What makes one like specific kinds of genre films? Horror, for eternity, will be associated with “cult” films, and the word choice seems to be for a fine reason. The category has all differing subgenres, many of which produce “cult” or midnight movies. Phantasm brings “phans” from all over the world to conventions where Don Coscarelli and company ventures to. Viewers of horror are from all walks, although the majority of the populous are loyal and dedicated fanatics. From devotees of the horror genre, to the casual watcher, these films and the emotions evoked strike specific chords internally, giving release to several bodily actions within.
Horror influences the human body’s chemistry, which most other genres cannot produce on their own. What happens physically is the heart and breathing rates rise, muscles tense and one may even crack a sweat from all the stress a movie is providing. While putting oneself in what feels like a life-threatening situation, even if conscious of the fact it’s not real, the physical body releases differing levels of adrenaline, endorphins, cortisol and dopamine. So, horror is kind of like getting naturally high on the fight or flight response.
All the best horror flicks induce this natural occurrence for most, although it easily transpires in young children and scaredy-cat adults. Think back on those moments when watching the most frightening of films, and try to go to that memory of first encountering the shark from Jaws, Freddy Krueger, The Exorcist or whatever terrifies people in their dreams. These encounters are most likely not forgotten and stick with a person forever. The reason is not just due to the elements of film being encountered, but the body timestamps internally as per the fight or flight response.
Some viewers like to tune into a horror film and be tormented psychologically, whether consciously doing it or not. The dark movie with an edge, for example Se7en, is not considered horror. But it is. Many would consider this a psychological thriller, which it is, but psychological horror fits the script better. Other films like Silence of the Lambs, The Terminator and Black Swan are not considered horror, according to Netflix, Amazon Prime, yadda, yadda, yadda. These movies are all on different landscapes, yet share a common thread: they were considered “mainstream” are related to the genre in one way or another.
This doesn’t just occur in straight-up horror like the original Nightmare on Elm Street or Dawn of the Dead, which are two of the most popular. This also takes place in action or sci-fi themed films, Jurassic Park for example. That movie has the “crucial element,” which without would make the movie a failure. From the frightening opening scene, when the raptor grabs and drags an employee into the holding cage; to the overwhelming euphoria most feel when surviving T-Rex and the raptors, and the JP theme plays over the ending credits— everyone who has seen it has survived Jurassic Park.
Horror forces people’s sensations to mimic a survivor’s experience on a conscious and subconscious level. The fear, dread, death and gothic undertones, which a movie like Jurassic Park contains, is not a horror movie, but an action adventure. During “adventures,” many horrors come about. Indiana Jones experiences his fear of snakes in the films. In E.T. there are many encounters which embody fear, loss, longing and death, yet the movie is found in the Kid’s section of Netflix.
Without the crucial element, these non-horror films would not be anywhere near as powerful as they are. It is a necessity to compose a film and have some aspect of dismay and dreadfulness involved. The physical and mental effects occurring while watching horror and non-horror both share a key component important in filmmaking. No, not conflict- horror.
Whether one loves or hates horror, they will never escape it in cinema… or real life.