The allure of horror films: horror vs. art-horror

Subject: Art
Type: Analytical Essay
Pages: 21
Word count: 5265
Topics: Art Comparison, Emotions, Fear, Film Analysis, Movie Review


The allure of horror films is primarily attributed to thrill created by intense emotions which viewers often experience when watching scary scenes in horror movies such as Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1980). This is particularly because horror films particularly make the audience to face their fears, explore the unknown as well as place their fears into context thereby resulting in an emotional thrill. A great number of people are attracted to horror films due to the sensational arousal that comes from watching it.  The imaginative feeling of how it would really feel like to face one’s own fears and vulnerability creates an even more allure to the films. Horror films captivate its audience, making them sink into imaginative thoughts, thereby heightening their sense of attentiveness and concentration. The suspense created by horror films creates a thrill seeking experience, similar to riding a roller coaster.

According to many experts, the general appeal of horror films is primarily dependent on three key factors namely tension, unrealism and relevance. Tension refers to the feelings of terror, shock, suspense and mystery which is normally a key component of most horror films. Horror films are disconcerting films made with the purpose of instilling fear, panic, startle and alarm, there by invoking the hidden worst terror within its audience, in the most shocking manner, while at the same time entertaining and captivating them in an emotional experience. Terror used in horror films exploits the manner at which the human brain functions, as it turns the mind to act against oneself. In so doing, it initiates a feeling beyond a momentary jolt. Horror films can bring into light viewers’ secrets hidden deep in their unconscious. Additionally, horror films specifically concentrate on the dark side of life, the prohibited, bizarre and frightening events. They focus on the most primitive nature of its audience and expose their fears and nightmares; vulnerability, hostility, fear of the unknown and fear of death. According to O’Brien (2013, p.570), tension in the movies can be created using a number of contemporary film techniques.

On the other hand, unrealism is another important factor which contributes to the attraction and appeal of horror films. Unrealism is largely about the feelings of unreal which is usually felt by the viewers of horror movies. Producers can particularly enhance the appeal of their horror movies by making the scenes seem unreal through the use of modern video editing techniques. In addition, horror films present the view of right versus the wrong, good versus evil. The movies broadly can form an admirable play. The more a movie is scary, the more it creates a frightening situation, but the viewer, in the end, feels victorious as they grow positive perceptions of the episodes.

Finally, relevance as a factor in the appeal of horror films is largely about the appeal of the movie universal feelings and emotions like the fear of danger or fear of death. For example, viewers often feel a higher chance of the events in the film happening in real life. People tend to watch something they feel they can identify with in real life.   These deepen the intensity of emotional connection to events in the film. Whatever dark, primitive, and horrendous traits, featured simultaneously in the film, attract most people into watching horror genre. Similarly, horror films may also be relevant to individuals who identify with particular characters, the protagonist or the antagonist in the movie. For instance, viewing violent films can help bring a sense of violent relief thoughts that may have been coming across the audience’s mind particularly if the violence inflicted is upon a character perceived to deserve it.  This paper seeks to critically investigate the allure and appeal of horror movies with particular focus on the differences between horror and art horror as well as the three key factors of tension, unrealism and relevance.

Horror and Art-Horror

A defining mood of the horror genre is amusement whereas art-horror causes emotional effects such as desire, shame, fear, and revulsion among the audience. In essence, horror refers to the experience where the characters’ and the readers’ emotions are parallel to one another at the event when one views a film or reads a piece of literature. When Horror filming is discussed, there are certain tropes the viewers have ultimately come to recognize and expect. In horror filming, the cast calls for a suspicious glance before any other thing. The cars that will at some point fail to start (Grant, 2016 pg. 101). A noisy door hinges or a deafening silence. Through the scenes of a horror film, there is additionally a narrative arc that purposely escalates and explodes. Then there comes a time when there is an eerie tranquility mood. This is the nature of any horror film setting which is in it sandwiched between fluffy comfort and safety slices.

