10 Reasons Why Horror Might Be The Best Film Genre

As our 31 Days Of Horror celebration continues, we put forward 10 reasons why horror could be considered the greatest film genre.

They're The Best Date Movies

Forget saggy, fluffy rom-coms like Friends with Benefits - which are designed to please both sexes to an inoffensively satisfactory degree. Couples looking to have a truly great time together at the cinema - or even at home - are best off with a terrifying horror movie. It's guaranteed that your loved one will look for comfort and reassurance, while the jumpy moments and building tension will have you both holding each other tight. Although be warned, picking the wrong kind of horror film can backfire - or worse - result in tears and sleepless nights. Going on a date to see a late night screening of Cannibal Holocaust is unlikely to go down well for you, your partner, or that poor turtle.

The Icons

From Dracula to Jigsaw, horror films have the best icons - many with their own successful franchises. No other film genre has characters or villains as universally recognized as Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, Norman Bates or The Mangler€. Ok, scratch that last one. Even if you dislike the horror genre, it€™s impossible to dispute the success of its best characters, often defined by signature performances like Robert Englund€™s sardonic and cruel Krueger or Anthony Perkins€™ multi-faceted characterization of the tortured Norman Bates. While some of the characters aren€˜t as interesting €“ Jason Vorhees is little more than a walking hunk of death €“ the fact that there€™s so many that have become iconic is a sign of the genre€™s power to strike a nerve with people.

It Takes Considerable Skill To Actually Scare An Audience

While horror is often dismissed by many as a lesser genre and looked down upon, it's often without the acknowledgment that truly scaring an audience is no easy task. Many directors who have either dabbled or made a career out of the horror film have attested to the difficulty of constructing a film which is actually capable of scaring anyone. Indeed, the fact that most of the films considered the worst ever made €“ such as Troll 2 and Birdemic €“ are examples of why inexperience within the genre can lead to very bad results. To scare an audience is to create a believable illusion of terror which is powerful enough to make an audience forget that they are watching a film. For that reason, it€™s a genre which deserves more respect than it often gets.

They Help Us Face Our Fears

€œWe make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.€ €• Stephen King With all the tragedy and real life horror that occur around the world on a daily basis, horror movies give us an outlet to rationalize and face our biggest fears, while remaining comfortable with the knowledge of it being fake. Horror films allow us to confront the universal fears which we all share - most notably death - but also anything from alienation to the loss of childhood. Many of horrors biggest directors are known for injecting a level of social commentary in their films as a way of dealing with difficult issues. George A. Romero€™s zombie films are one of the best examples, with themes of racial injustice in Night of The Living Dead, consumerism in Dawn of the Dead, '80s discontent in Day of the Dead and even swipes at post 9/11 politics in Land of the Dead.David Cronenberg€™s work is known for its reoccurring focus on the human body - or body horror €“ and our fears about aging, illness and death. Films like The Fly, Videodrome and Scanners are united by an underlying theme on the vulnerability of the human body. Often in the wake of a social, political or other world changing event, horror movies will act both consciously and unconsciously as a mirror to the events. Such atrocities as the Vietnam War and 9/11 have been often cited as influences on several horror filmmakers.

Controversy !

Everyone loves a bit of controversy, and no other genre attracts as much criticism, outrage and debate as horror. Most recently The Human Centipede 2 was rejected by the BBFC and subject to a lengthy back and forth rally between the board and distributor - finally passed with extensive cuts for an 18 rated video release. Does the film go too far? Is it obscene? Should we censor this kind of film? These kinds of questions are frequently raised when discussing the horror genre. There€™s also the enjoyment to be had when going back and looking at earlier controversial work - such as the video nasties of the 1980€™s. These films are a treasure trove of the laughably cheesy (Contamination) the genuinely good (Tenebrae) and the still unpleasant (Cannibal Holocaust) . While this stuff perhaps isn€™t for the faint of heart, the fact that horror is capable of so often challenging its viewers makes it a genre which is always able to offer an interesting discussion. Just this week BBFC have banned a horror film called The Bunny Game, citing its €œunremitting sexual and physical abuse of a helpless woman€ as the reason for its rejection.

