What's your definition of a "horror" flick?

My wife and I got into a discussion of what exactly is a horror flick? For example, is Silence Of The Lambs? a horror flick? What about Jaws? It’s definitely meant to scare you.

I’m just curious what you guys think.


Ooops, I guess underlining doesn’t work.


Any flick that instills horror in an audience.

From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: 1hor·ror
Pronunciation: 'hor-&r, 'här-
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English horrour, from Middle French horror, from Latin, action of bristling, from horrEre to bristle, shiver; akin to Sanskrit harsate he is excited
Date: 14th century
1 a : painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay <astonishment giving place to horror on the faces of the people about me – H. G. Wells> b : intense aversion or repugnance
2 a : the quality of inspiring horror : repulsive, horrible, or dismal quality or character <contemplating the horror of their lives – Liam O’Flaherty> b : something that inspires horror
3 plural : a state of extreme depression or apprehension

I guess that about covers it.

A horror flick is what I point to when I say, “That’s a horror flick.”

From the example of the term “science fiction,” it boils down to the fact that there is no definition that will include all the films you think are horror, while excluding all those you don’t think are horror. So you can just point to examples and hope your audience agrees.


IMO, Nickrz pretty much has it right.

I’d extend it a little further, though, to say that any movie that tries to instill horror in the audience is a horror flick. If it fails to do so, it’s simply a bad horror flick.

‘They couldn’t hit an Elephant from this dist…!’

Last words of General John Sedgwick

I can’t believe I’m the first with this obvious smartass joke. I’d better type quick!

Ahem. Any film with Tom Hanks, Demi Moore, or Jim Carey.

Now, that’s out of the way, I’ll return you to the discussion.

One of the best movies I’ve seen is “Jacob’s Ladder”, with Tim Robbins and Elizabeth Pena. I never could find it in the video store, though, until someone finally clued me in that it was in the horror section.

I would never in a million years have labelled it a horror movie. It’s got some graphic parts but so does “Saving Private Ryan” and “Platoon”. I thought it was much more like these than any horror movie I’ve ever seen.

I guess it gets the label because things get a little “horrific” for Tim Robbins’s character. The intent of the movie is not to scare you; it actually has a happy (sort of) ending. But it is intended to engage you emotionally.

So my definition of horror movie? Not “Jacob’s Ladder”.

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”

I’ll take a crack:

A horror flick is one in which one or more people are in danger of being violently killed in a way or by an entity that is not fully understood.

I hope that definition rules out other forms of adventure and suspense movies that most people wouldn’t consider to be horror.

PapaBear, hoping is nice, but only decisive action will solve the problem. How about:

A horror flick is one whose main plotline involves one or more people in danger of being violently killed in a way or by an entity that is not fully understood.

  • Beaches * starring Bette Midler

“…send lawyers, guns, and money…”

 Warren Zevon