Even the hardest horror veterans don’t think movies need to be scary to succeed

Toni Collette as Annie Graham in Hereditary
Image via A24

The ever-evolving genre of horror has been defined by literary historian J. A. Cuddon as “a piece of fiction in prose of variable length… which shocks, or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing.” Generally speaking, if a contemporary piece of horror fiction doesn’t meet these criteria, it isn’t classified as “scary enough” to receive that categorization. Especially in the modern realm of horror, that old-headed way of thinking has been debunked; psychological horror and supernatural horror, while not always conventionally “scary” as they are unsettling, largely account for most of the 21st century’s revolutionary horror.

Over on Reddit, the debate has resurfaced as one user remarked that horror is “easier to crossover into other genres than any other genre,” hence its flexibility in that regard. However, an action-horror, for example, wouldn’t have the same shock value (supposedly) as, let’s say, a horror-thriller, simply because ‘horror’ and ‘thriller’ are more closely entwined. Either way, the original post argues that horror comes in all shapes and sizes, so there isn’t necessarily a “one size fits all” scheme when it comes to judging horror by its ability to scare and disgust.

Naturally, horror junkies came flocking to the comments in full support of the statement, even sharing some sentiments of their own. One user expressed a deep-rooted love for horror that spans 50-plus years, even going so far as to call horror “an escape” from reality. As a hardcore horror fan, they never expect to be terrified, but more so unnerved at the very least. In fact, this user would argue that non-fiction can be far more devastating.

Another comment, which refers to horror as “subjective,” argues that different content evokes different emotions in different people — reiterating the absence of that “one size fits all” mechanic.

In other words, horror fans looking for that next big high would apparently do well to temper such lofty desires, or else they risk being forever disappointed with the genre.