What are Horror Movies Really About?

I don’t watch many horror movies these days.  I think it has something to do with becoming a father, but anymore they just gross me out.  But I used to.  And I’ve given a lot of thought to how we classify them.

Horror movies are allegedly movies we watch when we want to be frightened.  I read a book by Stephen King when I was a kid that tried to explain the different levels of being scared- being grossed out, being startled, being truly terrified.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  Most horror movies aren’t made to be scary.  They’re just vehicles for something else.  Here’s how they break down:

Zombie films, Creature features- socio/political commentary
Slashers, Gore, Torture Porn- the viewer wants to see naked girls, and then see them killed.
Vampires- romance movies.
Haunted houses, Supernatural Horror- the only types of horror film that regularly try to be scary.

There’s no super important point I’m trying to make here, I just like taking things apart and seeing how they work.  And by defining things I can start to do that.

And maybe the next step in breaking this down is- why?  Why can’t a zombie movie be scary?  Why does a romance movie have to be made with vampires?  I’ll try to get to that next.



  1. The slasher/torture porn stuff never appealed to me. It definitely puts the viewer in the antagonists shoes and invites him (let’s be honest, predominantly male audience) to empathize/bond with the killer. This can be done well in literature (Cask of Amontillado springs to mind) but despite not having seen them, I’m pretty certain that the Saw movies don’t fall in the same category. This isn’t just limited to the horror genre, either – think Law Abiding Citizen or 24.

    1. I definitely find those off-putting. “Die bitches!” is pretty much all there is to those. The tacked-on morality is awkward and totally at odds with the reason why the audience is watching these movies, and I’m pretty sure they know that. I don’t get why they bother. Is it to make them feel better about the schlock they’re making or is it because they really want to promote the idea that naughty women need to be punished?

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