Art- horror tends to mostly really on the immediate atmosphere and style, to be able to create a frightening experience compared to an actual experience. The characters in art-horror may themselves imitate a typical horror narrative, but in most cases, they fail to fulfill the viewer desire by relating in an indirect way, the real horror off-screen or conveying their stories in an unreal manner.

The viewer or audiences of art-horror should be in-touch with the reactions of the characters on the screen to the point of interstitial stimuli. Horror on the other hand has an apparent absence of fright or disgust or at least does not compose both. Therefore, while as seen in art-horror, characters getting anxious at the thought of touching a monster, horror frightens or terrifies us but does not bring disgust. In artwork, there is a pure neglect of timing; the timing is all off. There is absolutely no aspect of suspense; neither do we have spooky soundtrack or signal. The image in horror art portrays a danger-danger situation without a single explanation or resolution. Art-horrors is identified with a sculptural artworks which emotionally will make the viewers little arm hairs frighteningly stand at attention (Freeland, 2000 pg. 111). With a gruesome and festering features, art-horror creations resembles monster faces-mutated bodies, grounded in bodily functions, come out of nowhere and they never face defeat. The art-horror portrays a fierce creature which gets stuck on viewer’s memory due to their immortality and indomitability.

Tension in Horror Films

The production of “The Shining” exhibits the utilization of one-point perspective which is a filming technique that ignites the existential evocations and tension showcased by the movie. One-point technique requires that at a point, a viewer’s line of sight and the camera shot are parallel, and later converge at the center of the shot on a fading point (Danny 2010). The producer inexorably draws the viewer’s line of sight to the middle of the shot in the famous event where Danny rides a tricycle through the hotel. When keenly viewed, one notes that the invisible lines parallel to the ceiling, walls, and carpet converge at a central point at the end of every corridor. “Overlook,” which is also a predominant aspect used in the development of the film preys on the deep-seated fears of the audience. The producer gives unusual power to the hotel through his camera techniques. As a result, the technique awakens the viewers’ memories of tension long forgotten in their conscious states, thereby creating a petrifying dream reality.

‘The Shinning” horror film is of a considerable tension compared to other horror films. Horror films’ name is derived from Latin word meaning horrere which loosely translated means to shudder, bristle or tremble. These are physical emotions derived by either the actors in the movies or the viewers. In ‘the shinning’ opening scenes depict what is means to shudder. The actors themselves delve into deep explanations of how the previous caretaker of the burial ground, Charles Grady, developed cabin fever and later on decided to kill his family together with himself (Carrion, 2006 pg. 116). This creates fear not only to the viewers, but to Jack Torrance who has been given the Native American burial ground caretaking. From the beginning of this film, there is tension on how Jack Torrance will carry out his job now that the previously unfolding events in the area have been disclosed to him.

The element of horror in a movie is basically aimed at scaring people. In order to obtain the tension element in ‘the shinning movie,’ there are three essential elements that the cast have used to make the movie scary. The first element herein is the situation of the narrative which puts the thematic setting in some inherently universal fear: monsters, the unknown and various phobias (Spencer, 2008 pg. 104). Jack is at the opening scene of the movie introduced to the unknown phobia which accordingly drives the emotions of the viewers into keenly waiting to see what is bound to happen in the next scenes. This tension establishes an emotional baseline that gives the audience a leeway to project themselves deeply in the shinning story. Tension in horror movies appropriately subverts the viewer’s expectations.

Studies have also indicated that those who are scared more by the horror movies make the ardent viewers of the same. However,  horror film scares individuals differently depending on the horror genres incorporated in the movie. The scares of some horror films have a more lasting impact depending on the allure, level of tension it creates, and the genre employed (Russell 2010). It is that scary experience that intrigues the viewers into watching them. The more they get negative when fear and distress engulf them on watching the films the more they get to adore the entire genre. They, therefore, feel the thrill when they are being frightened watching the films and perceive the experience as a positive one and take it for fun. Psychologically it has also been proven that people having less empathy tend to like the scary films (Cooley 2015, p. 8). The perception is that empathetic people take the perspective of another person, feelings and their experience making it their own. The more empathetic one is, the more the movies thus become distressing. More thus empathy thus makes it harder for people with such feeling to watch the movies. By contrast, less empathetic people have fun watching the scary films as they do not fall into the personality of the characters in the films.

