With the creepiest season of the year upon us again, we at Gamereactor UK have put our heads together again, and this time about the horror movie genre. On the one hand, Alex is adamant that slashers are the king of horror, while Ben claims instead that the crown is firmly on the head of the supernatural. So in this Head-to-Head we are going to have real versus surreal confrontations, killers against creatures, monsters alongside humans.
Ben – Supernatural wears the crown
For me, there is no argument. Supernatural horror sits firmly atop the mountaintop of the horror genre. As history has long taught us, there’s nothing more disturbing than something we can’t quite explain, and that’s exactly what has made and will continue to make supernatural horror films so special.
Between paranormal stories that seek to explore possession and the ways in which ghost, demons and spirits torment the living, all the way to monsters like vampires and werewolves that prey on humanity. Horror is at its best when you feel insecure and in danger. Take The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, It and countless others. All of these films use the supernatural to scare the hell out of viewers, and needless to say, they stand out for their terror factor and unique premise.
And these brilliant supernatural projects paved the way for modern films and series that to this day stand out for their disturbing nature. The Nun, The Conjuring Universe, Paranormal Activity, even documentaries that aim to use “real” audio recordings to create terrifying content, such as the upcoming The Enfield Poltergeist, there is such a wide range of paranormal horror projects, most of which are so terrifying that many try to avoid their trailers altogether.
Then to add how, Nosferatu, Dracula, Interview with a Vampire, An American Werewolf in London, Frankenstein, and so on, all bring rich depth and opportunity to the monster space, and also paved the way for the more action-packed horror thrillers that became incredibly popular in the 2000s and beyond. While few would consider films like Van Helsing and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter to be scary movies, there is no denying that they capitalize on that theme of supernatural monsters being terrifying and feared creatures and not the teenage heartthrobs that Twilight tries to make them out to be.
The point is that while the slasher horror subgenre has its moments, it is the supernatural space that has had the greater and more terrifying impact and has survived the test of time in a more compelling way. Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface and the other slasher icons may have ruled the ’80s and ’90s, but the demons, ghosts and monsters that are back on top and on the throne in the modern era of horror.
Alex – Slashers are king
The creepy, the weird and the strange can create moments of terror, yes. Ghosts, ghouls and other things that go bump in the night are likely to get thrills when you go to the movies, and throughout human history we have used creatures to scare children into good behavior. While paranormal activity will certainly give us that fear of the unknown, the most frightening thing we can experience and see in our horror is that which is man-made. There is nothing as scary as what inhuman actions a human being can perform.
The premise of your average slasher that distinguishes it from a supernatural horror is that it can really happen to you. You might just be having the summer of your wildest high school dreams when suddenly a big, unstoppable machete-wielding bloke decides you’re next on his head-chopping list. It combines our fear of the unknown with the known, because we all know what humans are, but very few of us can truly understand something as inhuman as Ghostface. Someone so cold and devoid of everything we recognize in ourselves that they are as terrifying as any ghost, except in the case of the slasher, the villain does not exist only in our imagination.
I think the fascination with slashers extends to our obsession with true crime. We both love and hate seeing the terrible targets that people have really faced, and so the slasher adding that extra layer of “realism,” I think, elevates it beyond just imagining the “what if?” scenarios that revolve around the supernatural. We don’t have to wonder what life would be like if a knife-wielding maniac wandered through the local town, that’s just a Friday night where I come from.
Just like your supernatural buffet, where you can get everything from bog-standard ghosts to an excellent piece of creature horror in The Thing, I think slashers are also pretty good at spicing things up. You have the classics like the Scream franchise, but then you also have weirder films like Midsommar (a controversial “slasher,” but I think it fits given the lack of supernatural elements). There are even great parodies of slashers that can still be great fun, even if they are not terrifying. After all, the genre is known for its tropes. Screaming girls, close-ups of knives just before they plunge into someone’s chest, it works. It makes slashers a great thrill ride, even if they are not always as terrifying as they could be.
Slashers, in my opinion, combine what makes Hollywood horror great. There are many opportunities for good scares with the real terror caused by realism, but they are not always meant to leave you shocked. As entertainment pieces, they rarely fall flat on their face and are a timeless arrow in the quiver of horror.