The Directors

Horror has given us such legendary directors as Sam Raimi, David Cronenberg and George A. Romero €“ who began their careers by creating low-budget independent horror movies. While many horror directors dabble with other genres across their careers, they often retain a reputation for creating some of the most iconic horror movies ever made. Sam Raimi went on to helm the majorly sucessful Spider-Man films, which frequently show flurishes of his inventive style which was first introduced in horror films like The Evil Dead. Even directors whom aren€™t really considered as horror directors have contributed some of their best work in the form of the horror movie. Stanley Kubrick€™s The Shining, Alfred Hitchcock€™s Psycho and Steven Spielberg€™s Jaws are not only some of the best films ever made full-stop, but also some of the best horror movies.

It's Unstoppable

"If one horror film hits, everyone says, 'Let's go make a horror film.' It's the genre that never dies." - George A. Romero Trends and sub-genre€™s come and go to the whim of audiences, yet horror seems to be the one genre that not only refuses to budge, but is consistently reinvented by new filmmakers. It seems like the genre is subject to at least one major style each and every decade. Gothic horror dominated the €˜70s, while the €˜80s had the slasher film and the €˜90s saw the genre spliced with teen comedy following the success of Wes Craven€™s Scream. Sadly the current trend of torture porn and horror remakes isn€™t exactly the best phase the genre has seen - but as always with horror, re-invention will be just around the corner. It€™s disheartening to see cold and overly glossy remakes of films like Nightmare On Elm Street and The Thing, but the genre still brings us films as groundbreaking as Let The Right One In. Darren Aronofsky€™s Oscar nominated Black Swan is also, arguably, a horror film - with obvious allusions to the work of Dario Argento and Suspiria in particular. There€™s also the tradition of the long-running horror franchise - as seen recently with Saw and Final Destination, and in the past with series€™ like Friday The 13th and Halloween. It€™s common for the entries to become worse as each series goes on, yet there€™s something strangely enjoyable about a series that refuses to die like its own antagonist.

It Encourages Inventive Low Budget Film-Making

Low budget filmmakers have often cited the success of the independent horror movie as their inspiration to go into making feature films. While it€™s possible to make an excellent film in almost any genre on a small budget €“ if the filmmaker is skilled - horror in particular encourages filmmakers to use ingenuity to inventively find ways to scare their audience with limited resources. Sam Raimi€™s The Evil Dead in one such example of a film which has become almost as well known as for its arduous production, driven by the determination and passion of its 21 year old director. Made on a budget of a mere $375,000 and produced over a year and half by a small cast and crew, the film is all the more effective for its low budget grunginess. Lead actor Bruce Campbell even performed his own stunts including painfully throwing himself into a variety of real objects.

Pioneering Special Effects

The horror genre has not only given us some of the greatest special effects in cinema history, but the careers of many of those responsible for pioneering physical effects in an age before CG. Stan Winston, who would go on to create effects on films like The Terminator and Jurassic Park, began his career working on films like Friday The 13th Part III and The Thing. Along with Rob Bottin, who himself would lead a career in effects including the design of Robocop, The Thing was - and still is - a masterpiece of both horror and visual effects. Despite being labled by many critics at the time as repulsive, the films effects are still astounding and ushered in a whole new era of practical creature effects that dominated the 1980€™s and early 1990s. Other legends in the field of horror effects include Tom Savini - whose gruesome effects on films like Dawn of the Dead and Friday The 13th are still able to make audiences wince in disgust. When compared to the cheap looking CGI blood spatter and gore of Romero€™s recent Survival of the Dead, it shows why practical effects are sorely lacking from many of today€™s horror films.

They're Fun !

With so many reasons why the genre remains popular, it€™s easy to forget the main thing that keeps us watching just as many awful horror films as good ones. They don€™t just simply scare us, they also provoke feelings of joy by making us laugh at ourselves - especially if jumping at the obligatory €˜cat in the cupboard€™ scare - and help us deal with our fears in life while being entertained. It€™s one of the few genres where even the bad films and tired franchises are subject to exhaustive fan devotion from swathes of horror devotees. The success of horror conventions around the world and events like the excellent Film4 FrightFest are a testament to the passion and dedication of horror fans everywhere. _______________ What other reasons make you love - or even hate - the horror genre ?

Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.