Natural or Supernatural? Name Your Poison

Movie genres are notoriously malleable things.  We all know what a western is until someone mentions that Star Wars is a horse opera in space or Outland is a remake of High Noon in a futuristic setting, and suddenly it doesn’t seem as clear anymore.  Genres also cross streams constantly.  A crime film can be a noir (Out of the Past), an epic drama (Once Upon a Time in America), a gangster film (Public Enemy), a comedy (Some Like it Hot, which also manages to work in rom-com while it’s at it) or any other number of multiple genre mash-ups with “crime” as the umbrella covering all the different subsets.  In the end, horror is no different but no matter how many subgenres of horror there are (and there are plenty), horror can be efficiently broken down into two categories: Natural and Supernatural.  Which side are you on?

What do I mean by natural and supernatural?  Simple.  Psycho, Jaws, Silence of the Lambs – Natural.  Dracula, The Cat People, The Shining – Supernatural.  The nebulous middle-zone comes in the science-fiction/horror combos.  Frankenstein, The Thing from Another World and Cloverfield don’t deal in the supernatural (junk science and alien encounters, yes, but not the supernatural) yet they are fanciful and don’t deal in strict realism by any means.  So where do they fall?  For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to throw anything not normally encountered in the real world, i.e. attacking aliens and monsters and reconstructed people, into the supernatural category.  That doesn’t mean those things couldn’t happen in the real world, just that, so far, a massive monster from outer space hasn’t attacked New York City while countless sharks have attacked people swimming in the ocean throughout history.

As to where I fall, it’s not so much a matter of which I like better but which I think defines horror for me personally, and that’s the supernatural.   As far as quality goes, both sides have superb entries with both the supernatural The Shining and the natural Psycho occupying not just high positions in the horror canon but high positions in the general film canon as well with both making their way into the most recent Sight and Sound poll’s top 250 films.   And I like both films equally well so it’s not an apple to orange match game of which side gets more votes.  It’s just a general feeling that, frankly, I like my horror completely unreal and unrelated to my experiences here on the planet.   We’ve all read stories, or watched news reports, of psycho killers cutting up some poor, unfortunate victim but not many of us (certainly not me) have come across a hotel that possesses its caretaker and visits the horrible visages of the dead upon the living.   Supernatural horror takes me to a place of which I have literally no real-life experience, not even vicariously, and to me, that makes it all the more appealing.

So while I can certainly appreciate that a movie like Jaws has many horrific elements, I get a little annoyed when I see it listed as horror.  Sure, gruesome things happen in it to several people but it’s not a horror movie by my math, rather, it’s an adventure/thriller.  By the same token, I would consider The Birds a horror film and that makes no sense at all by the logic I just applied to Jaws, i.e., animals, including birds, do occasionally attack people.  But The Birds has a supernatural element to it, a feel that something’s not right and the world is at stake.  Jaws, on the other hand, has no supernatural feel because the characters describing the shark’s behavior plant it firmly in the soil of realism.

But animal attack movies aren’t high on the list of popular horror anyway so to really deal with supernatural versus the natural we have to turn to the mad killer/psycho/slasher movie for the most popular of natural horror there is.  And personally, I’m just not a fan.  It’s not that I don’t love some of the work, like the aforementioned Psycho, it’s just that when I think “October,” and by extension, “Halloween,” I think ghosts and vampires, not guys with butcher knives.   And it’s not the gore that’s the problem, either.  Many a supernatural horror film is filled with bloody and gruesome deaths.  But the gore in a natural horror film is undeniably married to a gritty realism that, perhaps, brings it all a little too close to watching real people die to make it entertaining.

See, when I watch something like The Ring, the victims have a connection to an unreality that removes their existence from a real-world frame.  It’s horrifying to watch a young person cut down in the prime of their life but since I’ve never known anyone to have the life sucked out of them by a vengeful spirit, there’s a distance that’s built into the story as I watch it.  When I watch Hostel, on the other hand, especially as a parent, I know that plenty of young people, and women in particular, are viciously killed every day and will continue to be for the sadly foreseeable future.  I can’t take pleasure in watching their deaths because it feels too much like something that actually happens and if it is something that can actually happen then, dammit, I want there to be a focus on the aftermath.  Like M.

is considered one of the greatest films ever made and rightfully so.  It deals with a deranged child killer but the movie takes no pleasure in the killings.  Instead, it focuses on the manhunt for him and, when caught and “tried” by gangsters,  the moral questions that arise over what he is or isn’t responsible for as human being with free will.  I wouldn’t qualify it as a horror movie necessarily, even though all later serial killer movies would be, and maybe that’s because it doesn’t make the killings a game of one-upmanship and doesn’t turn the killer into a charismatic, charming cad.

