This week's Answer:
Thrill and Horror of Naming Your Genre
Caitlin, I’m more, more glad than you know that
you raised this question (although I must admit that I’m a bit
horrified by it, yet somehow thrilled at the same time.
And who is Mike?) It’s
not always an easy call whether or not a screenplay is a thriller or a
horror. And, then to make
it even more complicated, I hear they’re coming out in 2006 with a
new genre: thriller horror. And
in 2007 we can look forward to horror thriller.
Not to mention that in 2008 there will be horrifically bad
thrillers. And 2009 will
present thrillingly awful horrors.
2010 could be the worst.
Look forward to Throrors and Horillers. Do you see the
problem here? I do.
And I’m not thrilled. (I’m
also not telling the truth – and I hope that doesn’t horrify you.)
Actually, the way to tell a thriller and horror apart is quite simple.
When watching one, ask yourself these easy questions:
To Tell The Difference Between A Thriller And A Horror!
1. While watching the
film, did you get excited and scared... or did you throw up.
If you threw up, you probably watched a horror.
2. If you found yourself
wanting the scantily-clad vacuous (if you don’t know what the last
word means, you probably go to horror films) females to stop being so
ridiculous by going into dark, scary rooms by themselves, you’ve
most likely watched a horror (and most likely not a very good one).
3. If you related to the
lead character, who seemed to get caught up in something that put his
or her life at risk but that something wasn’t some silly monster or
unrealistic and badly made-up creature, you probably watched a
4. If you dropped your
popcorn and spilled your 32-ounce of syrup in the first 5 minutes of
the film, you probably watched a horror (or, if you’re a guy, you
might have seen a “hot chick” go by).
5. If one of your first
instincts as you watched the film was to kill or at least maim
somebody, you’re probably at a theatre with somebody checking his or
her cell-phone for messages, thereby beaming bright light into the
dark theatre and not caring that it disturbs you or anybody else who
wants to watch the film, you’re probably at a horror (or it will be
soon when somebody strangles that cell-phone addict).
To be a little less cavalier on the subject, thrillers often
have a strong psychological component, the protagonist needing to
discover how to outwit his or her oppressor.
And there’s often an element of mystery, questions regarding
Who, Why, and When Do I Get To Leave This Theatre Because It’s Such
An Unthrilling Thriller? That’s
not to say that, in a horror, the hero doesn’t have to come up with
the solution for outwitting the monster, creature, inexorable force
(Ah. Now that’s a good
term for describing a horror: inexorable
force. Think of it that
way. The hero must
discover how to make an inexorable force become exorable.
There you have it. The
perfect definition.) I
mean, Steve McQueen had to figure out that the only way to stop the
Blob (definitely an inexorable force.
It was like Playdough out of control, overly substantial Jell-O
gone amuck, muck gone awry, etc.) was to freeze it.
inexorable force forced into the condition of “exorableness.”
Actually, screenplays/films that use creatures as
antagonizing antagonists usually fall into the category of “creature
features.” But they can
also be considered horror films.
Cases in point (or would it be “cases in points”?):
The Thing (electricity was not its friend), Frankenstein
(wasn’t pleased with fire), Dracula (not an aficionado of sunlight,
crucifixes, or stakes), The Werewolf (silver bullets were a problem
for him. Hey! The Long
Ranger should have been contracted to take the hairy guy out), The
Were-Rabbit, The Mummy, The Daddy, The Fog, Jason (he only stopped
when it was the end of the movie.
He had to get ready for the next one), Freddy, Chucky, Mikey.
In that regard, it seems that if the horrific force is more
human-like or is an actual human, it or he or she (e.g.,
Frankenstein’s bride, a lovely, significant other for Frankie, I
must say) is considered a candidate for horror.
Thrillers thrill us because... they can.
No, there’s a better answer than that.
Take North by Northwest, if you will.
Now there’s a thriller, still entertaining us, by the
master of suspense (and you might add, “master of thrillers”)...
Alfred E. Newman. Sorry.
The plot of N by NW is an everyman caught up in a sinister
plot. Definitely a
thriller. Often it’s:
Somebody is stalked by an unknown killer (maybe those should be
called, “killer thrillers" Or "chiller killer
there’s: Somebody is
known by a killing stalker. And
let’s not forget: A known
stalker is thrilling an unknown killer. (On second thought, that
last one is probably a horror.)
In a thriller, we usually don’t know what’s
going on in the beginning and we want to find out before it’s too
late (I mean, we do have to get home sometime). In a horror, we
usually know basically what’s going on and sometimes we’d rather not
know. Because it’s
headed this way. Horrors are not everybody’s cup of tea.
Many prefer thrillers. Now
here’s the thriller I’d like to see:
An unknown script consultant, when
trying to watch thrillers and horrors, stalks and destroys the
expensive phones of rude cell-phone users.