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What makes a good horror movie?


slaytonf
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I don't like horror movies.  I don't hate them either.  I just don't care for them.  Next to romance movies, they are the most formulaic type of movie.  Flat, predictable, little more than a succession of vignettes setting up victims for terror or mutilation.  I've watched a number of them, or started to.  Even made it all the way through some.  But mostly watching one, I'm overcome by a violent indifference.  As for the effects, ghastly makeup, warping walls, mucus-dripping monsters, instead of inducing pleasant tingly scares, they are most likely to make me laugh.  (Yes, yes, I can already hear the cries for suspension of disbelief.  I can tell you my disbelief is plenty well suspended.  In fact, I'm watching it now swaying back-and-forth off to the side of my living room.)

But there are horror movies I like and watch from time to time. Tonight's The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which I am watching right now, is a favorite of mine.  And it occurred to me as I was waiting for it to start what the formula for a good horror movie is.  A lot like what makes a good heist movie, in that the heist is the least important part, so in a good horror movie, the horror is the least important part.  This is a provisional theory and subject to refinement, as in Carnival of Souls (1962), another favorite of mine, some of the best parts are the spooky scenes at the abandoned amusement park.  

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I like Carnival of Souls too. It is just so quirky and low budget. I think what generally makes a good horror movie is atmosphere and suspense. This is why Hammer Horror is so often a near miss for me. Everything looks so brand spanking new, like it just came from the local home and garden store. Nothing looks old and neglected. 

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I really like Carnival of Souls too.  I think a good horror film has atmosphere, good photography, effective acting and a good story - which I think Carnival of Souls has.  The special effects in this movie are just a few wavy lines but it doesn't matter.   There is great atmosphere in this story that brings horror to a small town where there is a deserted carnival on the outskirts inhabited by "souls".   I like that Carnival of Souls leaves unanswered questions.  Did she imagine these events while she was dying?  Was she in "purgatory"?  A parallel universe?  suffering from mental illness?  I think it is open to your own interpretation which makes the story interesting.

Some of my other favorite horror films include:  "Get Out" (2017), Nosferatu (1922) and Frankenstein (1931).

image.jpeg.1fa7643d0f2beeaa97118f79f11e61ee.jpeg    image.jpeg.a99a5a70f96022f5a7646f790d3b490b.jpeg    image.jpeg.79da0a12eff9ecd70b7695c23604a003.jpeg

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2 hours ago, slaytonf said:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

I like that movie but was unable to watch it tonight. 

I also love CARNIVAL OF SOULS and have owned it on VHS and DVD for decades... I even have the wonderful soundtrack (organ music by GENE MOORE - who?)...

Here's a short film favorite available at YouTube

 

 

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2 hours ago, slaytonf said:

But there are horror movies I like and watch from time to time. Tonight's The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which I am watching right now, is a favorite of mine.  And it occurred to me as I was waiting for it to start what the formula for a good horror movie is.  A lot like what makes a good heist movie, in that the heist is the least important part, so in a good horror movie, the horror is the least important part.  

I remember showing one absolute horror-chicken friend Dr. Phibes, who, once hooked on the movie, was convinced that the "Nine Plagues murders" were based on a Poe story, because Vincent Price was in it.   It wasn't, but it SHOULD have been.

I remember thinking that Phibes and Inspector Trout, were giving off heavy Fu Manchu vs. Inspector Smith vibes, and if you look at some of the early unused titles for the movie, that may have been the producers' idea.

1 hour ago, slaytonf said:

Or inarticulately unsettling.

The best horror movies, IMO should be the ones that most resemble your actual nightmares, which are not only unsettlingly full of nameless dread, but when you have one, you're so into the moment, you emotionally buy into everything, even if you can't explain why the next morning.  

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Company of Wolves (1986), It: Chapter One (2018), very few have that genuine I've Had Ones Like That quality.  😨

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5 hours ago, slaytonf said:

I don't like horror movies.  I don't hate them either.  I just don't care for them.  Next to romance movies, they are the most formulaic type of movie.  Flat, predictable, little more than a succession of vignettes setting up victims for terror or mutilation.  I've watched a number of them, or started to.  Even made it all the way through some.  But mostly watching one, I'm overcome by a violent indifference.  As for the effects, ghastly makeup, warping walls, mucus-dripping monsters, instead of inducing pleasant tingly scares, they are most likely to make me laugh.  (Yes, yes, I can already hear the cries for suspension of disbelief.  I can tell you my disbelief is plenty well suspended.  In fact, I'm watching it now swaying back-and-forth off to the side of my living room.)

