People like watching movies to relax, get entertained, and escape their lives. For a long time, people have considered watching movies as a leisure activity that can be enjoyed during free time from regular responsibilities. The activity also offers mental health benefits. Research on the benefits of watching movies shows that it can reduce stress, offer insights into life, and serve as a creative outlet.
However, the type of movie one watches is essential as there are different categories, each offering unique experiences. Two such genres, which often confuse people, are horror and thriller.
The difference between thriller and horror genres may not be noticeable to some movie fans who perceive them both as sources of fear, excitement, and graphic violence. However, there are discernible nuances between these genres, significant or not, that may require a closer examination to comprehend fully.
- What Makes Horror and Thriller Genres So Popular?
- Understanding Horror
- Exploring Thriller
- Horror vs. Thriller: How Are They Different?
- Common Factors Shared by Horror and Thriller Genres
- Audience Preferences and Appeal
- Evolution and Adaptation of Horror and Thriller Genres
- Recap of the Main Differences and Similarities Between Horror and Thriller Genres
What Makes Horror and Thriller Genres So Popular?
Both horror and thriller genres have been popular since the early days of film. Horror movies are designed to evoke fear, shock, and dread in their audience, while thrillers focus more on action, excitement, suspense, and surprise elements.
The common ground between these two genres is how they build tension that encourages viewers’ adrenaline levels to rise as they attempt to solve mysteries or confront imminent danger.
Why Are Horror Movies Popular?
Horror movies usually revolve around a monster, the audience’s primary source of fear and anxiety. This threat is essential in inducing fear and pulling the viewer into the movie. Humans are naturally inclined to pay attention to threats, even at a young age, making horror an effective genre in captivating the audience.
Threats have a significant influence not only on what you see but also on other aspects of your thinking, such as memory, learning, and how you share information with others. These biases are rooted in your need for survival and have helped your predecessors to stay alive.
Horror films are highly skilled at grabbing viewers’ attention because they tap into the neural systems animals, including humans, use to monitor for threats and decide the best course of action for survival.
Why Are Thriller Movies Popular?
Unlike horror movies, thriller films focus more on suspense and surprise than fear. Thriller movies are designed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats with characters facing emotionally-charged situations that require them to make difficult decisions.
Thrillers often have a moral dilemma at their core that adds complexity and depth to the story. These films usually involve complex plots, intricate surprises, and unexpected twists that keep viewers engaged as they try to piece together the puzzle.
Thrillers also tap into your curiosity by presenting you with a problem or mystery that needs to be solved, allowing you to suspend disbelief as you join the characters in their journey for answers.
The horror genre is meant to shock, frighten, and excite viewers through storytelling. It can have various interpretations but usually has a central antagonist or monster representing societal fears. This character is often called the “other,” as they are feared for being different or misunderstood. As society changes, so does the horror genre.
Definition of Horror
The horror genre in films aims to scare and disgust viewers for entertainment. These types of movies often examine disturbing topics and involve monsters, end-of-the-world scenarios, and religious or cultural beliefs. Filmmakers use various techniques in horror movies to trigger emotional responses from their audiences.
For over a hundred years, horror movies have been around. They draw inspiration from various sources, including religious beliefs, folklore, superstitions of different cultures, and Gothic and horror literature by authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley. Horror films started with silent films and German Expressionism, but it wasn’t until the release of Dracula in 1931 that it became a recognized movie genre.
Characteristics and Elements of Horror Storytelling
The purpose of horror fiction is to evoke feelings of fear, disgust, or terror in the readers. It usually involves themes related to the macabre, horror, and death. The five essential elements of horror fiction include fear, suspense, violence, gore, and the supernatural, which create an eerie and frightening atmosphere.
To create a successful horror story, it is essential to use certain elements. Creating suspense helps to build tension and keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Fear can invoke feelings of dread and terror. Violence can shock and repulse the reader, while the gore is used when describing graphic and bloody scenes. The supernatural can also create a sense of unease and horror.
Examples of Famous Horror Movies and Books
Horror movies and books have been around for decades; some are considered timeless classics. Well-known horror films include The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Saw (2004). Notable horror books include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dracula by Bram Stoker, It by Stephen King, and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.
Other iconic horror movies include Alien (1979), The Ring (2002), and The Babadook (2014). Notable horror books include Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin, and Pet Sematary by Stephen King.
Emotional Response and Psychological Impact of Horror Films
People consume horror for the stimulating experience it provides. Exposure to scary events or even the expectation of them can stimulate individuals in opposite ways, either negatively in fear or anxiety or positively in the form of excitement or joy.
