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Do horror films NEED to be about the supernatural?

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posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:04 PM
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A recent thread called "Classic Horror" sparked a thought in me that I'd like to discuss here. Rather than phrase it as a question, I'll instead posit it as a statement, debate-style (only without the "Resolved:" crap). Anyway, here it is:

A Horror Film cannot be considered to truly be such unless its story has a supernatural element.

I know, it's a pretty bold statement -- it fairly well excludes from the genre most of the "mad slasher" films ever made, as well as science-fiction monster movies -- but it seems right to me.

Referring to the two above-mentioned subgenres, it could be argued that a "mad slasher" movie like "Friday the 13th" is actually a crime story, a psychological murder mystery, albeit told with horror-cinema clichés. Likewise, John Carpenter's "The Thing" is a science-fiction alien invasion story, made by a filmmaker with a mastery of the grammar of horror cinema. The same goes for "The Last House on the Left," "Alien," "Psycho," and a host of others.

I'd agree there are exceptions to the rule. The original "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Rob Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses" unfold with such weird, spacy, dream-logic that the very structure of the films themselves retain a supernatural feel. And even the merest suggestion of the otherworldly is good enough for me: the original "Halloween" suggested that the killer might be the bogeyman; in the film's closing credits he's referred to as "The Shape," an archaic term for "ghost."

What do you all think? Am I wrong? Good! Tell me why. :bash: Do you agree with me? OK, but please build on my (flimsy) argument. I hope this turns into some fun discussion and debate.

Thanks,
Baack




posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:10 PM
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Do horror films NEED to be about the supernatural?


Originally posted by BaackReferring to the two above-mentioned subgenres, it could be argued that a "mad slasher" movie like "Friday the 13th" is actually a crime story, a psychological murder mystery, albeit told with horror-cinema clichés. Likewise, John Carpenter's "The Thing" is a science-fiction alien invasion story, made by a filmmaker with a mastery of the grammar of horror cinema. The same goes for "The Last House on the Left," "Alien," "Psycho," and a host of others.


I think you answered your own question. The answer is no, at least as you phrased the question.

However, the supernatural seems to be the easiest way to scare the dickens out of teenage girls, so that would be the theme of choice for those who produce such films and whose primary goal is to turn a buck.

imdb.com...

[edit on 2006/8/21 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:18 PM
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Talking of the slasher category you have to acknowledge Scream. The original of these films was an amazing movie, kept you on the edge until the end and stayed within the aspects of reality. What I loved about this film was it approached itself like a horror film, acknowledging the Rules of a Horror Flick.

- Never say You'll Be Right Back
- Virgins Never Die
Etc.

IMHO the best horror flicks are not of the supernatural. Psycological thrillers are where its at.



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:27 PM
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Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
However, the supernatural seems to be the easiest way to scare the dickens out of teenage girls, so that would be the theme of choice for those who produce such films and whose primary goal is to turn a buck.

imdb.com...


Uhm, I think I understand, but I'm not 100% sure I understand, that what you're saying is that supernatural horror is something used to scare teenage girls and separate them from their money?

Is that something you feel is all the genre is worth -- that it's not fit material for adults; or is it perhaps what you feel the genre has devolved to?

Baack



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:44 PM
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The vast majority of horror films are low budget. Some of the best films ever made are horror films. Some low budget horror films are some of the best horror films ever made. Some low-budget horror films actually strive for art.

Nonetheless, when you consider the genre of horror films the majority of films you must consider are those that are made just to turn a buck, even if some of those turn out to be classics. Since the supernatural is the simplest way to be scary, then it would follow that those who produce horror films for the primary purpose of making money, as opposed to creating art, will choose the supernatural, as it is the one that requires the least originality.

Here's a link to the rules of horror flicks that chissler referred to. They're good for a laugh and as a guide to making a horror flick, if you've got a few hundred grand to part with.

If I had to choose a favorite horror film, it would have to be this one, which is both low budget and does not involve the supernatural, at least not overtly:

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

A recent horror flick that to my knowledge does not use the supernatural:

Snakes on a Plane (2006)



[edit on 2006/8/21 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 03:54 PM
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Originally posted by chissler
Talking of the slasher category you have to acknowledge Scream. The original of these films was an amazing movie, kept you on the edge until the end and stayed within the aspects of reality. What I loved about this film was it approached itself like a horror film, acknowledging the Rules of a Horror Flick.
...


