Horror is the genre that makes people squirm, scream and sometimes cry. It’s full of jump scares and creepy monsters, a lot of gore, ghosts and paranormal creatures or even some impossible killer who never dies. It’s the stuff of nightmares, and the only reason anyone could possibly want anything to do with it is because of the adrenaline boost fear gives us right? It’s fun to be scared of something without having to face any of the real danger that fear implies.
Of course, safe fear isn’t the only thing horror can give us.
Horror is one of those fun genres that really ties in directly with an emotion (well, that’s if you consider fear an emotion). Unlike Dramas or Comedies that can be attached to a variety of emotions and subgenres, horror specifically targets audiences' fear and tries to portray their deepest fears to them, whether on paper or the big screen. So…is there any point of this? Most people view horror as only serving to deliver scares, shock the audience with gore and rake in a nice profit for gullible viewers. There’s nothing to be gained from it, and there’s definitely nothing of artistic value to it. Or so they say.
The truth is that horror does have intrinsic value, but it is generally overlooked by both the public and critics. Ever since the splurge of b-list movies and the popularization of the torture porn genre, it became easy to see horror as nothing but shlock and a lesser form of films. ‘Real’ films are family dramas, biopics and war stories, not Jason Voorhees chasing the horny teenagers at camp crystal lake.
Even if there are some horror films who employ brilliant cinematography, art direction, scripts, actors and ideas, the point is that while some creators can make something out of the genre, the genre itself is (supposedly) a lesser form of cinema. This is why only 18 horror films have ever won Oscars out of the academy’s 92 year history. Of course, Oscars aren’t a measure of a film’s success or artistic value (considering how much films are snubbed each year, looking directly at Ari Aster’s Hereditary, and Toni Colette’s mesmerizing performance), but this does definitely show the opinion of horror genre in the public eye.
I will not lie and see that every horror film is amazing and artistic because that’s simply not true. Instead, I want to focus on horror’s potential to dig deeper into human nature and psychology than other genres. Rarely do films make you think about the limits of the human being. Films and fiction can test human resilience, hope and the bounds of love, but even the very concept of sanity can be rediscovered, prodded and re-evaluated under the horror lens. Films like Martyrs let us imagine how far people would go for answers on the unknown, even if those answers are too much for us to handle. Others like The Killing of a Sacred Deer let us imagine how much family really means to us, and, at the end of the day, if we value others above ourselves. Even fear-inducing horrors such as The Witch allow us to examine paranoia and the roles it can have in dividing communities and building mistrust between those you love.
If there’s any genre that has the perfect opportunity to show humans in a variety of situations and test the limits of the human psyche, it’s the horror genre. I’ll admit that not all the examples I’ve provided are the best, but there are hundreds of psychological thrillers that can completely change your view of society and the world around you. Horror movies let us take imaginary scenarios and apply them to our own lives without the fear or danger or consequences. We can be stripped down to our souls and examine what makes us tick, what makes us itch and what makes us break. It provides us with an in depth and intimate look of what we could be, and what we are capable of. It can be intriguing, it can be fascinating, but most of all, it can be terrifying.
All genres have their ups and downs. Look at the movie, The Room by Tommy Wiseau, largely considered to be one of the worst films of all time, that is a drama. Dramas aren’t looked down on because of this film though? There are plenty of good dramas and plenty of bad ones. The same goes for horror movies. So the next time you think of horror, don’t just think of Michael Myers hunting babysitters and Jason slashing teens with his machete. Think of Get Out’s intimate look of race relations and issues in a horror format. Think of the Twilight Zone’s Eye of the Beholder episode that showed us that when everyone’s a monster, the things we see as normal can be ostracized. We need more people who examine horror not just as a pleasurable or entertaining genre, but as a microscope to look at the finer details of society. Those that are usually ignored…the selfishness and depravity that lies beneath the surface of all of us, that cannot be simply forgotten without leaving it simmer and bubble over.
is a Canadian-Jamaican student, slowly making her way through the writing world. She aims to not only write, but be impactful and play her part in making the world a less judgemental and more accepting place for people everywhere.