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When to Draw the Line for Violence in Horror Films

Updated on September 8, 2013

As more and more films come out, there's seems to be a figurative competition between various film makers and just how much violence they can comprise within his or her films. This may be a product of the reality we now live in daily; violence has become a much more expected state of affairs everyday and we receive much more exposure to such tragic circumstances through the constantly evolving media. Many film makers seem to be under the impression that they have to show excessive amounts of gore and violence to shock the audience because they now have to top whatever is being portrayed in the real world; if people have already seen it, the shock won't be as great.

I find this trend to be an inherently broken one within films because there is only so much the filmmakers can do before the violence and gore is so grotesque that it is over the top and makes the entire film seem rather silly and bizarre. Some filmmakers see excessive amounts of gore as an art form within films and should be appreciated for what it is; fantasy gore that is made to look realistic, but it also lets the audience know that it is fake. That's all well and good, but I think there are far too many movies, horror films in particular, that go too far with the gore and forget what the true essence of horror is; the idea that there is something out there watching us that is not truly understood or known and beyond any form of control.

Horror movies have always been one of my favorites genres, but I have hated the way they have been portrayed over recent years. The producers seems to have this obsession with showing massive amounts of blood and gore to the point that it sacrifices the appeal of watching the movie to get some good jumps and a true feeling of horror underneath our skins; gore can only go so far. Even classics movies that have relied on nearly no gore, such as Halloween and Black Christmas, have been remade with a huge amount of disgusting imaging and over the top gore.

Now, is having a lot of violence bad for a horror movie? Of course not and, when handled correctly, can really add a nice layer of horror to the film and capitalize on the nature of the "slasher" or force of evil. Movie producers seem more concerned though with showing images of people being gutted and their eyes ripped out rather than showing off intense sequences where our own imaginations go wild and keep our hearts pumping until the true horror comes on screen. "Where's the killer", "What's going to happen to this person" are questions that truly make up the heart of a good horror movie.

It's not necessairly about seeing a virgin being stalked into paranoia while the "naughty" kids are being dismembered in some of the most violent fashions, but rather that there is something out there that is ready and willing to attack random, potential victims because of some sort of twisted inclination. What we truly fear and are afraid of is the unknown, not what happens during the unknown. Our fears are nestled in dark, mysterious places where we don't know nor understand what's watching us or what's around the next corner. Fear and horror are uncontrollable elements for the most part and drive are imaginations into truly dark places where we are not sure we can come out okay.

Again, violence can be a useful aspect to further play on horror, but it is far from the true elements that make horror movies true, iconic pieces of art that give us good and harmless scares. The original Halloween and Black Christmas had barely any gore in them and yet it terrified many people because we knew so little of what the characters within the films were up against. In one you had a supernatural killer of whom you have no idea how he got that way or why he kills and in the other you have a deeply disturbed killer who you never see or find out his identity. At the end of both films, the villains are still out there and this very concept leaves our skin crawling at the thought of the unknown, an evil and sinister one as that, still being at large.

I believe horror movies really have to embrace these old characteristics once again and take it a little easier on the gore because it begins to come across as forced and very unbelievable; it gets to a point where it's not even grotesque, but ridiculous. Certain horror films in recent memory have done a fine job such as the original Paranormal Activity in bringing back the concept of the unknown haunting us, but I think more need to embrace such traits.

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    • profile image

      ... 3 years ago

      I actually disagree that horror movies today use more gore to scare audiences. Part of the reason why horror movies today are so scary is because they are constantly trying to get a pg-13 rating, so they use more scares than blood and guts. I mean watch the movies from the previous decades like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, Chucky, or Nightmare on Elm Street and those movies really aren't scary at all. Those movies are not scary because they relied completely on gore, most horror movies today are about demonic possession or something like that. The Paranormal movies had pretty much no gore at all, the Grudge movies didn't really have a lot of gore, and Black Swan didn't have a ton of gore either. It seems like it's actually today that film directors rely more on scares than gore not the other way around.

