Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Do You Want from a Horror Movie?

Patrick:  ‪Because it's Scary Movie Month, I want to try an experiment.‬ Because MAD SCIENTIST.

Doug:  ‪I'm intrigued.‬ GO ON ...

Patrick:  ‪People are tired of hearing our conversations. They want to READ our conversations.‬

Let me ask you a very broad question. What do you want out of a horror movie?

Doug:  ‪That is a broad question. How about a broad answer? I want to be scared.‬

Patrick:  ‪Ok, a-hole. WHAT SCARES YOU??‬ I made my voice loud to scare you.

Doug:  ‪So that's what all CAPS means, eh? Well, then, color me FRIGHTENED.‬

Patrick:  ‪I ask because I don't know how important being scared is to me when I'm watching a horror movie.‬ I don't find many of the scary, but I still love them.

Doug: ‪That's because you're a weirdo. I am drawn to horror films that are more subtle and suspenseful and creepy. And those things are SCARY.‬ I've never been a huge fan of "slasher" movies -- I like films that mess with your mind. Odd sounds, feelings of being alone ... that sort of thing.

Patrick: This is why I wanted to bring this up. We both love horror movies. But we seem to like them for different reasons.‬

Doug: ‪Correct. I like them for the right reasons, you like them for the WRONG reasons (i.e., difficult childhood, I'm assume?).‬ THAT WAS A JOKE. Patrick had a great childhood. Full of monsters.

Patrick: So many monsters. So few hugs.‬

Doug: ‪Don't get me wrong -- I can appreciate and respect all kinds of scary movies, even those that I don't find particularly, well, "scary." I just like those more that are both well-done and spook the heck out of me.‬ For example, I'm not exactly "scared" by old Universal films, but I can understand why they're the best.

I'm taking your question at face value -- what do I "want" out of a horror movie? To be scared. Ah-no-ah-duh.

Patrick: We're going to talk about a movie on the podcast later this month, and I don't want to spoil what it is, but you love it and I don't.‬

Doug: Well, "love" is a strong word.‬ I find it "effective." BUT, I also haven't seen it in years, so the re-watching and subsequent discussion should be interesting.

Patrick: Don't sugarcoat it. You love it and want to have 10,000 of its babies.‬

Doug: Ghost babies.‬

Patrick: I only bring it up because I think it speaks to a big difference in what we respond to in horror movies.‬

Doug: You're probably right.‬

Patrick:  ‪Here's an example: I like A Nightmare on Elm Street better than Halloween.‬

Doug: The movie or the holiday?‬

Patrick: ‪Don't make me choose.‬

I'm not sure I care about developing tension. That's something that gets talked about a LOT in conversations about horror movies, but I would rather watch something with a lot of imagination.

Doug: Conversely, I think developing tension is HUGE. Obviously, imagination is key, but when it comes to horror films, tension is king. I mean, What Dreams May Come has "imagination" ...‬

Patrick:  ‪And it scared the hell out of me.

I'm not saying I want ONLY imagination.‬


Patrick: But I'll take a cool monster over suspense just about any day.

Doug: And, for me, monsters are all, meh. Which is why I had a hard time coming up with my "favorite" movie monster. I copped out and chose the clown from Poltergeist, because HOLY SHIT THAT THING IS SCARY. But it's not a traditional monster.

Patrick: Tell it to the clown.‬ He's behind you right now.

Doug: That's not funny.‬

Patrick: He's not laughing‬.

Doug: OK, Mr. Kick Ass. Mr. Rubber-Burner ... what, aside from "imagination," do YOU look for in a horror film?‬

Patrick:  ‪I don't know if there's one specific thing. I just like all the signifiers of a horror movie.‬ If there's blood, great. If there's a monster, great. Not that I'm a big gore guy.