People are attracted to horror for the opportunity to have new and unique experiences. They can explore alternate realities Through films depicting the end of the world or alien invasions. Some of these experiences can even give people a sense of achievement, such as visiting a famous haunted house. Being willing to try these new things can make them feel more daring and well-traveled, and they may even earn bragging rights from it.
According to research, to enjoy feeling scared, you must have a psychological defense mechanism known as a “protective frame.” There are three different types of these frames.
- Need to Feel Safe – To enjoy a scary movie, people need to feel physically safe. This means believing that the scary events are not happening to them. As long as you know that the scary things are far away from you and cannot hurt you, you can find pleasure in the fear. But if you start to believe that the scary things are real and could hurt you, the experience will no longer be enjoyable.
- Detachment – The second protective frame pertains to detachment, specifically your ability to detach yourself psychologically from a frightening experience. For instance, when you watch a horror movie where a crazed killer is pursuing a wounded victim, you can use psychological detachment to reassure yourself that the actors are just performing their roles and that you are watching skilled acting on the screen.
- Control and Manage Dangers – The third type of protective frame pertains to your ability to control and handle the risks that come your way. For example, when you visit a haunted house and face a frightening zombie that appears real and dangerous, you can still enjoy the experience if you are confident that you can overcome the danger, such as by thinking that you can easily run faster than the slow zombie.
The thriller movie genre combines suspense, action, mystery, and drama. It creates an atmosphere of anticipation where the viewer is taken through the twists and turns of a story to keep them engaged throughout. These films aim to put the audience at the edge of their seats with unexpected plot points while providing exciting visuals and engaging characters that interact with each other along the way.
Definition of Thriller
The thriller genre is fiction that includes subgenres such as crime, horror, and detective fiction. The defining feature of thrillers is the emotions they provoke, which have suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety. This genre is particularly well-suited for film and television.
Thrillers are a type of story designed to keep the audience engaged and excited as the plot progresses toward a climax. A common feature of thrillers is the concealment of critical information. These stories frequently employ literary devices, such as plot twists, red herrings, cliffhangers, and unreliable narrators. The protagonist or hero must typically overcome obstacles provided by a villain essential to the plot.
Key Features and Components of Thriller Narratives
The thriller genre is fiction that focuses on exciting stories with suspense and intense emotions. It can share similarities with other genres like crime, adventure, and espionage. In thrillers, you will typically find a main character or a small group of heroes facing a much stronger enemy while they work towards a specific goal or objective.
Thrillers are a type of story that can include mystery, horror, or science fiction elements and often involve complicated plot twists. The characters in these stories may face the danger of being captured or killed at any moment.
Since ancient times, storytellers have used suspense and adventure to entertain their listeners. One example is Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey, which includes monsters, unexpected turns, and close escapes as the hero, Odysseus, tries to return to his home. With the development of print media and later storytelling technologies in the 20th century, fiction became more varied in topics, genres, and formats. The thriller genre is one popular type of narrative that emerged due to this media expansion.
Notable Examples of Popular Thriller Films and Novels
The thriller genre has produced some of the most critically acclaimed films and novels ever. Notable examples of popular thriller films include The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Fight Club (1999), Se7en (1995), and The Bourne Identity (2002).
Notable examples of popular thriller novels include Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
The psychological thrillers genre has also produced popular films such as Shutter Island (2010), Black Swan (2010), Memento (2000), and The Sixth Sense (1999). Notable examples of novels within the psychological thriller genre include Misery by Stephen King, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane.
Tension, Suspense, and Anticipation in Thrillers
Thrillers are designed to keep the audience on edge with suspense and tension. These stories use techniques like surprise plot twists and unreliable narrators to build tension. The characters may also be put in difficult situations that require them to think fast and make difficult decisions, creating a feeling of anticipation for what will happen next.
Using unexpected events or elements can also create a sense of shock or surprise in the audience, keeping them engaged. This is often done through suspenseful music, dark lighting, or jump scares.
Horror vs. Thriller: How Are They Different?
The horror and thriller genres aim to make the audience feel suspense, fear, or excitement. The key difference is that horror movies rely on fear to create an atmosphere of dread, while thrillers focus more on suspense and surprise.
Plot Focus: Fear vs. Suspense
Horror films are designed to tap into viewers’ primal fear responses, while thriller films focus more on suspense and surprise. Horror movies often have a central antagonist or monster representing societal fears, while thrillers usually involve complex plots and unexpected twists.
