The 3 Basics Of Horror Films

Horror movies are considered the easiest and cheapest way to break into a seemingly impenetrable business. Stars are generally not required and they are easier films to produce and distribute. Over half of the top 20 most profitable films of all time are horror movies. Paranormal Activity posted a return of over 6500% on its $15000 investment.

So what exactly is this genre? Technically horror is related to fantasy films. Specifically dark fantasy. Horror deals with the dark aspects of humanity like death, loss, individuality, alliance between god and man and machine and man. Fears not often discussed openly.

Stephen King famously described the three levels of horror:

    This is the highest form of horror which creates the greatest emotion of fear. It manifests in the mind of the viewer by not seeing something and by imagining what’s there. Consider the Blair Witch Project which contains many scary scenes of anticipation and dread without actually showing anything. Sound montages are used so the audience can create what it fears most.
  • FEAR
    Fear is a mid level horror and creates an emotional response by showing something tangible. Real physical scares.
    Reality is the lowest level of horror. This is gross out, gore-filled, blood fest gimmickry. It’s the most lifelike and childish horror. Pure shock value.


Horror resonates so strongly with audiences because of its purity. We’ve always had to face fear. Horror movies allow audiences to work through their subconscious fears and connect them with real personal and social ones.
Society has always fixated on beauty, youth and immortality. Horror films attack these very fixations which underpin our society.
Creature features focus our collective fear into a beast. Monsters living in nuclear or toxic waste dumps addresses the destruction of our environment. By killing the monster, our fears are allayed.
Horror does so much more than entertain. It’s a deep exploration of the human psyche.
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One Comment Add yours

  1. JTV says:

    Great post Gideon. Enjoyed it.

    10 of the top 20 RoI films are Horror… (Paranormal Activity as you mention above is #1 in terms of RoI of course)

    And there should actually be another Horror film enter the top 20 RoI list this month… they happen every 2.05 years…

    I personally think, there should be a subgenre within Horror (Film) called Terror, (eg Balir Witch – as you say) and, another called Gross-Out. (eg a possibly some Torture-Porn would fit in this Genre)
    ie Not all Horror films are, actually, scary. (eg: Terrifying)
    Some of them, like Stephen King mentions in `Danse Macabre’, just go for the gross-out… which isn’t exactly scary, necessarily, just: gross.
    (eg Someones head suddenly comes off and blood and gore spews out everywhere, say)

    Anyway great post, thanks again



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