. They might have taken some ideas from Sonido for Predator, but I'm not completely sure.

A horror movie can be a thriller, but a thriller doesn't have to be a horror movie, if you get my drift. To me, horror genre is some kind of monster after the protagonists. It doesn't have to use gore to get its point across, but it's usually something that is beyond human that is hunting them down.

The horror to me is the fact that you can't just pop a little lead therapy into the beast to stop it.

I consider a thriller to be more plot driven and therefore, as Scott H said, more intellectual. But with a thriller movie, using lead therapy can kill the bad guy(s) easily enough. It just might not be that easy to get the person.

But that doesn't mean I don't like a good old horror movie.


Amy Austin | November 5, 2004
John, go see "Saw"!!!

John E Gunter | November 5, 2004
Scott and I were supposed to see it, but we haven't been yet. He might have seen it without me though. But even if he has, at the very least, I'll check it out on DVD.


Scott Hardie | November 6, 2004
Nope, haven't seen it yet; might rent it sometime. I was very interested when I heard the premise, much less so when I saw the advertising, and all but talked out of it when the reviews ran. I was interested in the guys who get chained up together (wouldn't be surprised if one of them turned out to be the killer), but the advertising pumped the serial killer instead. I'm just so sick of serial killers in movies; they're right up there with the hookers with hearts of gold and the plucky urchins who tag along with the heroes and the magical black savior, on the list of movie characters I've seen way more than enough of.

Kris Weberg | November 6, 2004
As many have pointed out, serial killers are an easy way to have all the elements of a mystery type plot without the hard work of creating a realisitc motive or a personality for the killer. Wind him up, toss in some lines about his mad religious convictions or crappy childhood, and watch him go!

Amy Austin | November 6, 2004
I agree that those are all tired, tired characters -- it's seems pretty hard for Hollywood not to be formulaic and to come up with some freshness... especially if you are quite the movie buff. But it's pretty obvious that the reason for it is the money. Just like in politics (hate to keep making political analogies, but...), there's risk in being "original" -- not everybody will appreciate your efforts, and losing "voters" means losing money in the film-making industry. (That's why it's good that there are people who love story-telling enough to work for scale to support the indie efforts!)

I really don't want to over-hype this movie... it's not *that* good/fresh. But what it does offer is some very interesting cinematography and plot resolution... worth going for, in my opinion, and great for post-movie discussion. I don't know who the director or cinematographer are -- I don't always pay attention to such things -- but if you've seen "Behind Enemy Lines", then you might recognize the style I'm talking about... I think the guy responsible for that one was a game maker? Does that sound right? Not saying that this is the same person, just trying to point in the direction of a style. It has a modern slow-shutter/quick-frame quality in places that makes for better horror storytelling... quick glimpses that fully disclose but leave just a little bit to the imagination due to the collapsed time.

My only beef is little with Cary Elwes' acting in the final scene... it gets to seeming a tad overdone, but I think it's still on par with what's going on. I can't say anymore about it until someone says they've seen it though, so I'm done with trying to get people to go. But don't base your decision on the advertising.

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