Doug: ‪Just a big Al Gore guy.‬

Patrick: Sue me. I love the internet.‬

Listen, as soon as I see the monster, I kind of check out. For me, the "unknown" is far more interesting. I'm using a lot of "unnecessary" "quotes," aren't I?‬

Patrick: ‪BOO to the unknown. YAY to the known.‬ Let me tell you about a little movie called The Happening. The wind tries to kill people. What are they fighting? It's UNKNOWN!

Doug: It's plants, Patrick, and everyone knows THEY ARE THE SCARIEST.‬ Stupid murderous plants. I hate plants! Arrrgh! Plants!

Patrick: ‪Tell it to the clown. He's behind you.‬ HOLDING PETUNIAS.


Patrick: The thing that's great (great?) about horror movies is that there are SO MANY types and subgenres. Everyone has their thing. There's gore people and monster people and slasher people. You're more of a "door slamming" guy.‬

Doug: ‪I'm all, "Ah!" And, "Ooh!" And, "Eee!"‬ And little kids. Always super scary.

Patrick: ‪But is that what brings you back to a horror movie over and over again? Will you put something on because you know it will scare you a third or fourth or fifth time?‬

Doug: ‪Interesting point.‬ I think, in some instance, yes, absolutely. If it's done really well, I will come back for that creepy feeling. Like in The Shining. I'm not scared anymore by the twins or the woman in the bathtub, but it's still super creepy. The movie is obviously much more than cheap thrills.

Patrick: ‪What made me think of even bringing this up is because you love Night of the Living Dead and I prefer Dawn of the Dead. And I think it's a great example of where we differ in what we want out of a horror movie.‬

Doug: ‪I agree. The first one's the scariest, and the second one's the orange-bloodiest.‬

And, obviously, your favorite genre (as previously discussed) is horror. I love horror, but it's not my first go-to. That would be war movies. Or Zac Efron movies.

Patrick: ‪But there are so many things that bring me back to Dawn. The characters. The gags. The ideas. Night of the Living Dead is a great movie, but it only works on my gut.‬ Dawn of the Dead affects me in more places. Like my pants.

Doug: ‪Brains?‬

To your point, I concede that the very basic statement of "I want to be scared by a scary movie" has it's limitations. Further, many of these types of scary movies (the Paranormal Activity franchise comes to mind) would never hold up to repeat viewings (never mind that the first viewing is usually pretty effective).‬ So, yes, my broad answer of "I want to be scared" is a little silly. But I do think it's the foundation of what I look for in a horror film. If I can be scared AND get wrapped up in a great story with great direction and unique performances, great!

Patrick: ‪You're not wrong. I think that's the great appeal of the genre.‬ I just don't really care if I'm scared or not. Something is broken inside me.

Doug: I knew that before we even started this conversation!‬ If you don't care if you're scared, then what's the appeal of horror?

Patrick: I don't know what it is for me. That's part of a bigger conversation, I think. One that would require a doctor with degrees present.‬ It just goes back to a fixation I had with monsters from as early as I can remember.

Doug: ‪"Mr. Bromley, please lay down, relax and tell me about ... your mother."‬

Patrick: ‪I think scary is great and all, but it has no lasting power for me.‬ I thought The Descent was the scariest movie I've seen in a long time. One of the only movies to ever scare me, really. And it's great. At the same time, I have very little desire to ever revisit it.

Doug: ‪I agree that The Descent was scary. And great. And really well done. I am FLABBERGASTED that you have no interest in seeing it again.‬ Is it because you're afraid? You're afraid, aren't you.

Patrick: The only scene I couldn't watch again is when the one girl breaks a bone. It was the worst.‬ But there are so many movies I will go back to before that one, even if that one is better. It's just that it's better in a very narrow way, even if that's effective.
Doug: The one thing I'm not crazy about in The Descent is the ending. And I won't spoil it, because I'm not a jerk. But it was very unsatisfying to me. THAT might be a reason to not see it again.‬ But, f'real, it's got so many other good elements. The one thing it might be missing is a little humor. Regardless, it's incredibly effective.