Yeah, it is a way-cool movie, but in it Wes Craven seems to be closing the book on the whole (real-world) "slasher" subgenre. He did the same thing with "Wes Craven's New Nightmare," using postmodernist humor to deconstruct his own (supernatural horror) franchise. I'd argue that "Scream" is more of a comedy, or at least a satire, but a horror movie.


IMHO the best horror flicks are not of the supernatural. Psycological thrillers are where its at.


Could be, but are "psychological thrillers" horror movies? Or are they their own genre? (Or are they a subgenre of Mystery?) In the classic "Bride of Frankenstein," Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester,) says "it's a perfect night for mystery and horror." I think Mystery and Horror are cousins, but where's the dividing line? That might be the nut of my question.

Thanks for responding!
Baack



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 04:06 PM
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Here's one of the best horror films, and made for TV movies, ever made that doesn't use the supernatural.

Duel

And can we forget Jaws, another Speilberg classic.

[edit on 2006/8/21 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 04:09 PM
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Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
The vast majority of horror films are low budget. Some of the best films ever made are horror films. Some low budget horror films are some of the best horror films ever made. Some low-budget horror films actually strive for art.

Nonetheless, when you consider the genre of horror films the majority of films you must consider are those that are made just to turn a buck, even if some of those turn out to be classics.


Thanks for clarifying. I agree 100%. I'd also add that some films made just to turn a buck achieve art without trying -- it simply happens by dint of craftsmanship and ingenuity.




Since the supernatural is the simplest way to be scary, then it would follow that those who produce horror films for the primary purpose of making money, as opposed to creating art, will choose the supernatural, as it is the one that requires the least originality.

If I had to choose a favorite horror film, it would have to be this one, which is both low budget and does not involve the supernatural, at least not overtly:

The Blair Witch Project (1999)


It's one of my favorite horror films also, but it always seemed to me overtly supernatural. It may be a matter of perception, which makes the genre although more fun.

Point taken about it being easier to go after the supernatural when making a commercial horror movie. Personally, I think it's harder to achieve quality in that area, because a certain widening of perception is required to make it work. Much easier to have a buzzsaw-wielding maniac running around slicing up semi-naked teenagers who have just had premarital sex.


Thanks for responding!

Baack



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 04:16 PM
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"The Blair Witch Project" is ostensibly about the supernatural, but the film itself does a great job of leaving that up in the air, which I consider to be not overt.

Also, Blair Witch and Napoleon Dynamite are my favorite examples of how little budget and art have to do with one another.

[edit on 2006/8/21 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 04:21 PM
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in some ways, North by Northwest is a horror flick, until about 2 / 3 of the way into it.

On the other hand, Supernatural effects don't MAKE a horror film. For instance, the Harry Potter movies are not really about the supernatural, they are about coming of age in a british boarding school. They are simply "Goodby, Mr. Chips" set among dragons and elves.

Carrie, at the time of its debut, turned the genre on its head by making the supernatural character both the source of evil, but also the victim/protagonist of the piece.

And what about Sixth Sense? It definitely had the mood of a horror movie, AND dealth with the supernatural, but also was primarily a mystery movie.

If you get rid of supernatural and slashers, what's left? Natural disaster flicks? That's not horror, at all.

Except for maybe Titanic. The overacting made me sleepless for weeks.

.



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 07:03 PM
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Nah, not every horror movie has to deal with the supernatural.
Ever seen that movie Gilgi? Scared me to near death.



posted on Aug, 21 2006 @ 07:06 PM
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Oh, and Saw. Saw was extremely good.



posted on Aug, 22 2006 @ 11:21 AM
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Originally posted by dr_strangecraft

in some ways, North by Northwest is a horror flick, until about 2 / 3 of the way into it.


?? I've thought real hard about your statement here, and have to admit I just don't get it. Please elaborate...


On the other hand, Supernatural effects don't MAKE a horror film. For instance, the Harry Potter movies are not really about the supernatural, they are about coming of age in a british boarding school. They are simply "Goodby, Mr. Chips" set among dragons and elves.


True, but I don't think the Harry Potter movies were conceived, designed, or executed as horror films, or even as dark fantasy. Fantasy films like Harry Potter, "The Lord of the Rings," or "The Wizard of Oz" use horror elements to underline the difference between good and evil, and can definitely be scary (Oz's flying monkeys, anyone?), but the intent isn't the same.