But there are horror movies I like and watch from time to time. Tonight's The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), which I am watching right now, is a favorite of mine.  And it occurred to me as I was waiting for it to start what the formula for a good horror movie is.  A lot like what makes a good heist movie, in that the heist is the least important part, so in a good horror movie, the horror is the least important part.  This is a provisional theory and subject to refinement, as in Carnival of Souls (1962), another favorite of mine, some of the best parts are the spooky scenes at the abandoned amusement park.  

One Tried And True "Fact" Makes a Good Horror Film, and Thats Vincent Price. +10/10.

Care for a few (additional) suspenseful suggestions ?..

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3 hours ago, Toto said:

I really like Carnival of Souls too.  I think a good horror film has atmosphere, good photography, effective acting and a good story - which I think Carnival of Souls has.  The special effects in this movie are just a few wavy lines but it doesn't matter.   There is great atmosphere in this story that brings horror to a small town where there is a deserted carnival on the outskirts inhabited by "souls".   I like that Carnival of Souls leaves unanswered questions.  Did she imagine these events while she was dying?  Was she in "purgatory"?  A parallel universe?  suffering from mental illness?  I think it is open to your own interpretation which makes the story interesting.

Some of my other favorite horror films include:  "Get Out" (2017), Nosferatu (1922) and Frankenstein (1931).

image.jpeg.1fa7643d0f2beeaa97118f79f11e61ee.jpeg    image.jpeg.a99a5a70f96022f5a7646f790d3b490b.jpeg    image.jpeg.79da0a12eff9ecd70b7695c23604a003.jpeg

Hmm.....

Let me know if Your (ever) up for a(n) additional grabbag/handful of suspense/horror cinema Toto.. .

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1 hour ago, Toto said:

Sure!  I'd love a grabbag of suspense horror 

No Particular Order for these either,

- Basically Anything with Vincent Price. (Love the Guy. While Sure, he Mighta Been in some Campy/Cheesy Stuff; ive personally Never Scene him in anything that is half-cooked.)

- Under the Silver Lake.

- Under the Skin.

- Enemy. (Its the Very Very Ending that Kicks this Mental Saw-Mill Thriller into Horror.)

- Deep Rising.

- you mentioned Get Out.. if im Not mistaken,. Theres Another Title Called -- GetIn --- that has VERY (VERY) Sharp Teeth. *if You Pursue this particular title though, - BE CAREFUL (!). It Flies OfftheRails at end and theres a couple scenes that are MASSIVELY Not For Small-Fry and Dark Red-Light District. (More Or Less) Based on a True Story if i am not mistaken. On ntflx, i believe 

- The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

- Burning Bright.

- Treehouse. (Very Slow Burn but Quite Impressive imo.)

- A Lonely Place to Die. (BONKERS*.)

- the Survivalist. (^Ditto.)

- the Other Lamb. (Very Very Very Slow Burn but (was) Quite Impressed imo.)

- Let Me In.

- Let the Right One In.

- Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.

- Evolution.

- theShape of Water. (Some Stuff in this.. Might Very Well Not be for Small-fry).

- A Cure For Wellness.

--- -

A Lot/(Most.) of These Are Newer... 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️. Nothing Against Older Horror Stuff. Guess by and large more newer horror stuff has stuck with me and rocked my boat,.

Not Sure of Your Thoughts/Opinions upon humor. For me; i usually dont like "newer" humor in film these days. .. with that said. Here are a Couple that i Thouroughly Enjoyed.

- the Final Girls. (Dumb As Heck. But Simeoultaneously INCREDIBLY "Smart", imo)

- Better Watch Out.

- Detention. (This One, Might Start Off Very/Quite Slow for some. ... ..Stick with it. Its (Surprisingly) Fun.)

- Tucker and Dale Vs Evil.

- Abraham Lincoln: Vmpr Hunter.

- Hnsl Gretel Witch Hunters.

(These Last Three.. ... Are Particularly Stupid. And Defy Any Type of Logic Whatsoever. Personally Greatly, Greatly Enjoyed These Though if one can check logic at the door.)

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14 hours ago, LsDoorMat said:

I like Carnival of Souls too. It is just so quirky and low budget. I think what generally makes a good horror movie is atmosphere and suspense. This is why Hammer Horror is so often a near miss for me. Everything looks so brand spanking new, like it just came from the local home and garden store. Nothing looks old and neglected. 

I think you should have stopped at "atmosphere and suspense".  I don't think it's necessary for everything to look "old and neglected" to make a good horror movie.  Although( depending on the story line) it might help sometimes.  I don't think a lot of gore is always needed too.   But, as we're discussing horror movies, and movies are a business, those horror movie makers looking to make a profit will stick with the tropes most horror movie aficionados usually pull out their wallets to see.  