Patrick: I don't disagree. I think it's a great movie. But it speaks to this question of 'what do we want in a horror movie,' because as good as it is, I'll still re-watch A Nightmare on Elm Street first.‬

Doug: ‪Do you think A Nightmare on Elm Street is scary? I do. And I think, having seen it for the first time as a kid, it really spoke to some fears of nightmares and death and the supernatural.‬ But, if I'm reading what you wrote correctly, you would like it ... even if it wasn't scary?

Patrick: Correct. I think it presents scary ideas -- that you can't escape the boogeyman because you're asleep and can't wake up -- but the movie doesn't actually scare me in a visceral way, if that makes sense. And it's one of my favorite horror movies (it becomes more so with every passing year), so the 'scare' factor isn't an issue.‬

Doug: So, then, what is it? What do you like about it?‬

Patrick: ‪Heather Langenkamp.‬
I like the imagination on display. I like how respectfully and seriously it treats the characters. I think it has great ideas and a good way of visualizing those ideas.

Doug: ‪I completely understand and, seriously, agree with that. With everything you've just submitted, actually. I guess my follow-up question, then, is why horror? Almost every genre has films which show imagination and respect towards its characters.‬

Again, for me, if we're talking "HORROR," I need to be scared -- there needs to be some stakes (scaredy stakes). Otherwise, I'll just watch an imaginative drama.‬

Patrick: ‪But imaginative dramas don't have monsters. And people being stabbed.‬ Because that's part of it, too. It all works together.

Doug: ‪So you like monsters (that's been established), and you like ... gore?‬

Patrick: I like anything when it's done right. Gore isn't necessary (and if it's the whole show I'm not interested), but there's certainly a way to do it that's super effective.‬ There are plenty of horror movies I like that are bloodless, though. I will say I don't know that I really respond to just the 'suggestion' of something -- the Haunting (the movie, not the haunting) approach.

Doug: Oh, I totally respond to suggestions. It's how you got in my pants on our first date!‬
I'm going to go out on a [safe] limb here ... is another BIG reason you like scary movies is that they typically come out in the fall, which happens to be your favorite season?

^^great sentence, btw^^^

Patrick: ‪No, I don't think so. I love them year round. In fact, part of the reason I like the fall is because of scary movies, not the other way around. But this is a chicken/egg debate that's not worth having.‬

Doug: So, to summarize, there's not one specific thing you look for when it comes to horror movies.

Patrick: ‪I like them to be good. How's that?‬

Doug:  ‪Talk about a broad answer.‬

Patrick: There's definitely a kind of horror movie that I'm drawn to more than others.

Doug: Like what? Oh, right ... monsters.

Patrick: ‪I don't care for religious horror. I rarely like ghost stories. J-horror remakes leave me cold (again, usually involves ghosts).‬ I'll take a slasher movie as long as it's not IN YOUR FACE with its brutality.

Doug:  ‪Please tell me J-Horror is JB's new rap name.‬

Patrick: YOU KNOW IT, SON!‬ J-Horror on the 1s and 2s!

Doug: ‪I, on the other hand, consider "being scared" to be part of an effective horror film. Suggestion. Creepiness. Subtly. The unknown.‬ Everything else you said? I'm good with that.

Patrick:  ‪So we're done here?‬

Doug:  ‪I think so. I need to eat some lunch. Some scary lunch.‬

Patrick:  ‪Say hi to that clown for me.‬

Doug:  Motherf*%#r.‬


  1. Great discussion. This is the same question I've been asking myself recently.

  2. I've been wondering about the same thing, since my gut reaction to horror movies is to not like them, but when I think about it more deeply, it's very specific kinds of horror, for many of the reasons that are mentioned in this. But, despite sharing many of the reasons with Doug and Patrick, UNLIKE them, I don't gravitate to horror. Weird, right? But, I liked "The Others" and "Sixth Sense" and "Alien" but would never ever watch "The Exorcist" or "Poltergeist." Heck, I even liked "The Darkest Hour" that I watched last night.

    In conclusion, I don't make any sense.