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Sensation seekers are also great admirers of the horror movies. These are the group of individuals who want to have the feeling of a new experience. Example of sensation seekers are the skydivers and gamblers. They thus take risks to be thrilled and have the intense experience.  Young adults have been found to make a large audience for the horror films. Trajectories indicate that either they want to increase their enjoyment as they transition to adolescence or they want to decrease more entertainment as they move to adolescence. Kids, however, do not enjoy frightening movies. The bottom line is, lovers of horror films turn the experience into a positive perception and get thrilled watching the films thus having fun in the process. Conversely, the statement is true according to researchers.

Unrealism in Horror Films

Portrayed by the film version of King’s story “The shining” are events not grounded on reality but depicted as real in the film. The film elicits a particularly favorable condition intended at igniting uncanny sensation among the audience due to the uncertainty of whether an object is animate or inanimate. For instance, the hotel occasionally depicts an animate sentience. A source of uncanny used is the film is Danny’s shining. Danny visualizes blood-soaked elevators, and then follows the two ghostly girls (King 2008). Besides, the bloody elevators trigger a feeling of helplessness in both the character and the viewer as they are akin to symbols only possibly encountered in dreams, and not expected to emerge in reality. The elevators reflect a bad dream that comes to life for the viewer and Danny.

Something vehemently spoils a horror film’s aspect of believability. Some of these elements are the lights which are off always, the nudity and the characters themselves getting irrationally scared more than the audience themselves. The off lights (darkness): ‘The Shining’ has more scenes based on darkness. This is a common element of most horror movies which in turn reduces the reality in the film. The darkness part of horror movies give the viewers a glimpse of what is expected in the movie at a particular scene. The nudity also shows how unreal these movies tend to be (Freeland, 2000 pg. 120). There are several occasions in horror movies where girls remove their clothes hence making the viewers scratch their heads in disbelief; this is unreal. Lastly, the characters getting irrationally scared also show some element of a movie being unreal. Realistically, we are used to lots of noises in the real world thus when actual scary things happen we hardly freak out. When a character is more scared in a movie than the audience themselves, then it becomes unbelievable in the first place.

According to Freud and Jung in their psychoanalytic theory, they asserted that horror film is a manifestation of the regenerating uncanny thoughts that are not fully formed and are repressed in people due to their ego. These thoughts according to them, as much as they are repressed, they are vaguely familiar to the persons visualizing them in their mind. Jung argued that the horror films became more popular among people because they importantly touched on the archetypes or the collective unconscious primordial images. People think that the images in their minds are real when they watch them in the films thus the fascination with the films.

A section of the horror lover is amused by the films just out of sheer curiosity. The human brain is super active and tends to question a lot of the phenomena in their vicinity. In the quest to satisfy the curiosity they want to have some vicarious experiences which are far more complex. They find solace in seeking refuge from emotional contents such as the horror films. Living the horror experience creates a shocking wave that drives the morbid curiosity that had previously engulfed their head. The movies have also proved imperative to some emotionally intense persons. In watching the scary contents, they are relieved of the same trauma; they were earlier experiencing.


Horror films are in most cases very scary to most audience. This is because these films tend to bypass the human knowledge that the viewers are watching them. The films instead trigger a reaction which is accompanied by real fear. They create emotions making the viewers think that it is real and happening. One way of understanding the psychology behind the horror movies is starting by answering the question, who likes to be scared? Most researchers have found that women are scared more watching the horror films than men. The findings have thus stated that men do tend to like scary movies than women. When the findings are linked to the psychology of gender, suggestions have been made that the gender difference could be stemming from the socialization process. The gender difference emanates from the impression that the society tends to communicate more to the boy child than the girl child. From these films, boys are thus able to learn that they should not show emotions or rather avoid expressing emotions like fear and distress and that they must keep them hidden (Grant 2015, p.4). Girls on the other on the contrary are encouraged and allowed to express their emotions when they are scared. Boys thus use the films to prove their masculinity. In remaining calm and collected in similar frightening experience when watching scary films they are living the societal expectation.

