Classification Necessary: Problems with Horror

Zeeblee

A week ago I was going to write an article to bounce off of Mattias’ horror game article about SCP Containment Breach.  A week ago I was going to use Hostel by Eli Roth as a sort of whipping boy/strawman example of what makes a bad horror movie.  But in my haze of sickness, working nights, and sleeping for multiple days straight I realized that my perspective on what “horror” is was flawed.  I searched for definitions to support my claim that Hostel was not a horror movie because it offered no scares and no suspense, but I was met with definitions that incorporated discomfort and sickened responses.  Being horrified is not just being scared, but also being disgusted.  In this way Hostel can still be called a horror film (but still not a good one).  But this broadness of definition offers up a problem, one that I ran into a lot when I used to work in a video rental store (yes, those still exist), and the problem is:  When someone asks you to recommend a horror movie, how do you respond?

As most people would do I always end up recommending my favorites, but I’ve noticed that my favorites never really include movies from the genre of horror that Hostel was aiming for.  I’m a big fan of suspenseful films like The Shining where the focus of the film is to make the characters feel uncomfortable as opposed to films like The Girl Next Door (Jack Ketchum’s version) where the goal is to make the audience feel uncomfortable.  Now, you may argue that the goal of The Shining was to make the audience feel uncomfortable, and you would be correct, but it does so by making the characters feel paranoid and unsafe, and the audience then empathizes with them also feels paranoid for the characters.  The Girl Next Door on the other hand makes the audience uncomfortable via the brutal treatment of the characters.  The audience isn’t paranoid about whether or not they will be safe, but is instead disgusted by just how unsafe they are, and rather than paranoia of the future the audience is more hopeful that the present situation will end.

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