  3. Great article/conversation guys - my immediate thought when I started reading this was that the movie that scared me most in the past few years was The Descent - glad to see I was not alone! That sucker just makes you feel awful from the get go, lets up a bit and then boom - full-blown horror. I'm mildly claustrophobic (i.e. I feel a bit panicky when I'm STUCK) so it certainly played on that feeling for me too - I think I will rewatch it this month because I haven't had the nerve to revisit it since it first came out...

    Overall, I think I'll have to pitch a tent right in the middle of your respective camps. I CAN get scared by all of the different types of scary movies you talk about, but not easily. And not by clowns.

    Only slightly off-topic - I'm not a big video-gamer but holy crap if you want to play a game that hates your underwear, check out the Dead Space series. It plays out like a horror movie and is scary as shit - you know when you're watching a movie and it's like, "Don't go in there you idiot, the monster's in there!" You're faced with this situation countless times in the game and YOU are the one that HAS TO GO IN THERE. Anyway, nothing has scared me more in my life than playing Dead Space so if you're even slightly into games, check em out!

    1. Thanks, Sol. Maybe I'll revisit The Descent, too. And speaking of The Descent, too, The Descent 2 is on Netflix right now. Neil Marshall didn't direct it, but I should check it out.

      Here's an off-topic confession to go along with your video game recommendation: I love horror movies. I hate haunted houses. HATE them. Won't go in them. I can't account for that discrepancy, but there it is.

    2. Sol. O., Resident Evil 4 did the same thing to me. I played the first 10 minutes in daylight and the hairs on the back of my neck still went up.

      Doug, what version of "The Descent" did you see? The theatrical or director's cut? Cause I think the theatrical cheapens the ending and director's cut ending works better with the narrative.

      Great discussion!

    3. Dammit, The Descent 2 not on Netflix CANADA and looks like it could be a bitch to track down. You'll have to let me know if it's worth it (or indicate in your 7-word review if possible)! Re things I hate, haunted houses are probably second only to dark, foreboding paths in the woods. As far as horror-movie archetypes go, I'm less Stupidly-Brave Jock and more Pants-Shitting Pothead.

      Shannon - never played any of the Resident Evils but probably should. Since the original Doom I've found video games can scare me WAY more than scary movies.

    4. Shannon, I honestly don't remember which version I saw (I'll check my DVD when I get home). I'm assuming your recommending the director's cut. Regardless, I'll have/want/need to watch it again!

    5. Hmm... I tried to watch The Descent a few years ago and couldn't get past the first 15 minutes because I found the heroine so despicable. After all the good word of mouth here I decided to give it another go. It turns out I was supposed to hate that character all along.

      All in all I thought it was a pretty effective film. The situation was scary enough before the crawlers even arrive. But no situations is so bad that monsters can't make it worse.

  4. This is a great discussion.

    Similar to Mark Ahn, I don't have any special affinity for Horror. I like good movies and apply the same criteria for enjoying a horror movie as any other film. Scary really isn't a neccessity if the film succeeds in other ways. I like to be scared but it simply doesn't occur often when watching movies.

    On my nitpicky side, I only classify films as Horror when they contain a fantastical element. I always used to hate when video stores put Psycho or Silence of the Lambs in the Horror section.

    1. Oooh, whole other debate there - I'm ALMOST agree with you on that last statement but I thought of an example of a non-fantastical franchise that I think you'd have to classify as "horror": The Saw Franchise.

      Should we add an exception to the supernatural clause along the lines of "excessive gore" or something like that?

    2. Hmm... I don't know. If a scary movie contains a mad scientist I tend to think of it as Horror so I guess it depends on how implausible the deathtraps in Saw are. I only saw the first film and I didn't think of it as a Horror but as a Thriller.

      I guess I like the fantastic distinction because I require that certain level of imagination that Patrick referred to. It's fun to be taken out of the reality that you know to be frightened by things you don't believe in. Frightening me with plausbile maniacs and gore is a different experience altogether.

