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My take on the horror genre and how the mainstream audience sees it

My take on the horror genre and how the mainstream audience sees it

Let's talk about the horror genre

Let’s talk about a genre of film we have all enjoyed and has entertained us since its creation; horror.

My take on the horror genre and how the mainstream audience sees it

So, I recently came across a video on YouTube from one of my favorite critics on the platform Chris Stuckmann. He talked about the Curse of the Jump Scare. He, then, explained how it ruined the view of modern audiences, the studios, and even directors themselves.

Google defines, 

…a technique often used in horror films, haunted houses, video games, and Internet screamers. It is intended to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event. Usually co-occurring with a frightening sound, mostly loud screaming.

We all know that part of the movie when the environment sounds quiet. Or, as Stuckmann puts it – all sound suddenly drains from the movie. During this moment, no one speaks and no music exists. Then, suddenly, an ear-piercing jolt rings through the theater. Everyone jumps as a loud noise just happened. Often, this becomes the bait as one of the main character’s friends or another false scare happens.

That part of the movie becomes what we usually wait for. We scream together, have a good laugh, and make fun of each other’s reactions. Maybe that has become the reason why everyone thought that a jump scare remains an essential part of a “good horror movie.” They also thought if a horror movie doesn’t have that kind of scene, it’s already dubbed as a nonsense film or “it isn’t scary.”

The Exorcist (1973) - Let's talk about the horror genre
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist (1973)

But, wait… How do most people or the mainstream audience define a horror movie?

When I asked some of my friends, my acquaintances, and/or random people around me, answers understandably varies. They talked about the latest horror movie releases. And, people associate it with films that contain monsters, ghosts, or killers.

Well, they aren’t particularly wrong. However, their idea of the horror genre proves to be limited. Because this specific genre has created sub-genres as time went by. I’ll be giving those that Chris Stuckmann mentioned in his video. Of course, this includes Monsters, Slashers, Zombies, Ghosts, Nature, Aliens, Torture, Comedy, and Psychological.

Horror remains wide, not only in the film – but also in literature.

So, as the audience limits their perception of horror. The less they appreciate good horror movies and other works. They remain constrained by their own limited idea of the genre. Good horror movies exist that made it to the mainstream audience.

Mainly James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious (2010). Also, the newcomer in the industry, Jordan Peele. Despite being relatively new, he definitely has already made the best films, in my opinion, and I believe the majority. He has become the director of brilliant films Us (2019), and Get Out (2017). Of course, let’s not forget the classics. Like, Psycho (1960)Rosermary’s Baby (1968)Silence of the Lambs (1991), and The Shining (1980).

These movies swept the feet of moviegoers and the entire film industry. Just like how the book where they based the movie on rocked the world of literature. Then, we have the movies that the mainstream audience didn’t consider scary. The reason behind it? It was not the “generic horror movie” that they hoped for. Namely, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) and, in my opinion, Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018).

Hereditary (2018) - Let's talk about the Horror genre
Toni Collette as Annie Graham in Hereditary (2018)

The last batch of films that I mentioned remained underappreciated. The latter’s box office, although large in comparison with the former, remained small. Hereditary grossed only 79.3 million US Dollars, despite the psychological disturbance it cost me. And, of course, its haunting atmosphere or cinematography.

I consider it small since I compared it with the film that I didn’t really like—The Nun (2018). This movie grossed a whopping 365.6 million US Dollars. I know that it was a spin-off or a prequel to the Conjuring franchise. However, it had a great difference with Hereditary, box office-wise. Even with the latter was better on quality – plot-wise.

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Let’s not start with The Babadook! It only grossed a very underwhelming box office of 7.5 US Dollars. It was not from the US and it revolved around an Australian story. Then, it was not marketed and promoted like how mainstream films were. Thus, it didn’t have the proper recognition it deserved.

Chris Stuckmann dubbed it as the best horror movie he watched for a long time. And, I completely agree. It had a different approach to how people handle grief and depression. The monster wasn’t really a physical entity. But, the monster within themselves, destroying them from the inside. It captured the real essence of a good horror movie for me.

A good horror movie plays with your emotions. It doesn’t actually have to make people scream, have monsters, or jump scares. I’m not saying it isn’t allowed to have those. But, it has to be done in the right way. Not just for the sake of making people scream. A good horror movie doesn’t only rely on the props and the big scary faces. Rather, it disturbs your psyche. It should make you feel uncomfortable, confused, overwhelmed in the most extreme way.

Midsommar (2019) - Let's talk about the horror genre
Florence Pugh as Dani in Midsommar (2019)

You’ll know you watched a good horror movie if you got out of the theaters and went home feeling scared. Not just because you feel as if a creature will appear behind you. But, you feel unsafe. Your heart feels heavy and you feel disturbed. You should leave with a haunting feeling. And, just by thinking about how the film went – its atmosphere and how the darkness consumed you after you watched it. That feeling must have seemed to follow you home and you still relish inside it.

Your mind goes boggled and confused – about how the film destroyed internally. Like, how a scary horror film scared you as a kid. The only difference is that you’re a grownup who’s supposed to move on easily. It just means that the film was so good. It’s a quality horror film that even your mature mind feels disturbed.

That’s how a good horror film should feel like. Not just because of the jump-scares and monsters, but how you were disturbingly moved by the film.

This is not to invalidate what people enjoy, but to make people better expand their idea of the genre. It should not be confined to certain elements that we consider as “horror”. Audiences should also appreciate those with utmost complexity, not the usual formula. So, the next time you search for a horror movie, you know what to look for. Let your mind disturb and haunt you for as long as it likes.

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