What makes a good horror movie? Lots of gore and violence? A supernatural entity? Thrills and chills? Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines horror as “a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay.” But how many horror movies today actually inspire fear that isn’t overshadowed by gratuitous sex, violence, or characters the audience simply doesn’t care to root for? Many horror movies originated with the intention of scaring viewers but have evolved into something far different.
Even before the enormous success of the Twilight saga, vampires were largely seen as sexual creatures in pop culture, rather than blood sucking monsters. Gone are the days of Dracula adaptations like Nosferatu where vampires were considered unattractive and…well, creepy. Although some would argue that Edward Cullen’s habit of watching Bella sleep is rather disturbing, most modern vampires are more sultry than scary.
Horror franchises that have evolved into comedies
The Evil Dead has become a cult favorite, but most people remember it for being funny or overly gory, not frightening, and for spawning two equally (and purposefully) funny sequels. Child’s Play and its first two sequels were also intended to be scary, but the series was revamped in 1998 with the horror comedy Bride of Chucky. Seed of Chucky, released in 2004, also offered comedic release and refused to take itself seriously. Other films like Piranha and the Return of the Living Dead movies were marketed as horror movies but have become known for their humor. The SyFy Channel has also become notorious for producing unintentionally funny monster movies like Dinocroc and Sharktopus.
Teen slasher movies
The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released in 1974, is considered by many to be one of the scariest movies of its time. John Carpenter’s original Halloween and its villain, the ominous, knife-wielding Michael Myers is also known for genuinely creeping out viewers. But many modern teen slashers are more known for over-the-top gore and senseless main characters. Perhaps some of the most notable of these dime-a-dozen gorefests are the remakes of classics such as Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, as well as numerous sequels to popular franchises such as the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th films (including the blending of these two, Freddy vs. Jason).
The horror genre covers a wide range of films, and not all of them will make viewers want to sleep with the lights on. But can’t non-scary horror films still be entertaining?