  5. I have never read such a spot-on account of my own opinions (except that Halloween is far better than A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Oct. 25-31st are going to be the best days of my life [except for last year's Massacre]). I never know just how to articulate why horror movies don't have to be heart-poundingly scary to be enjoyable.

    1. Thanks, Michael. I'll concede that Halloween is the better made and more influential movie. I just like NoES better because, subjectively speaking, it's more of what I want out of a horror movie.

  6. I concur on "The Descent" being among the better breed of horror movies we've gotten recently (Director's Cut ending). I own the sequel on DVD (it follows the U.S. theatrical ending though) and, though Neil Marshall didn't direct it, he "Steven Spielberg Presents"-ted it and it's not half-bad if you watch it with limited or no expectactions. I like that, less than 15 min. into the movie, we're going back down to the caves and it doesn't feel like too much of a stretch why and who is going down... Hey, Now. :-)

    As to what makes a movie scary, that's one of my main beefs with "Scary Movie Month's" draconian/censorship-rulez! rules. To me genuine, scary horror can appear or be palpable in genres other than horror; the 2010 documentary "Inside Job" is a perfect example of something genuinely horror-inducing that can't be talked about in "SCM III." Don't even get me started on the Presidential Debate in Denver a week ago; scariest shit I've seen so far in October and I can't comment on it here? Bogus, man! :D

    Personally I'm not attracted to horror movies but I'm not repelled by them like others. It's like anime: I don't seek it but have no qualms to try it and, if I like a particular IP or franchise, embrace it enthusiastically. Any movie on any genre can push my 'scared' buttons, and the one's that work push them so effectively I can't fully like them. Michael Tolkin's "The Rapture" (1991) is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, primarily because what Mimi Rogers says/does toward the end of that movie is exactly how I think I would behave given how I know myself, and that scares the hell out of me. Scariest movie I ever saw was/is John McNaughton's "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" (1989), the only "horror" flick (technically it's not, more like early torture porn/drama) that has made me physically ill from my stomach just not tolerating what that movie shows and how it ends. "Cannibal Holocaust" is another I can't stand.

    But this type of visceral-to-me horror touches something so deep I can not rewatch these movies often (or at all in the case of "Henry"), and I'm sure everyone has their own Achille's Heel about what is too much. The birth scene in Cronenberg's "The Fly" (1986) is too much for some folks, but to me if works (disturbing but not off-putting and tied directly to plot/character development). Flora Rheta Schreiber's SYBIL (1973) depicts physical and emotional abuse that's scarier to me than other disasters/killings in a bigger scale because of the intimacy of the setting and how relatable and vulnerable (as in you can picture yourself being or being around/friends with) the lead character is, in this case a real-life person under a pseudonym.

    Sam Raimi mentioned in old 80's interviews that for horror movie to work (paraphrasing) the innocents have to suffer greatly without guarantee the guilty will pay for their cruelty. And JB has mentioned often in podcasts that horror, at its most basic psychological component, is about how the effect of loneliness on individuals incapable of handling it can warp minds (not just the perpetrator's, i.e. Jason's mom) and affect others via the explosion of repressed-for-too-long anger from lonely, bottled-up people. I guess the horror movies I personally like ("The Exorcist," "The Evil Dead," "The Fly '86," "Re-Animator," "Sleepaway Camp," "Dawn of the Dead '78," the "Blind Dead" series from Spain, "The Beyond," "Psycho '60," etc.) adhere the closest to the two tenants spoused by Raimi, JB and my own experiences reading the "Sybil" book.

    Oops, lunch break over. Time to make the doughnuts! :-P

  7. I think I would agree with Patrick more in this debate, I like imagination in a horror movie, especially an imaginative monster creation. That's why I like John Carpenters The Thing so much, it's being able to take the root of a creepy idea and turning it into an actual believable thing that epitomizes what makes that idea scary in the first place.

    1. That's a great example, Clint, because it serves both sides of the conversation. The Thing has all kinds of cool monster stuff in it, but at the same time I can think of few scenes more tense than the blood testing sequence. That movie does everything well, which is why it's such a masterpiece.

