Death, Personified: Why horror is the best genre, and why "hating horror" makes absolutely no sense.

October 17, 2019

 

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog won't be at all surprised to discover that I love horror. Almost everything I write here covers my love for the genre in some way, and while it's true that I love all kinds of movies and love many different types of genres, it's undeniable that horror is my utmost favourite. Whether we're talking about crazy, nonsensical trash, or subtler, more creepy entries, I find myself more excited and engaged with horror than I do anything else on offer.

 

Why this is I don't know. I've written about it before, many times. It could be that, as far as I'm concerned at least, horror is the most diverse of genres. After all, we're talking about a banner that contains things as varied as Ghostbusters (I know it's comedy but... c'mon, it sits in the genre just as much) and The Exorcist (William Friedkin may have directed it, but don't believe him when he claims it isn't a horror).

 

It could be that, of all the different types of films out there bar maybe sci-fi, horror is the most adept at highlighting real world issues in an engaging and entertaining way. An argument could even be made that horror is more adept than sci-fi, although I don't know how convinced I am by that. Most sci-fi is built around contemporary commentary. But horror most certain does it better, from John Carpenter's The Thing through to Jordan Peele's Get Out, there's always an opportunity within horror to explore real world issues.

 

Furthermore, horror can get into paces other genres simply can't when tackling real world problems. It also gets under your skin in a way other genres struggle to, even dramas and thrillers, without resorting to heavy horror undertones. My favourite other genre movies quite often feature horror elements anyway.

 

My love could also stem from the fact that it's the most visceral of all the genres. Comedy and horror are often cited as being the two movie genres that tap into the most basic of human instincts. But comedy is subjective, incredibly so, and while we all need a good laugh now and again, I'm not sure how basic an instinct that is, really.

 

Being scared, however... oh, boy!

 

Everyone gets scared, and more often than not fear is shared. We're all a little afraid of the unknown, uncertainty, what we don't understand. And it is here that horror thrives. The best horror movies exist on a diet of the unknown. And there is no bigger unknown than death.

 

Death, or the threat of death, in one form or another, is what grips through almost every horror movie ever made. It's the catalyst for the grief in Hereditary, it's what the campers fear in Blair Witch, it's what Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger bring with them. Right this moment, while typing these words, I'm struggling to think of a horror film where death or fear of death is not a defining factor. It is the most human, the most relatable of all emotions, and nothing taps into it in the way horror can.

 

Whether it's Rosemary's terror of losing her baby in Rosemary's Baby, or the literal threat of death that makes up the Final Destination movies, it is there, in every aspect of every horror film.

 

And it's because of these many different reasons, and because it is such a massive, broad genre, that I can't for the life of me figure out why people say ridiculous, nonsensical things like: "I don't like horror."

 

What are you talking about? What type of horror? What do you mean?

 

Look, I get that not everyone likes being scared. And while, personally, I seek out horror movies that I think are going to terrify me (because for some reason I guess I enjoy damaging myself in that way), it's hardly a secret that not every horror movie is scared. Some of them are hilarious. Some of them are exciting. Some of them are just a whole lot of fun.

 

And the people who make this kind of broad, weird statement - and it is weird, you wouldn't say "I don't like comedy" would you? If someone said that to you I'm guessing your reaction would be much the same as mine... run, because they are clearly a psychopath - irritate me almost more than people who inexplicably still want Brexit... okay, that was harsh. People who "don't like horror" are nowhere near as bad as Brexiteers.

 

I don't know whether comments like these come from a generalisation of the horror genre; many people when discussing horror seem to think it exists solely within the reals of Hostel and Saw, or whether it comes from simply ignorance about moves in general; I am aware that not everyone enjoyed discussing, reading about, writing about, watching, analysing and dissecting movies in the same way I do, but either way it just doesn't make sense to me.

 

I love horror, and I'm not saying everyone else has to love it too. But I reckon you'd be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't like at least one horror movie. Take a friend of mine for example, who shall remain nameless, who informed me when we were trying to decide what movie to watch one evening, that they "hate horror, it's just awful" and then asked to put on Shaun of the Dead...

 

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© Alex Secker 2018