    • Dominique L profile image

      Dominique L 5 years ago from Oregon

      JohnGreasyGamer, dear, I actually think we're talking about the same thing, just in a different way. I was thinking about this the other day when I watched The Innkeepers.

      Troma is more of a niche, connoiseur thing. The average person who complains about a horror movie with a plot (I'm gonna smack the next person who tells me The Devil's Backbone isn't a horror movie) also probably wouldn't be able to take a Troma movie. You're right, Troma movies are sophisticated, but for people who appreciate exploitation. The same way that Scream was sophisticated for Slasher fans. The same way that The Innkeepers is the new love of my life. Would I recommend The Innkeepers to most people? No. You have to be a full-on ghost movie buff to appreciate it. But if you are, you'll love it.

      Again, the difference is in the thinking. The people who make Troma movies are thinking about what they make. There's a method in the madness, and people with the right perspective can see it. Rob Zombie (bless his heart, I love his music I just wish he would never go near a camera again) was not thinking when he made House of 1000 Corpses, and the audience responded in kind.

      A good horror movie can do with or without gore. An excellent horror movie does both. I say again, The Devil's Backbone (sorry, it is my all time favorite movie, I talk about it a lot), and The Descent. The Descent is one of the best horror movies made in the past 20 years and will probably end up being a classic down the line. It has a good balance.

    • thejokethatkills profile image
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      thejokethatkills 5 years ago

      @dominiqueL: Yeah, that's a shame to me because I loved going to horror films with my friends and genuinely getting spooked by the movies. It's been a long time since I saw a horror movie that really stayed with me beyond the closing credits. Most producers do a good enough job at freaking out an audience during the flick with jump sequences and gore, but to keep the audience spooked even after they walk out of those theater doors is what truly separates generic horror films from truly iconic ones.

    • thejokethatkills profile image
      Author

      thejokethatkills 5 years ago

      @JohnGreasyGamer; Yeah, I agree. I think that gore can work very well within these movies, but like you said, there has to be a good setup or lead up to it. Certain horror movies can benefit very much from a lot of gore, depending on the type of theme or humor they are trying to convey, but some are much better suited to genuine scares and buildup. I think that a lot of the horror movies nowadays are giving a lot of gore, but without a certain amount of class or lead up.

    • JohnGreasyGamer profile image

      John Roberts 5 years ago from South Yorkshire, England

      I disagree that there's too much gore, because I watch Troma movies and circa 50% of those are mindlessly entertaining because of the gore. If I watched Halloween and I saw an elderly lady get hit by a car, get her head crushed and then see urine being fired like a hose in Halloween, I would be disturbed. In Troma, it's freaking hilarious.

      But gore has to be backed up by something - you can't just give me gore and say "look at it and laugh. LAUGH AT MY GENIUS, FOOL!" because it's insulting. I am genuinely offended by every director who takes a dump on my carpet and says "that's entertainment". If there's no scares or decent humour, why should I be staring in awe at the gore?

      It's an insult to the "active vampires" we have in modern society thanks to the media and people claiming to be sadists because they love seeing gore. It's not sadism, it's called acting like a retard. I watch horror to be entertained by other things but gore. Cripes, The Toxic Avenger is more sophisticated than anything made above the year 2002.

      Voted up and interesting. A good article that's up for debate.

    • Dominique L profile image

      Dominique L 5 years ago from Oregon

      Lovely job here, sir. I do agree with you that the gore has gone a little too far in horror movies lately.

      I think it has a lot to do with the dumbing down of horror movies, honestly. For me, there's levels that a horror movie can function on. There's shocking, scary, and disturbing. Most movies anymore are shocking because shock requires no effort. All you have to do is throw things at the audience and it requires the audience not to think. I think people don't want to be scared or disturbed. Part of it is what we have to deal with in real life, but I also think part of it is that people just don't want to be challenged.

      I think the same thing happens with action movies.