  8. I think horror movies just carry a huge nostalgia for me. I mean I started watching them when I was like 5 or 6? Every Friday night my sister and I would rent a movie and head straight to the horror section. I don't know how my dad didn't think that would mess us up ha and I wonder why I have such a fascination with serial killers...I love re-watching those movies from when I was a kid just to see how scary or cheesy they actually are now as an adult. And yes, I whole heartedly agree about Nightmare on Elm Street over Halloween. I have the entire box set and plan on re-watching and introducing it to my kids someday...

    So I guess to answer the actual question, I want sensationalism in a horror movie: the slashers, monsters, zombies, gore (ala Dead Alive), a little supernatural, and some humor. Like, ok I was really scared at times but can safely be assured that the zombie apocalypse won't actually be happening tomorrow (I hope!)

  9. Horror movies, more often than not, do not scare me. I don't believe in ghosts, demons, killers that come back from the grave, werewolves, or vampires. But how those movies are done can really make or break the experience and make it either boring, fun, or terrifying. Cabin In the Woods was gory as hell but it didn't scare me, it was just fun and clever because of its innovations and spirit. With slasher movies, you know who will live and who will die. I thought I loved horror because I knew what I was going to get: blood, creepy atmosphere, the creative death of at least 10 people, and a really fun ride.

    But. Last night we watched The Woman In Black and it scared the shit outta me. It took something I don't believe in, ghosts (I do believe in Boo Berry) and creeped me the f*ck out. I had to watch something light and funny before bed just so I wouldn't be staring at the ceiling of the bedroom. What made it scary was the SUSPENSE, man! That movie did a great job of establishing tension then using an hour to build it higher and higher until I literally got chills.

    So now I've questioned everything, and I want more movies that affect me like that. Most of them do not. In fact, the last horror movie that I can remember really getting under my skin was the Blair Witch Project back when that was theatrically released. I loved in the last house on a road surrounded by woods, and the walk to the door that night was not fun.

    I don't know that I've added ANYTHING to this discussion, but it did seem timely and relevant, so I figured I'd share. It's a fascinating discussion.

  10. Really interesting, funny conversation!! 'Dawn of the Dead' (1978) is not only my favorite horror movie but also just one of my favorite movies. 'Night' is also really great but like patrick 'Dawn', in my opinion, has a poop ton more. And speaking of Romero, have you, doug or patrick, seen the tom savini night of the living dead? Because i just found out that Romero wrote the script and "improved" it.

  11. I want a horror movie to illicit a strong gut level reaction. I tend to respond more to character-based horror movies than high-concept. I think atmosphere is very important as well as music. The more talented the filmmaker the more willing I am to let him make me uncomfortable.

    I love being scared (the only two movies that have kept me up all night are the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Blair Witch) but I love having fun at a horror movie as well (Corman movies, Vincent Price movies, Universal horror).

    I don't mind slashers or gore but I am not driven to seeking those movies out. I think it's very important in those movies for the protagonists to have a chance to survive and/or fight back (e.g. Nightmare on Elm Street 1 & 3). I do have a line that I won't cross in horror which is why I don't intend to watch movies like Last House on the Left.

  12. All of these comments are great, because they get at a larger point -- we all want different things, but more than that we all agree that we want different KINDS of things in our horror movies. One thing over and over gets repetitive and boring. I find myself agreeing with just about everything that's been said. YES to everything Adam wrote. I like what Jessica said above about "sensationalism," because I think that goes to the heart of what I like in a horror movie. I like things to be larger than life. There is a kind of horror that emphasizes "reality," but I tend to avoid those -- or, at the very least, only see them once.

    There's no single answer, and it seems from the conversation like we're all just trying to put our finger(s) on what it is we respond to. We all love horror movies, but not all of us (me especially) have ever really tried to figure out why that is.

