The horror genre has frightened moviegoers since the early twentieth century. With recent hits such as “It” and “Us,” the genre shows no signs of receding success.
Stigmas toward horror have become increasingly prominent as of late. Critics and fans often will refuse to call a film horror if the film is of a quality not usually associated with the genre, despite its intent. This can be harmful to the horror community because many may dismiss horror films as being bad and not as intelligent as other pieces of cinema.
Popular publications such as The Hollywood Reporter began using new terms such as ‘elevated horror’ as a means of identifying successful horror films. Trace Thurman, a critic and writer for horror news site Bloody Disgusting, said that horror is often highly regarded by critics if it relies on atmosphere.
“‘Elevated’ horror is critically beloved horror that is more atmospheric,” Thurman said. “People watch ‘Hereditary’ and say that’s not a horror movie. Would you say the same thing about ‘The Shining?’ It’s very similar types of films. People are less likely to want to call them a horror movie because they are good.”
Jonathan Barkan, the editor-in-chief of horror website Dread Central, said that while the term ‘elevated horror’ is incorrect, it is important to respectfully combat such accusations.
“It’s simply a wrong term,” Barkan said. “But the way to answer (users of the term) is not, ‘You don’t understand horror.’ Instead, you should say, ‘Hey, I’m really excited that you are getting into horror. I have literally hundreds of examples that are just like this.’”
Vivienne Vaughn, a former Blumhouse Productions assistant who worked on films such as “Get Out” and “Happy Death Day,” said the content of thriller and horror films often overlap.
“Thrillers can be like watered down horror movies,” Vaughn said. “They don’t feature the typical scares and deal more with mystery elements rather than survival. There’s a very blurred line.”
Meagan Navarro, a writer and critic for Bloody Disgusting, said “Get Out” is a great example of a horror film bordering on the line of thriller.
“‘Get Out’ features real people and has clear racial claims that it’s making,” Navarro said. “People may think, ‘It can’t be horror because there’s no monsters.’ You can make a case for both.”
While horror has always resonated with viewers in a multitude of ways, many are quick to denounce a film’s genre if it doesn’t personally scare them. Sam Wineman, the director of short film “The Quiet Room,” said that despite whether or not a film conveys its intended effect, it does not change what type of genre it resides in
“We don’t watch a comedy movie and go: ‘Was that a comedy?’ We say, ‘Was that funny?’” Wineman said. “I don’t think anybody would be afraid to call a movie a comedy, even if it failed to make people laugh.”
Barkan said that the most important indicator of a film’s genre is its intent.
“You’ll have those people who will watch something like ‘The Witch’ or ‘Hereditary’ and say it wasn’t scary, therefore it’s not horror,” Barkan said. “(They) have it backwards. (They) weren’t scared and that’s fine, but it was intended to be scary, and for a lot of people, it was.”
With such a long lifespan, the horror genre has certainly picked up a couple of stereotypes along the way. Ariel Fisher, a writer for Fangoria and Rue Morgue, said that the genre itself has been stifled by unfair generalizations from longtime moviegoers.
“People just assume that horror means blood, guts, t--- and ‘Sharknado,’” Fisher said. “It’s such a human genre. It relies on the human experience to exist.”
At the moment, the horror genre has been dominating pop culture in addition to the box office. With any highlighted element of pop culture, there will always be varying opinions, stereotypes and controversial classifications that follow.
“Whether they are arguing for or against it, they are still talking about horror,” Navarro said. “The fact is that the horror conversation keeps coming up, and I’m OK with that.”