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The film “Under the Skin” by Sir Ridley Scott, Jonathan Glazer is indeed on that harbours a true definition of a horror film. The film can emotionally scare any viewer to the core. The film is a story about some perceivable alien with no name; played by Scarlett Johansson. The persona of the character prowls the streets of Glasgow city hunting for her victims. Amid the action, the alien discovers that her actions are savage and begins to question the morality and the humanity in her actions. She thus begins to turn down her mission amid the pursuit of the alien handlers sent to hunt her and bring her down. The escapades are damning scary turning into a killing spree; there are also elements of compassion, love which ultimately come to the death of the players in the movie. The alien tries to understand humans and wants to be like them, but she can never be one.

The film becomes scarier because the alien turns onto a hunting spree harvesting men. Categorically the alien is a human organ harvester especially those lonely men. This movie makes the viewers uncomfortable because people do not want to be followed want to live an undisturbed private life. The film is thus a simple story that is much adopted into complexity. It is more of a condemnation and on the other side a love letter to the humanity. It shows to the extent we should have mercy while very much aware of our savagery. It is more of a picture, a conflicting one of the human kind, as perceived under the skin. The movie is unique, refreshing and quite haunting to the audience (Nolfi 2014, p. 1).

People often watch horror movies because to a broader extent they offer an emotional release to the viewers. In times of distress when one may need emotional solace, people want to be part of situations that may evoke their feeling, take it out so that they can resume to normalcy. Horror films are perfect because they create fear causing anxiety making one t to forget the previous feeling (Andy 2015, p. 1).

Some people argue that watching the movies have made them purge away the negative emotions; Catharsis. According to Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, some people were attracted to these movies because it helped them to release the negative energy and reclaim their self again. He argued that the more violent the movies were then it brought a great peace of mind to those who suffered from catharsis. He asserted that similar movies and videos helped a lot in releasing tensions when one felt aggressed. The adrenaline rush has also pushed some people to make it a routine to visit the horror film shows. Some People find it challenging learning to face their fears. They tend to believe that watching the films may make them strong enough to face their fears. They are however deluded because inwards they know that however scary the movies are they can never be real. However. They are tickled and want to react by fighting back in response to the adrenaline surge. In so doing, they are entertained, and the excess tension build up them is expunged from them until it comes to the cathartic ending. The euphoric relief comes in the end despite having endured terror in the better part of the movie. The adrenaline rush brings with it a joyful experience even though the experience is scary. The consolation is that one remains safe during the entire session.

A theory by Glenn sparks; Excitation transfer process, suggests that it is the feeling the scary movies create after watching them that make them movies to pull a larger audience. The theory outlines that watching scary content accelerate the physiological processes in human beings such as respiration, heart rate among others. That is the positive emotions in people are intensified in the time of engagement with the films. The physiological changes create a fascinating feeling so people would rather concentrate on them rather than the frightening feeling. The feelings make people want, more of the movies. Another calibre of persons watch the scary contents for sensation seeking reasons. The people having higher arousal levels tend to associate much with awareness feelings that are response heightened especially when their bodies have similar intense experiences. Similar feelings are also common among the bungee jumpers and the skydivers; simply, the risk takers.

Film Genre Theory

Genre is an element of literature that changes progressively and its definition is not valid without beginning with the incorporation of Aristotle’s theory which asserts, “Creators of literature must consider fiction as a trait of literary work,” since a piece of literature primarily tasks itself with defining fiction. Several pieces of work can share a single genre owing to their similar attributes where a single creation of literature can tap several genres (Nelmes and Nichols 2012). A film genre bases on conventions that impact on the experiences and expectations of the viewers as well as the production of work within the genre. Communicative function, theme, form and style are the similarities shared in a film genre (Hutchings 2015). Besides its entertainment value, “the shining” is a metaphor reflecting the treatment of Americans to African Americans as well as Native Americans since it showcases America’s history of imperialism, slavery, and genocide. The queer and inexplicable scene of blood gushing out of the elevator represents the blood spilled by the American imperialists. Through his work, King suggests that oppressors cannot hide forever, as their past will eventually haunt them regardless of how much they struggle to “overlook” the realities of the consequences that face their actions.