    Let's keep talking! Let me ask this -- how important is violence in a horror movie to everyone? And by that I don't mean "do you guys LOVE GORE?" Because there are certainly plenty of people that do, and there are plenty of movies to keep that audience happy. I'm getting the impression that no one here is into horror just for the gore. But a lot of movies that don't show anything get a lot of credit -- like, "So and so can be scary without showing all that blood!" And that's a skill, sure, and that's great. But I call bullshit, because there is also a skill in using violence effectively. That's where I come down, at least. I'll take either kind of movie (bloody or not) as long as it's done properly.

    I'll admit, though: the older I get and the more movies I see, the less tolerance I have for realistic violence. I'm a grandpa.

    1. Your last little paragraph really resonates with me. I have loved gore and violence in the past. I "survived" Dead Alive, have been a big Evil Dead fan, and an owner of Hatchet, Saw, and Hostel. But like you, the older I get the less that any of that stuff appeals to me. I don't want to get too pretentious, I just feel like something has happened in the last 3 or 4 years that has made it harder to get through some of those things. I mean, Friday the 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street gore is not realistic, it's cartoony, and that doesn't bother me. But sometimes when I see Victor Crowley rip someone's head open via their mouth hole, I think "that person had a family!" This year I notice that I enjoy atmosphere a lot more than straight up slashing, and I'm preferring full moons, dark nights, and a sense of unease over a director slinging blood all over the camera. Not that I don't still love to see kids get cut open right after the coitus. That's always fun. But it was atmosphere that made Cabin In the Woods so fun. We've seen the violence, but the idea behind the violence...that mystery...that made it great.

    2. "I'll admit, though: the older I get and the more movies I see, the less tolerance I have for realistic violence."

      THIS! I was going to write something like this in my original post but didn't want to write novel, like I'm about too now. Maybe it's because I've seen, heard, read about the real violence that actually happens in the world...I don't know.

      But I don't think a movie has to be gory to be scary. I mean in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre hardly any blood was shown at all. Tobe Hooper wanted a PG rating! But my dad said it sure was scandalous for its time and is revered as one of the greatest and influential slasher films. But I guess it's a sign of how horror has evolved. Fans want the realistic gore, I guess it's a kind of voyeurism that you guys touched on in your Hostel podcast (which is a franchise I can't bring myself to watch). And I'm not even going to get into the whole link between sex and violence. I mean gore doesn't equal horror/scary. Tarantino movies are full of flat out violence but I don't consider them horror movies.

      It's interesting to me that a lot of people say that they don't get scared from horror movies but still enjoy them. My husband is like that too. He says that no horror movie has ever scared him, well them what do you get out of it? The storytelling, filmmaking, cinematography? What would scare you? To me I guess it's the antici...pation of what is about to happen, the build up, the scare. And let's be honest, most movies would be a whole lot less scary and creepy if we were watching it on mute. And with a lot of things it's your expectations for the movie. These days I expect to be scared from a horror movie and often psych myself up. I remember watching the newer version of TCM and not even flinching, but my expectations just weren't there.

      And to be honest, like most things I would have been content if they stopped making horror movies in the 80's, and probably early 90's. Though I did enjoy Cabin in the Woods.

      I hope at least some of that was comprehensible and not too convoluted.

    3. I don't have a problem with violence in a horror movie so long as the violence isn't the only thing of interest. It can really up the ante by showing the consequences that await the protagonist if she doesn't escape, etc. so it can add to the overall tension and effectiveness of a film. But I've never been interested in watching a film where the characters are just victims for a killer and the interest comes in seeing what creative way they'll be dispatched next.

      I kind of like gore because I've always been interested in make-up effects but typically I find that in terms of effectiveness "less is more". I wince a lot more watching simple injuries like a character losing a fingernail while trying to claw for her escape or MacReady slicing open his thumb to take a blood sample than I do seeing a character's intestines pulled from his belly and eaten by a pack of zombies.

