Horror movies. You either love ’em or loath ’em – they completely split opinion here at the farm. So we decided to pit the two opinions against each other as we put horror movies on trial…

THE DEFENDANT

Every horror movie ever made. Whether you be a classic like Halloween or the umpteenth addition to the Saw franhcise, we’re looking at you.

THE CHARGES

The wonderful thing about cinema is that there is a genre for everyone and, as a film fan, I like to explore as many of these as possible. To this day, however, I have not yet found a horror film that has managed to make the genre appeal to me. The attraction of these films is often said to be ‘seeing how much you can take’. Finding myself uncomfortable focusing on the screen, however, makes my involvement in this type of cinematic experience slightly limited!

Annette Hill conducted a fascinating audience study on people who regularly watch violent movies (Shocking Entertainment – Viewer Responses to Violent Movies,) and, while not all horror films are necessarily ‘violent’, the same general idea can apply here – there was a divide between viewers who would rather watch a violent film at home, where they are in control and can switch off the DVD/TV at any point, and those who would rather watch films of that nature in the cinema, to avoid the atmosphere of the film invading their home, where feeling safe is a top priority (see Paranormal Activity for a brilliant example of destroying this divide – setting a horror film in an entirely domestic setting makes this escape impossible!). So, if we take this idea of violent movies and examine horror films in the same way, I have to say that neither situation appeals to me. The thrill of seeing how long you can last before running screaming out of the cinema or before switching off your DVD has never appealed to me. Give me a classic comedy like Trading Places any day of the week, which leaves me laughing long after it has ended, than watching The Strangers and spending the next week terrified to answer my front door after dark!

THE DEFENCE

If people dislike horror’s purely based on the fact that they’re ridiculous, over the top and completely implausible, then they are clearly missing the point. That’s what’s so great about them! The unadulterated gore, the escape from normality and the heady adrenaline rush of almost-wetting -your-pants-but-not-quite, makes horror movies distinctively more fun than other genres. It is far easier to be scared witless after watching a bad horror than it is to blub at a boring rom-com or laugh at a lukewarm comedy.

For starters, it’s just mindless fun. Anything that can make even your mobile phone a source of terror is always going to be entertaining for a night on the couch.

The horror craze took off in the 1950’s when sci-fi flicks and creature feature B-Movies hit the big screens, yet many stuffy squares perceived them to be of low cultural value and so the stigma of suckiness surrounding horror cinema was born. Many failed to notice there were actually some really genius horrors being made. They might not be Oscar winners but their monsters, ghosts and ghouls have stuck with us for decades. Forty years on and The Exorcist is still named the scariest film of all time.

Does nobody ever remember David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, The Thing or Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho? Bela Lugosi’s classic role in Dracula and Dario Argento’s entire back catalogue alone make up for all the terrible, cheaply produced splatter-fests stalking around the cable TV channels and even then, some of those will go down in history as creepy cult classics.

I’m sure nobody ever expected Evil Dead or George Romero’s zombie series to win over a legion of fans letalone Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson to be the man behind Braindead.

The point is, we’re not just talking about the boob-tastic slasher flicks where teenagers get hacked up in their lingerie or the torture porn comeback of late. Good horrors, to quote the X-Files, are out there. They have a slow build, an intriguing mystery storyline, relatable characters, well-timed scares and the creepiest scenes this side of a ’70s children’s game show.

Finally, the best, and probably worst thing about scary movies is that they have a way of getting into your head and driving your imagination crazy. All those sleepless nights you had as a child come flooding back as you check under your bed and wonder why the hell you decided to watch The Shining with the lights off. Yet, by the time Halloween rolls around, we still cry for more under the vain pretence that, this time, we won’t shut our eyes.

THE VERDICT

It’s a toughy. Although they might leave you feeling queasy for longer than you’d care to imagine what would we watch at Halloween? They may make your blood run cold, but isn’t that what they’re for?

Written by Lynsey MacDonald and Nicola Hall

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