A well considered score don't hurt either.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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Carnival of Souls
White Zombie--creaky but creepy
Messiah of Evil: the banality of evil.  Two key scenes, one in a supermarket, the other in a movie theater, start slowly and end with shock.
Count Yorga, Vampire.
Several episodes of the original One Step Beyond and Boris Karloff's Thriller, notably the Willam Shatner episode Grim Reaper and The Incredible Dr, Markesan. A few original Twilight Zone episodes, one with Inger Stevens, the other with Richard Conte, another with Barbara Nichols (Room For One More). Several episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock hour: The Jar, An Unlocked Window, The Sign of Satan.
The Hammer films are fun but none of them were scary. A good horror film to me is not about murdering people so Halloween, Friday 13th, Chainsaw, Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, Scream and all but the first Hellraisers are out.
Let's Scare Jessica To Death with the underappreciated Zohra Lampert.
The original Night of the Living Dead.

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6 hours ago, Aritosthenes said:

No Particular Order for these either,

- Basically Anything with Vincent Price. (Love the Guy. While Sure, he Mighta Been in some Campy/Cheesy Stuff; ive personally Never Scene him in anything that is half-cooked.)

- Under the Silver Lake.

- Under the Skin.

- Enemy. (Its the Very Very Ending that Kicks this Mental Saw-Mill Thriller into Horror.)

- Deep Rising.

- you mentioned Get Out.. if im Not mistaken,. Theres Another Title Called -- GetIn --- that has VERY (VERY) Sharp Teeth. *if You Pursue this particular title though, - BE CAREFUL (!). It Flies OfftheRails at end and theres a couple scenes that are MASSIVELY Not For Small-Fry and Dark Red-Light District. (More Or Less) Based on a True Story if i am not mistaken. On ntflx, i believe 

- The Autopsy of Jane Doe.

- Burning Bright.

- Treehouse. (Very Slow Burn but Quite Impressive imo.)

- A Lonely Place to Die. (BONKERS*.)

- the Survivalist. (^Ditto.)

- the Other Lamb. (Very Very Very Slow Burn but (was) Quite Impressed imo.)

- Let Me In.

- Let the Right One In.

- Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter.

- Evolution.

- theShape of Water. (Some Stuff in this.. Might Very Well Not be for Small-fry).

- A Cure For Wellness.

--- -

A Lot/(Most.) of These Are Newer... 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♂️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️. Nothing Against Older Horror Stuff. Guess by and large more newer horror stuff has stuck with me and rocked my boat,.

Not Sure of Your Thoughts/Opinions upon humor. For me; i usually dont like "newer" humor in film these days. .. with that said. Here are a Couple that i Thouroughly Enjoyed.

- the Final Girls. (Dumb As Heck. But Simeoultaneously INCREDIBLY "Smart", imo)

- Better Watch Out.

- Detention. (This One, Might Start Off Very/Quite Slow for some. ... ..Stick with it. Its (Surprisingly) Fun.)

- Tucker and Dale Vs Evil.

- Abraham Lincoln: Vmpr Hunter.

- Hnsl Gretel Witch Hunters.

(These Last Three.. ... Are Particularly Stupid. And Defy Any Type of Logic Whatsoever. Personally Greatly, Greatly Enjoyed These Though if one can check logic at the door.)

Thanks so much!  A lot of movies I haven't seen.

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What makes a 'Good' horror movie really depends on what kind of horror/suspense movie you're looking to watch.  I like all kinds of movies that fall under the 'Horror' banner from made-for-television movies to old-time theatrical horror release to newer horror movies, some of which are chock fulla gore!  🩸🩸

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There's been an overreliance on "jump scares" in the horror films I"ve seen in the past 20 years or so. I like the ones that unsettle me on a more primal level. The two movies from Ari Aster, Hereditary and MIdsommar, are good examples. The latter leans rather heavily on The Wicker Man, which is also a good example. Boy, in Aster's movies, the protagonists are doomed to Hell from the time the movies begin, from BEFORE the movie begins. It's just a matter of details on how they get there. They're brilliant, but they're so relentlessly downbeat and nihilistic, I don't know that I'd care to watch either a second time. 

 

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 Per Mr. Gorman

What makes a 'Good' horror movie really depends on what kind of horror/suspense movie you're looking to watch.  I like all kinds of movies that fall under the 'Horror' banner from made-for-television movies to old-time theatrical horror release to newer horror movies, some of which are chock fulla gore!  🩸🩸

 

Well, you won't lack for entertainment.  As I said, most movies pretending to horror bore me intensely. They're like rote exercises.  That's why if the horror plays an incidental role, and the rest of the movie is good, like Theater of Blood (1973), I like it.  

A good TV movie I think is exceptional is called A Cold Night's Death (1973), in which Robert Culp and Eli Wallach wage a battle of nerves and psychodrama in an ice-bound monkey research lab.  One of Mr. Culp's best performances.  Even when you know the source of the evil stalking the lab, it's still squirm-inducing.

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