What Do People Want to See in a Horror Movie?

by Christopher John
Some moviegoers crave the thrills of horror movies.

Some moviegoers crave the thrills of horror movies.

Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Different movie genres often attract their own loyal fan bases for different reasons. Horror movies draw viewers who enjoy the particular ride that movies of that genre promise to take them on. There's not just one monster cookie-cutter template that all horror films follow, but there are standard scene ingredients that most viewers will expect for their enjoyment and fright.

Good Versus Evil

Almost inherent in a horror movie is the obvious or underlying theme of good fighting against evil. The characters who represent these opposite sides are creatively drawn in good, successful horror films. A prime example of this theme is in movies showcasing the undead prince of darkness, Dracula, feeding on chaste young women until his enemies, often holding up crucifixes, defeat and destroy him. In other horror films, the opposing elements aren't religious in nature. The "evil" element can simply be whatever force seeks to harm the "good" victims -- for example, suddenly aggressive birds attacking innocent townspeople in Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film, "The Birds."


The panic. The sudden, short breaths. The terrified arm jerks. Not one thing scares everyone or elicits the exact reactions from viewers. But one element central to the genre is the fright, the terror, the horror that these movies give the audience. The many sub-genres within the overall horror genre are designed to appeal to whatever your favorite scare may be. Get a thrill from shape-shifting alien beings gorily killing their victims, then stealing their appearances? Watch 1982's "The Thing." Or if grisly mutilation on screen delights you, 2004's "Saw" falls into that category.


The chilling buildup to the scenes of terror -- the suspense -- often provides as much of a necessary element along the emotional horror movie roller-coaster ride as the "scare" scenes themselves. The psychotic killer Michael Myers blankly, silently watching his intended victim before he strikes in 1978's "Halloween" gives one example of this. The suspense created in films by horror movie master Alfred Hitchcock, as in 1960's "Psycho," continually clutches at audiences from the movie's start to finish, never allowing viewers to relax totally.

Amazing Villains

The charismatic shock appeal of the movie's main villain often provides enough reason for people to watch a horror film. This is why so many early movies featured mythical, destructive creatures such as vampires, mummies, and werewolves. The man-made monster from 1931's "Frankenstein" is a movie monster whose appeal endures. Traits of these particular characters may remain in the various minds of the movie audience more than specifics about the movies' scenes or plots. Freddy Krueger, the slashing murderer of teens from 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," and the movie's sequels, is a powerful horror movie character.

About the Author

Totally immersed in the pursuit of writing, I am currently writing a screenplay. My unyielding curiosity keeps me reading about a varied landscape of topics to grow more informed.

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