Horror vs. Thriller

So we find ourselves in the fifth week of sit-in writers, and I’m excited to ramble. And given that the last 2 writers have written about movies, I’m going to get original and write about a movie. Well, 2 movies, but you get the idea. I’m going to (attempt) to demonstrate what I believe to be the difference between a horror film and a thriller movie.

The first movie that I’d like to talk about is 10 Cloverfield Lane, which is my example of a horror movie. I would give a plot summary, but part of what makes this movie so good is how it reveals the plot throughout the movie (ie: no spoilers). Like any good horror movie, it builds the plot with such suspense that crescendos when the characters themselves start to understand the circumstances they’re faced with.

One of the notorious cornerstones of horror is the jump-scare, which is a cheap (albeit effective) way of eliciting a scare. This movie uses the next step of jump-scares; making the audience expect a jump-scare and then not delivering. This creates long scenes of tension where you just know that something is going to jump out and scare you, and you’re mentally preparing yourself for something to happen. But it never does, which is what makes this such an effective horror movie. It makes your mind scare you, and the anticipation of something happening do the work.

My next movie is what I would classify as a thriller; Circle. This is an indie movie available on Netflix, so I would definitely recommend taking a look when you can. The indie-ness of it shines through in that the budget is very clearly lacking, but much like the classic Saw, it uses its budget smartly and extremely effectively. The plot is fairly contrived and lacking, but it sets us up for a very interesting look into the human mind.

Thriller genre movies are a bit misnamed in my opinion. I see thrillers as having a primary focus as a peering into the human mind at its darkest places; where our minds go when there’s nowhere else to hide. Circle does this by having every character have a very unique and defined personality. Every ‘type’ of person is on display, for the most part, so finding someone to empathize with through either love or hate is pretty easy to do. That, to me, makes this movie an effective thriller. It shows what happens when people are confronted with horror.

Now, which one of these movies deserves higher praise? This is really hard to say as both have massive pros and massive cons. The acting in both movies is near-impeccable, which is so important to a ‘scary movie’. If the audience cannot be convinced that the characters are scared, why should the audience be scared? And, unfortunately, both movies have pretty poor endings. They give more questions than answers, and not in the clever way that keeps you wanting more.

Now with the negatives are out of the way, these movies earn the highest of my praise. 10 Cloverfield Lane had an Oscar worthy performance (in my opinion) and had some of the best camera work and shot composition I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Circle manages to take a small budget and a mostly ‘no name’ cast and push out an amazing concept of a movie with some great performances.

I think personally I prefer Circle, just because I can’t sit through a horror movie with the lights off. That all being said, check out both of these movies as they are both excellent at scaring the life out of anyone. Thanks to stadarooni for having me on, and thank you for taking your time to read.

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