    4. I'm about to hit the big 4-0 in a few months and, surprisingly, I'm as bothered by gore as much or as little as I did when I was younger on a case-by-case basis. The "Saw" and "Hostel" school of horror gets automatically rejected by me on account that the whole points of these movies is to turn the audience on to the pain of the characters (unlikable and badly-acted as they are) as much as a sexually-explicit movie tries to excite its audience. To me that's both wrong and just not entertaining unless it's done with a style/purpose other than make the audience enjoy the thrill of the kills (see Wes Craven's original "Last House on the Left" for an example of unpleasant-to-look at horror with a point other than its depiction of torture).

      The slasher films of the 70's and 80's are so over-the-top and cartoony with the violence they don't qualify as disturbing anymore (where they ever?). But their slick shot-to-look-like-commercials 90's/2000's remakes take themselves so seriously they do feel like stylish second-cousins of the torture porn-type movies by proxy. Young audiences have embraced these remakes, so do they consider them their cheesy/non-realistic cartoony horror movies? I'm with Patrick: I'm old and don't get it.

      Something we can all agree on I assume is that if your movie uses CGI gore it automatically becomes annoying and not disturbing (with notable and rare exceptions like the opening scene in 2002's "Ghost Ship" or the extremely-well-integrated-with-the-story CGI in AMC's "The Walking Dead"). Like JB says, when CGI takes over it becomes a videogame cutscene and I check out. It shows the director cared more about his/her convenience and shooting schedule than the effect the "money shots" would have on the audience. The George Romero that did the "Dead" movies in the 60's, 70's and 80's would rather shoot with a smaller budget but keep the integrity of his uncensored gore (which in 1985's "Day of the Dead" pays off huge in that unforgettable last 30 minutes) than have compromised violence with a bigger budget. Contrast that with Romero's Y2K trilogy of "Dead" movies, where CGI gore is just one of a truckload of problems.

      To this date the glances of the victims left behind in "Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer" remains the most disturbing movie violence I've seen because imagining what Henry did to his victims is a lot scarier and disturbing than when we actually see him doing violent stuff (which is plenty distubing, because Michael Rooker). So, boo CGI and yay prosthetic rubber covered in syrup liquid cooked in Greg Nicotero's oven. :-)

    5. I think the shift in my/our (seems to be somewhat of a consensus happening here) relationship to horror as we get older has to do with starting to come to terms with our own mortality - on-screen deaths, especially when depicted realistically and without humour, can make me think, "Shit what would my wife/parents/etc do if that happened to me?" or "What would I do if that happened to them?" AND "OMG, I'm going to die someday too!" My ability to sympathize with characters and what's happening to them has grown as well, which is great when it comes to "normal" movies, but can make me a bit too connected to characters in a horror movie. All depending on the nature of the movie and even my particular mood at the time of course. I can still "enjoy" a nasty horror movie, just perhaps not as consistently as I used to.

      Re gore: You know when you're reading about an accident in the newspaper and they say that someone was "killed instantly"? The human body can take a lot of abuse and can be repaired/revived in a lot of situations - when they can determine someone was "killed instantly" it's because there's been some obvious, serious (and probably sudden) trauma and most likely some real life "gore". That's the kind of death that freaks me out most - I can't stand the idea of myself or a loved one being reduced to meat in an instant - and it always makes me uncomfortable to see that kind of instant death in a movie - heads blown off, bodies ripped apart, people smushed by a truck or something, etc. That said, I can "enjoy" that vicarious glimpse at my personal fear and appreciate some well-done gore, but I certainly don't "need" it like I did to some extent in my younger years. I'm far more appreciative of the art of scaring you by NOT showing you something.

      Finally, as much as I'm bothered by severe trauma (which is essentially painless cuz they're dead), there's something about the little things that have always gotten to me. Finger-nails breaking, small cuts, compound fractures - those are the things that can really punch me in the gut. My earliest experience with that, and still one of the best, the arm-wrestling scene from The Fly (1986) - I saw that when I was about 10 and it still makes me cringe.

      Oh yeah, and screw CGI gore, it almost always sucks. I would've liked The Midnight Meat Train a lot more with good practical effects.