Episode 65: The Horror Genre Episode

On October 19, we took on Horror as a genre. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day

What You Need to Know about Horror (as a genre)


  • Horror 101 – definitions, etc.
  • Familiar tropes, traditions, and other expected things in horror novels
  • Film vs. Novel and the continuity or lackthereof 
man with face make up
Photo by BROTE studio on Pexels.com

Segment 1

So it’s October and we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about the horror genre, all things spooky, and the darker side of fantasy novels. Let’s call this our Goth Episode.

Let’s begin with some definitions because not everyone knows:

The difference between horror and thriller (link here) include – thriller is said to be psychological and horror is said to be physical (blood and gore); thriller has been said to be realistic (could actually happen) while horror is more fantastic (supernatural, unlikely, etc.).

Takes you beyond your comfort zone:

  • The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
  • The Wicker Man (film only starring Christopher Lee)
  • Midsummer (film)

This resource suggests the differences are in intent:

  • Thrillers are meant to thrill while horror films are meant to horrify the viewers.
  • Thrillers are predominantly witty, usually twisted, and contain better plots while horror films are, more often than not, predictable.
  • Horror films are often less practical and less realistic than thrillers.
  • Horror films usually have more supernatural elements than thrillers.

Originally (think HP Lovecraft) we had a view of alien mindset — to whom we were only obstacles to be destroyed. Edgar Alan Poe also just gave us the hint of horror.

How far do you go into the alien before you lose the audience?

This resource warns that while the two might be similar, they do NOT overlap:

  • Dramatic context – flight versus fight; run from the issue and then have to face it;
  • Agency — horror the protagonist makes bad decisions, thriller the protagonist is drawn into bad circumstances
  • Readers — horror readers want scares, voyeurs looking for how fate fucks the protagonist; thrillers readers want mystery and “the chase”

Splatterpunk — gore, disgust, body horror; Poppe C. ??

The human body begins to degenerate or change into something horrific. In films it’s David Kronenburg — The Fly with Jeff Goldblum.

Deathwish — is it a horror film or an action film? Something horrific happens and then the protagonist makes a series of decisions (and may be perfectly positioned to make them).

Segment 2

So tropes are basically the expected elements of a genre fiction piece. When we Google “horror tropes” we mostly come up with the ‘what not to dos’

Like these:

  • Woman alone in an old dark house — vulnerability, fear, creaky unexpected noises, history that could lend itself to ghosts or spirits; The House of Seven Gables, 13 Ghosts
  • Kid who recognizes mom isn’t mom — who knows mom better than her kid? Who would identify she’d had her body stolen first? Was a popular trope in the 1950s; “Goodnight Mommy”, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (terrible book according to Rex)
  • Experiment gone wrong — since Frankenstein we’ve been looking at good intentions turned into bad realities; it’s about the tension between science and humanity, progress and safety; It didn’t have to be a tragedy, but in the book the scientist threw his creation away, that’s what causes the horror
  • Mob of villagers — usually spurred by some woman’s loss; think Jaws and the mom whose son was eaten; 
  • Priest who lost faith — either the beast challenges the priest and wins, or the beast challenges the priest and faith wins; think The Exorcist when faith is expected to be the hero and fails 
  • Running through the woods in the night — classic childhood nightmare becomes flashlights-in-the-woods trope a la Blair Witch Project
  • Playing with dark forces — born from a teenaged- or pre-adult sense of invincibility and curiosity over forces unexplained; think The Craft
  • The love of a good woman — classic is Beauty & the Beast, but Phantom of the Opera comes to mind, too; how does a man-made or circumstances-turned-man-into- Beast recover?
  • Let’s split up — think Scooby & Shaggy as ridiculous pairing, or how every time Buffy and squad split up they get separated but good; dividing forces is an offensive move, but it rarely works

The Company of Wolves

Segment 3

Film versus novel and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

So sometimes the book is WAY scarier, maybe because our imaginations are limitless or maybe because some writers’ visions are not fully realized by the filmmakers. Either way, this list can share 10 books that are much scarier than their film versions (according to this writer).

  • Psycho
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • Dracula
  • The Shining
  • The Exorcist
  • Frankenstein

What makes the novel scarier?

What does a good horror novel lose in the translation to film?

Here are some reasons why scary books are better than scary movies:

  • No one gets to see you act like a scaredy cat wimp
  • With a book, you can stop at any time

Here’s a list of the 19 best horror novels of all time.

Ever read any of these? What are your picks?

Ready to support Write On SC? Go to Patreon.com/WriteOnSCto become a patron!

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s