Don’t Breathe, the most recent horror I’ve watched. Except that it isn’t really considered horror, but rather more of a thriller. For me there is a certain set of guidelines that describe what horror is. That includes any number of people being terrorized by a number of characters including, but not limited to: a creature from another world, space, time, a creation by some entity, or man himself. The way in which certain situations may also be exaggerated in ways that appear gruesome and leave the viewer in awe or disgust. This represents, at least for me, what horror is. A thriller on the other hand could be any number of situations that would keep the viewer on the edge of their seat, not that other films couldn’t also have this feeling. I see thriller films especially composed of real world situations taken to another level. For example, a home invasion that happens to have people be the main threat. Where do we find the line of which category films fit into.
I began to wonder about horror and thriller films, specifically what separates the two from each other. Depending on the setting rules and situations within a film could be considered one, both or a combination of other genres. My search brought me to a reddit post where one commenter had gone over this exact question in a film class. The professor had explained the differences as the following:
“In thrillers, there is tension, suspense and scares but they come from real-world understandable reasons taken to extremes. Your ex-husband will murder you because you left him; the thieves are going to torture you because you know where their loot is. The world of the film uses a grotesque logic, but still works with real world motives, causes, and effects. In horror though, the very world of the film rejects reason. You cannot understand your enemy or his rationale at all and his very existence may fly in the face of the standard operating procedures of the universe. So you’ve got your Michael Myers who may be a normal human being for all you know, but you’re in a horror film because his motivations are unfathomable from a real world perspective. And you have your Freddy Krueger who has a real world motivation (initially) but is still a horror staple because his very nature rejects real world rules.”
A different site led to a similar definition of the genres. It also went over how Hollywood has made both genres be like each other. “The two genres actually speak for themselves in terms of the purpose they were created. For thriller movies, this genre was created so as to “thrill” the viewers. That’s why thrillers easily make their viewers sit at the edge of their seats but not to the point of making them shake on them. By contrast, horror films are designed to “horrify” their viewers. It literally makes you shout, scream, or even jump from your seats.”
This could be said about other genres as well. The site also talked about plot in both of these kinds of movies. One, being the thriller, is more likely to be associated with having a better plot. While the other, horror, has been accustomed by viewers to having little or no plot, and rather relying on that shocking effect on the viewer directly. This may be a reason certain horror has been relying on the jump scare tactic. This is where either the music draws you in at a certain point, and making you anticipate that jump on screen will happen at any moment. This anticipation in a scene can be done right, without feeling forced in for the sake of having jump scares.
In the end it is these kinds of questions that bridge and open paths from horror into other kinds of genres in films. What really defines a certain genre-film as one or the other could be left up to the viewer as long as drastic comparisons aren’t stretched to fit one genre. I feel like films could be open to being very different kinds of experiences.