And what about Sixth Sense? It definitely had the mood of a horror movie, AND dealth with the supernatural, but also was primarily a mystery movie.


I would opine that it was primarily a ghost story. The difference between a ghost story and a horror story probably can be measured in millimeters, and even less so with a supernatural horror story; I always preferred the term "supernatural thriller." It's kind of a catch-all, but it works well as a descriptive label.

IMHO, of course.

Baack



posted on Aug, 22 2006 @ 11:39 AM
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Originally posted by GradyPhilpott
Here's one of the best horror films, and made for TV movies, ever made that doesn't use the supernatural.

Duel

And can we forget Jaws, another Spielberg classic.


Both of them excellent monster movies. And who's to say they're entirely without a whiff of the supernatural? Each film features an unknowable, unstoppable creature that is almost a force of nature (literally so in the latter film.) Both monsters are preternaturally intelligent and seemingly prescient -- but they can't be reasoned with, because they're such pure distillations of violence. Perhaps... they're not entirely... of this earth?


BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!!

Baack
(in a weird mood)



posted on Aug, 22 2006 @ 04:37 PM
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North by northwest has some sequences in it, where the focus is one the FEAR caused by being framed, being hunted, being on the run from the police at the same time you're running from criminals, etc. I understand that NxNW is a suspense/thriller. My point is just, Hitchcock could be so over the top sometimes, that for a few seconds it FEELS like a horror movie.

There's one Hitchock film where a guy is in East Germany, spying. This woman his trying to kill him. He wrestles with her in a farmhouse, and eventually gets killed by having her head stuck in the oven an then gassed. That's fairly horrific, for a spy flick.

THE BIRDS is another film that while not supernatural per se, definitely has a preternatural feel, with things being SO abnormal, it feels like horror. . . .


.



posted on Aug, 22 2006 @ 04:49 PM
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I would call The Birds (1963) as quirky a film as it is, the quintessential horror film. I watched this film recently and to me it was like the whole town was on a combination of thorazine and mushrooms and the birds had gotten into a meth lab.

[edit on 2006/8/22 by GradyPhilpott]



posted on Aug, 23 2006 @ 02:30 PM
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Originally posted by dr_strangecraft

North by northwest has some sequences in it, where the focus is one the FEAR caused by being framed, being hunted, being on the run from the police at the same time you're running from criminals, etc. I understand that NxNW is a suspense/thriller. My point is just, Hitchcock could be so over the top sometimes, that for a few seconds it FEELS like a horror movie.


Existential horror, perhaps. That's one of the cornerstones of the modern paranoid thriller genre. Sure, you're afraid of the bad guys (because you identify with the hero,) that all the bad guys can really do is physically kill you -- there's no fear for the soul, no mortal terror, associated with this kind of entertainment. And, while agreeing that everything affects everybody differently, it's generally understood that NxNW (I love the abbreviation, by the way,) is a comedic thriller. A breezy entertainment with some laughs, some romance and adventure, and some roller-coaster thrills. Not a horror film.


There's one Hitchock film where a guy is in East Germany, spying. This woman his trying to kill him. He wrestles with her in a farmhouse, and eventually gets killed by having her head stuck in the oven an then gassed. That's fairly horrific, for a spy flick.


That scene in "Torn Curtain" is indeed horrific and squirm-inducing. Apparently, Hitchcock wanted to show, rather explicitly, just how very difficult it is actually kill somebody with one's bare hands. As far as spy flicks go, "Torn Curtain" came out a year after the James Bond picture "Thunderball," which featured graphic and gory imagery of SCUBA-geared soldiers taking spear-gun projectiles through their face masks and in their guts. Much screaming and writhing and clouds of blood in the water. Still, like the Hitchcock film, not a horror movie. A violent thriller, yes; horror, no.


THE BIRDS is another film that while not supernatural per se, definitely has a preternatural feel, with things being SO abnormal, it feels like horror. . . .


I'd say "The Birds" is definitely a horror film; perhaps the only pure (i.e. supernatural) horror film Hitch ever made. There's so many cool things about it, but what I really like is that there is no real attempt to explain what's going on. Oh, sure, some of the townies babble their take on the causes, but the filmmaker never lets the viewer know for sure. The irrationality of the whole event is what makes it so unsettling.

Thanks for responding!
Baack



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