Primary Emotions Evoked: Terror vs. Excitement
Horror films are designed to shock, frighten, and excite viewers through storytelling. They can have various interpretations but usually evoke the viewers’ fear, disgust, or terror. Thrillers invoke suspense and excitement as viewers anticipate the events unfolding in the story.
Themes and Motifs: Supernatural vs. Realistic
Horror films draw inspiration from various sources, including religious beliefs, folklore, superstitions of different cultures, and Gothic and horror literature. These movies often involve monsters, end-of-the-world scenarios, or disturbing topics. Thrillers often have more realistic settings and can include crime, adventure, or espionage elements.
Common Factors Shared by Horror and Thriller Genres
Though the horror and thriller genres have some key differences, they also share several common elements. Both genres typically involve protagonists or heroes facing dangerous enemies they must overcome. They often use techniques like plot twists and unreliable narrators to keep their audiences engaged and on the edge of their seats. Additionally, both types of stories rely heavily on suspense to evoke intense emotions from their viewers.
Audience Preferences and Appeal
Though the horror and thriller genres are distinct, they are designed to evoke strong emotions in their viewers. People who enjoy horror films often like to explore new and unique experiences, such as visiting a famous haunted house or seeing a movie about an alien invasion. Those who prefer thrillers may be attracted to this genre due to its unpredictable story structure or intricate plots.
Preferences of Die-Hard Horror Fans
Die-hard horror fans may be drawn to the genre for its fear factor and graphic elements. These viewers often enjoy films featuring intense violence, gore, and the supernatural. They generally look for horror stories with shocking plot twists and unexpected endings.
Interests of Thriller Enthusiasts
People who prefer thrillers may be attracted to this type of story for its suspenseful plot, unexpected turns, and complex characters. They may enjoy seeing a hero or a small group fighting against a stronger enemy. Some viewers appreciate the thought-provoking themes that often emerge in these stories, which can involve moral dilemmas or difficult ethical choices.
Factors that Influence Personal Preferences
Individual preferences when it comes to horror and thriller stories are often based on personal tastes. Some viewers may prefer one genre, while others might enjoy both equally. People who tend to be more daring or adventurous may lean towards horror films, while those who are easily scared or feel uncomfortable when faced with intense emotions may choose thrillers instead.
Evolution and Adaptation of Horror and Thriller Genres
The horror and thriller genres have evolved, adapting to new technologies and cultural trends. Cultural, societal, and technological changes have significantly shaped the horror and thriller genres. This has resulted in the emergence of new subgenres, new voices and perspectives, and greater insight into fear and the human psyche.
In recent years, filmmakers have used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create more realistic monsters and villains. Additionally, the storylines of both types of films are often driven by current events or popular topics in society. This has resulted in a greater variety of stories within the horror and thriller genres.
Recap of the Main Differences and Similarities Between Horror and Thriller Genres
The horror and thriller genres have some key differences and similarities. Horror films rely on fear to create an atmosphere of dread, while thrillers focus more on suspense and surprise. Horror films are typically designed to shock, frighten, or excite viewers with graphic elements. At the same time, thrillers are meant to invoke suspense and excitement as viewers anticipate the events unfolding in the story.
Both genres typically involve protagonists or heroes who are faced with dangerous enemies and rely on techniques like plot twists and unreliable narrators to keep their viewers engaged. Additionally, both types of stories evoke intense emotions from their viewers.
Overall, horror and thriller genres have evolved, adapting to new technologies and cultural trends. They continue to provide viewers with thrilling stories that explore fear, suspense, and excitement. Ultimately, it’s up to personal preferences as to which genre a person enjoys more.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the differences between horror vs. thriller.
Is a thriller scarier than horror?
A thriller is not necessarily scarier than the horror genre. Both genres evoke intense emotions from their viewers but in different ways. Horror films use fear to create a dreadful atmosphere, while thrillers focus more on suspense and surprise.
What’s the difference between horror and terror?
The critical difference between horror and terror is in the emotions they evoke. Horror films typically frighten their viewers with graphic elements, while thrillers are designed to invoke suspense and anticipation as the plot progresses toward a climax.
Are jumpscares considered horror?
Jumpscares are a common horror genre feature used to shock and frighten viewers. They can also be found in thrillers but are not necessarily considered a defining feature of the genre.
Why is horror called horror?
The term ‘Horror’ originates in Latin, derived from a verb that means “to bristle” or “to shudder.” This is because when people are horrified, their hair may stand on end.
Who invented horror?
Horace Walpole is credited with inventing the horror genre through his book Castle of Otranto (1765), considered the first legitimate literary work in the horror story genre.