Horror Film Favorites

Madison Castello, Op/Ed Editor

What is your favorite horror film?

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Horror films have been popular for decades. From the first credited movie, Le Manoir du Diable in 1896, to films like The Boy II and The Quiet Place II being released this month, fans adore the feelings of fright from these films. According to the New York Film Academy, the most popular movies genres in the United States are comedy, action, and horror. Yet in the horror genre, there appears to be a sudden change with the implementation of advanced technology. Actors in costumes with special effects makeup have been replaced with CGI monsters animated from a computer screen. But do fans prefer the classic films or the new high-tech ones?

I conducted a survey, asking my high school classmates what their favorite films were from a list I selected from the top blockbusters. There were six movies considered to be “classics” and six newer ones that have more special effects. The results were as follows. From the most votes to least: The Conjuring (2013), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), A Quiet Place (2018), The Exorcist (1973), and It (2017 and 2019). The remaining votes can be viewed in the picture above. The students were split on the new and the old, with the new technological era receiving just one additional vote. With these results, it’s difficult to tell which type of horror films highschoolers prefer, or whether one really does top the other.

While the classic versus advanced special effects was the most obvious difference between the twelve films, I also analyzed a subcategory, the form of antagonist. Most villains in horror films tend to either be perceived monsters or merely humans that are evil in nature. Yet again, six films involved monsters, while the remaining depicted humans as the antagonist. The debate between classic or new may be inconclusive, but this subcategory has a definitive winner: monsters. Every single one of the horror films voted most popular involved some sort of monster or beast character. From killer clowns, to a supernatural presence, to a nightmare in tangible form, to blind beasts hellbent on destruction–monsters are the clear fan favorite. 

So why is this so? Why do we prefer literal monsters over human antagonists? From the words of American Horror Story, “All monsters are human.” However, audiences appear to prefer actual monsters over the psychological kind. Why? Perhaps it’s because we find the possibilities of human nature somewhat terrifying. Watching a fellow human on screen commit evil acts may lead audiences to have trouble antagonizing such a villain who started out just like us.  But there’s also a high possibility, that audiences just find literal monsters much easier to “fight.” You see a killer clown in the cinema, and you immediately know that it’s evil. But in films involving humans as the monsters, it may be hard to determine who the villain is until the end of the movie, as they often blend in with the portrayed victims until the climax.

No matter what type of scary movies you prefer, classic or high-tech, or even what form of villain, literal or figurative monster, the horror genre will continue to remain popular with a constant flow of fresh films to scare fans with new and exciting frights.