Silence of the Lambs is a serial killer movie that does exactly that.  Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter is presented as a charming, charismatic anti-hero that the audience kind of roots for, in a back-handed way.  For instance, the final scene, of Lecter joking he’s going to have an old friend for dinner as we see his former warden stroll by, is intended for laughs.  Ha, ha, the man who was “mean” to Lecter is now going to be horribly killed and eaten by him.  Ha, ha.  Oh wait, that’s not funny at all.

Even though I could never claim to “enjoy” watching it, if I had to recommend the best serial killer movie ever made, it would be Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.  Frankly, I’ll probably never watch it again because I’ve seen it twice and that’s enough for me but it portrays the killings as brutal and disturbing, not “exciting” or “fun,” and the lead character of Henry (superbly portrayed by Michael Rooker) is as far from charming and charismatic as you can get.  It’s about a deranged and disturbed man who kills and it does not glamorize or take pleasure in that notion once for the sake of cheap hoots and catcalls from the audience.

The dividing line between supernatural and natural horror is a fine one.  If the horror you’re portraying is rooted in the real world,  it takes its chance that the audience may be too put off unless levity or irony are thrown into the mix.  One of the reasons Henry never took the box office by storm is that it truly is a deeply disturbing movie filled with real horror. I don’t prefer to watch that kind of thing very often, but I’ll take it over the flippant portrayal of a teenager’s death any day of the week.  Of course, it’s the spooky supernatural stuff that I prefer over either one of those anyway so that’s what I’ll stick with.  I’m happy that all kinds of horror films are made to suit all tastes and if bloody murdering psychopaths float your boat, by all means, go crazy (but not psychotic).  Me, I prefer Dracula to Henry, mummies to psychopaths and ghosts to mad slashers.  Give me “not of this world” over “happens every day” and I’m happy.  It’s understandable because, when you think about it, in a world where reality invades our lives every second of the day, liking the supernatural is the only natural thing to do.

0 Response Natural or Supernatural? Name Your Poison
Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : October 24, 2012 8:17 am

Henry is a great Movie,but i am with you.Twice is enough.
I like Argentos dreamy Middleway sometimes.
“Suspiria” not so much,but i like “Phenomena” “Profondo Rosso”
and “Tenebre” very much.
Fulci´s “The Beyond” is fun too in it´s baroque Madness.
But my favorite Horror Movie is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
A Natural,i guess.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : October 24, 2012 8:17 am

Henry is a great Movie,but i am with you.Twice is enough.
I like Argentos dreamy Middleway sometimes.
“Suspiria” not so much,but i like “Phenomena” “Profondo Rosso”
and “Tenebre” very much.
Fulci´s “The Beyond” is fun too in it´s baroque Madness.
But my favorite Horror Movie is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
A Natural,i guess.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 8:30 am

I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well though it’s not my favorite. There are plenty of movies like that one that I like better than a supernatural movie like, say, Poltergeist, just that I generally veer towards the supernatural.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 8:30 am

I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well though it’s not my favorite. There are plenty of movies like that one that I like better than a supernatural movie like, say, Poltergeist, just that I generally veer towards the supernatural.

Posted By Wes B. : October 24, 2012 10:51 am

The first image scared the heck of me! I’ve never had the courage to sit through an entire horror movie before, because I tend to be a scaredy-cat. In fact, just the trailers on television are enough to frighten me sometimes.

Posted By Wes B. : October 24, 2012 10:51 am

The first image scared the heck of me! I’ve never had the courage to sit through an entire horror movie before, because I tend to be a scaredy-cat. In fact, just the trailers on television are enough to frighten me sometimes.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 10:55 am

Wes, I don’t which side scared you the most but, for the record, the left is from The Uninvited and the right is from Halloween. I like the idea of combining two shots from the top of the stairs, looking down, one supernatural and one natural. Creating the right pics for my post is important to me.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 10:55 am

Wes, I don’t which side scared you the most but, for the record, the left is from The Uninvited and the right is from Halloween. I like the idea of combining two shots from the top of the stairs, looking down, one supernatural and one natural. Creating the right pics for my post is important to me.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : October 24, 2012 11:00 am

It’s funny you should bring this up because I find myself in the position right now, having written half a dozen horror screenplays in which the horror is (or turns out to be) entirely natural (even if we only realize this in the last five minutes), of being involved in a new project in which the situation is 100% supernatural. And while I’ve long been a fan of supernatural horror movies, I’ve never had to conceive of one, get behind it, go to bat for it. It will be a challenge to wrap this rational mind around the impossible.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : October 24, 2012 11:00 am

It’s funny you should bring this up because I find myself in the position right now, having written half a dozen horror screenplays in which the horror is (or turns out to be) entirely natural (even if we only realize this in the last five minutes), of being involved in a new project in which the situation is 100% supernatural. And while I’ve long been a fan of supernatural horror movies, I’ve never had to conceive of one, get behind it, go to bat for it. It will be a challenge to wrap this rational mind around the impossible.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:05 am

Maybe one of the reasons I like the supernatural is because it’s also something I completely disbelieve in real life and therefore it encompasses a fantastical element as well, where I can get lost in the story but always know it’s not real.