A film that utilizes a mix of genres captivates the audience; “The Shining” is an example of such a film. Initially, the film is relatively bloodless in that horror begins appearing towards the end. Prior to the horror, the movie occupies the viewer with psychological tension where the author employs hallucinations, flash-forwards and flashbacks to facilitate the viewers’ imagination of the horror to come. Unlike the hand-held camera method used in most horror films, the producer of “The Shining” uses steadicam shots evidenced by the slow zooms, pans and dolly shorts (Danny 2010). Filming as exhibited by the film is a genre in itself, as it creates unease among the viewers since it showcases tense scenes that undermine a viewer’s feelings. The filming technique traps and retains the viewer’s attention, as it captures their perspectives using the camera, then gradually escorts viewers into deeper layers of terror.

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King’s fictional art incorporated in “The Shining” is a portrayal of generic hybrid, as it combines main genres suchlike fairy tale, myths, literary naturalism, and elements of the Gothic tale. The story does not disparage the importance of other genres used occasionally in the story such as fantasy and suspense fiction. In combining these genres to produce an individual piece of work, he challenges the traditional boundaries related to the genres. Literature naturalism tenders the worldview showcased in the author’s multiverse. He uses fairy tales and myths to build a fascinating story. The gothic as used in King’s work provides background to the narrative. Gothic can bring to light the darkest impulses related to social humans since it can measure the terror and tensions of the addressed society (Doughty and Etherington-Wright 2015). When deployed in the development of horror stories, gothic establishes a balanced blending between surreality and reality. Also created by gothic is a fascinating allegorical feel which means, symbolically saying things that people would fear speaking out straight.

Put differently, genre theory is filming has three tenets of which each and every film should put into consideration before its final circulation into the markets. These elements include; audience, the time period and marketing. Audience: Before production of any genre of film, the targeted audience should be put in place. Similarly during marketing the same audience should be targeted by the films. Horror films target 18 years and above while some of these films are X-rated (Magistrale, 2003 pg. 123). The time frame between production and being availed in the Cinemax is also crucial element of the genre theory. While still new in the markets, films should reach as much audience as possible to maximize on the profitability. Lastly, marketing looks at the producer and the audience. Marketing may vary depending on brands which attract more audiences. Marketing, audience and the time period are therefore important factors to consider in the filming industry as postulated in the genre theory.

Problems with genre theory

All the films are never exactly the same; some are horror while others are action films. This difference critically dismisses the genre theory. For example, if all films were similar, then genre theory would easily integrate its analytical path of all genres. Additionally, if all films were similar, this theory would make it easy to study and define whichever film to produce (Carrion, 20106 pg. 128). The situation is more complex hence analyzing various films in an all-inclusive manner as put by genre theory becomes technically impossible.

Genre Relevance

The relevance of using the one-point technique in “The shining” is to enhance the viewers’ intimacy with the hotel through the insistency of reality, the design, and layout of the hotel at the moment Dan encounters the twins who represent a haunting symmetry. During the moment, the line between the first-person and third-person perspective disappears gradually, consequently establishing an imagination of walking through the hotel hallways among the viewers. To symbolize the horrors that follow, the film reveals bloody elevators and by doing so, it connects the story’s events to the realm of the viewers’ unconsciousness (Hanich 2011). The scenes involving the elevators, hence, aim at dragging the horror of the movie deep into the viewers’ psychic underworld.

Writing Techniques

The originality and the depth of the shinning movie are on the producer’s experience; the producer’s originality and depth has been his watchwords. Horror films are well-trodden genres which have conventions that have been broken, bent or reconstructed several times. The producer of this film beginning with the sound track, graphics and thematic settings carefully thought of how to make the burial site monster to differently appear compared to other stories (Benshoft, 2011 pg. 101). Horror audiences look at what is differently put in a given horror movie compared to the other ones; what is so unique about a given horror movie that make it worth watching. Horror audience therefore know the clichés of horror genre like the palm of their hands; a producer should thus use what the audience already know to produce a more fascinating movie just like the shinning movie. If a producer can lead the audience straight into a path where they think they know what coming from the production, you should then try and subvert their expectation. When this is done, a producer will definitely achieve an ultimate horror coup-which of course Stanley Kubrick pulled.

