Halloween is here again and the great film debate continues: in the movie industry, what constitutes horror?
From “Get Out” to “The Shining,” people have been reluctant to accept such great films as part of the horror genre. Instead, they shy away from the genre, calling them “psychological thrillers” and “arthouse horror.”
So, why are we so afraid of the word horror?
There’s a public assumption that horror films are low-budget scary movies that rely on cheap jump scares. This isn’t a surprise due to production company Blumhouse’s domination of the horror industry since the early 2000s with shoddy cult franchises like “Paranormal Activity.”
Along with that, the genre is also neglected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has only nominated six horror films for the Oscars’ Best Picture award since it’s inception.
Last year the academy again made some controversial decisions by neglecting to nominate “A Quiet Place” and “Hereditary” for any big awards, which they deserved.
Both films have been praised for being unlike other horror films, which apparently makes them so great.
It’s a pretty backhanded compliment, saying “Hey, even though your movie is amazing, the genre it’s a part of sucks.”
I started thinking about this when I saw Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” become a topic of heavy debate. Aster, who is known for directing last year’s hit horror film “Hereditary,” wrote his second film about an unsuspecting group of young adults who get sacrificed as part of a cult ritual.
On paper, it sounds explicitly like a horror film. But, Aster focused in on a toxic relationship, used bright scenery throughout the film and held back the gore by depicting many killings off screen. This confused a lot of people, leading them to argue that “Midsommar” is not a horror film.
“Midsommar” made me feel shock, disgust and anguish, so I think it’s safe to call it horror. No other genre can elicit these feelings from me and just because Aster used some bright colors in a horror film doesn’t mean that a film about human sacrifice is suddenly not horror.
I realize that it’s a disservice to horror films to continue this egregious debate on what is and isn’t horror.
Not every drama fits the same mold and neither does every comedy. Film is ever-changing and growing and that’s why we still watch movies. We shouldn’t have to be afraid to label a film as horror. Horror can be good, bad and everything in between, but the genre itself has nothing to do with that.