Bleeding Tree’s recently posted some thoughts on the definition of horror, as a result of trying to come up with his list for the 31 Greatest Horror Films survey. He brings up some interesting points, although I disagree fundamentally with the definition he comes up with for himself, which is “a story primarily intended to generate fear by use of, or suggestion of, supernatural, or otherwise otherworldly, forces working against humans or humanity as a whole.”
I am excited that the possibly banal exercise of yet more list-making is provoking thought. Through the list of films we nominate and ultimately include in our list of 31 Greatest Horror Films, we will be—as a community—coming up with a definition of horror, in a way. We’ll be saying that these 31 films represent the history of horror—the best it has to offer.
As we go about doing that, I’d like to hear what guidelines each of you is using to determine your own lists. As Bleeding Tree quotes me saying in the original announcement for the survey, “As far as I’m concerned, slashers, giallo, horror comedies/parodies, and any movie with a ghost, ghoul, zombie, vampire, or werewolf fit the bill.” I’m already taking flack for the all-inclusiveness of this statement, and I do agree that genre definitions are important and useful tools in film criticism. So let me hear it: What makes a horror film?
UPDATE: On that post I linked to above by Neil from Bleeding Tree, Piper from Lazy Eye Theatre posted a comment saying of the criteria he's using for inclusion on his list, "Anything that gives me the willies is in." I like that.