Visual Techniques

‘The Shining’ steadishot by Garret Brown have it all when it comes to a perfect visual technique in horror film. The way camera is used during film production can be just as frightening as the storyline content. Horror films camera shots are not just a matter of doing mist and shadow camera shots. A camera shot in a horror film should primary reflect on the thematic setting of fear which is often the heart of the story. A good example is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining which is a perfect analogy for the horror classic’s tension-based and overarching filming atmosphere (Hogan, 2016 pg. 125). The movie locks viewers behind Danny Torrance on his strike to navigate the labyrinthine. This visual setting overlook the hotel which then appears tiny and isolated by some sort of huge, oppressive space which surrounds Danny. The tension as shown in the audio-visual pictures is profound and is complemented by every blind corner where the audience is forced to go around. As is often in horror films, there is something bad awaiting the characters behind every scene keenly graphically highlighted by the camera.

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Aural Techniques

For the viewers, aural techniques are very important especially for horror movies. For example, try watching ‘The Shinning’ movie with your volume turned off. There will be very little element of horror in the movie per se. People are emotionally perturbed by jarring or strange noises which have a tendency of disturbing the motion pictures presentations. Sound tracking or the aural techniques are important in horror films as they trigger some emotional sense (positively or negatively) from our brains (Grant, 2015 pg. 126). Such experiences are gotten when watching horror films. Through sound, we notice how increasingly discordant film scores are and as the play shots amplifiers, our innate anticipation that something scary is on its way to happen becomes triggered. Through sound, there is an interest on the viewers’ side of the ‘unseen character’ concept; this is a horror entity which is deeply-rooted in the mind of the audience through the use of the off-screen diegetic aural technique.

In summary, an unending debate among various scholars in the fields of psychology, philosophy and the spectators have emerged on the topic ‘allure of horror.’ In a simple understanding, theories behind the allure of horror postulates that these films simply seek to see others punished, sensation, purge emotions and an outlet of societal ills. Accordingly, the allure of horror films is largely related to the acceptance of the darkness in our individual hearts. These movies are all about the gratification of letting our socially uncomfortable (dark sides) traits frolic among the others in a 90 minutes motion picture. Lastly, these films present three overarching societal components which are, but not limited to the comprehensive, the visceral body sensation and lastly an individualistic admission that we all have a dark side.

Proposed research Methodology

The research methodology that would best suit to use in finding the content over the subject of addiction to horror movies would be the use of Library. This is because the library is rich resources that would avail the required information in the shortest time. Besides, the utilities that may be required during the research process will grossly scale down due to the limited distance covered during the exercise. Arriving at the required content in the area of research would be simplified owing to the direct and procedural library research methods. Some of the subject search techniques that I deployed during the research; the use of keyword for the online searches.

The technique heavily yielded positive results in coming up with the anticipated content. The search engines were helpful in providing suggestions during the process. It was easier to find published sources of contents Psychology for the horror movies. The comment sections in the websites were helpful in finding the personal opinions of the people with regards to the horror movies. Among the online contents were publications from established publishers assuring the validity of the information provided? The online print sources from the library thus proved imperative in the research process. The citation searches available in the print sources made it easier to find contents for the subject of research. The endnotes and the footnotes in addition to the citations from the readings were of immense assistance from the printed online searches. The published bibliographies were also of great value while searching. When the topic of the psychology of the horror films was used as the keyword, it was easier to find the subject using the bibliographies. The subject would pop out on the online catalogue as guided by search technique. Systematic browsing contributed to nearly half the percentage of the research content. The library research methodology is preferable because it is quite reliable with regards to hard printed copies as well as the online, printed publications which are readily available.

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