Anything I write, including the book I’m still working on, always includes the supernatural. I’d love to do something with classic monsters, like vampires, where they’re filthy, stinking, vicious beasts, hairy and ugly and not romantic, sexy or charming at all.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:05 am

Maybe one of the reasons I like the supernatural is because it’s also something I completely disbelieve in real life and therefore it encompasses a fantastical element as well, where I can get lost in the story but always know it’s not real.

Anything I write, including the book I’m still working on, always includes the supernatural. I’d love to do something with classic monsters, like vampires, where they’re filthy, stinking, vicious beasts, hairy and ugly and not romantic, sexy or charming at all.

Posted By Jenni : October 24, 2012 11:24 am

I vote for Supernatural, every time. Part of that is the story/plot, of unbelievably strange things happening that no one can explain away, and I want to go to a movie to escape my realities for a while. A horror film that is natural, I.e. it could happen? I don’t want to dwell on that. Henry, I haven’t seen, and from your description, won’t make my movie bucket list.

Posted By Jenni : October 24, 2012 11:24 am

I vote for Supernatural, every time. Part of that is the story/plot, of unbelievably strange things happening that no one can explain away, and I want to go to a movie to escape my realities for a while. A horror film that is natural, I.e. it could happen? I don’t want to dwell on that. Henry, I haven’t seen, and from your description, won’t make my movie bucket list.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:25 am

Jenni, Henry has one scene in particular that made me feel a little queasy when I saw it. It’s definitely a disturbing portrayal of very deranged and indecent crimes. If you’re not even remotely sure if you might be uncomfortable watching it, I wouldn’t watch it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:25 am

Jenni, Henry has one scene in particular that made me feel a little queasy when I saw it. It’s definitely a disturbing portrayal of very deranged and indecent crimes. If you’re not even remotely sure if you might be uncomfortable watching it, I wouldn’t watch it.

Posted By Bunny Moreno : October 24, 2012 11:36 am

I think when it comes to horror I am old school and want to stick with supernatural. The murder films and all that jazz-they have been getting under my skin in a bad way. I think its bc I am a mother now and of three small children. My mind wanders and I become extra, extra paranoid. Its not good to put all those nasty thoughts in your head. It doesnt help that I am a New Yorker too LOL Great post btw!

xox

PS I really wanna see “M”-I have heard so many good things about it-gotta find it somewhere!

Posted By Bunny Moreno : October 24, 2012 11:36 am

I think when it comes to horror I am old school and want to stick with supernatural. The murder films and all that jazz-they have been getting under my skin in a bad way. I think its bc I am a mother now and of three small children. My mind wanders and I become extra, extra paranoid. Its not good to put all those nasty thoughts in your head. It doesnt help that I am a New Yorker too LOL Great post btw!

xox

PS I really wanna see “M”-I have heard so many good things about it-gotta find it somewhere!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:40 am

The murder films and all that jazz-they have been getting under my skin in a bad way. I think its bc I am a mother now and of three small children.

Becoming a parent definitely changed my outlook on these things. There’s a natural reaction I have now where, when I view any kind of onscreen death of a child or even an older teenager, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. It’s probably a big reason I drift away from those types of films.

And M is available pretty much anywhere you look, I think. Peter Lorre is incredible in the final scenes.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 11:40 am

The murder films and all that jazz-they have been getting under my skin in a bad way. I think its bc I am a mother now and of three small children.

Becoming a parent definitely changed my outlook on these things. There’s a natural reaction I have now where, when I view any kind of onscreen death of a child or even an older teenager, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. It’s probably a big reason I drift away from those types of films.

And M is available pretty much anywhere you look, I think. Peter Lorre is incredible in the final scenes.

Posted By Heidi : October 24, 2012 12:22 pm

Supernatural here too. I saw the original “Halloween” in the theater, well, saw is a bit strong. I had my hands over my eyes for most of the movie. I don’t like slasher movies, or the like. Give me a rotten old mummy, a non-sparkling vampire, or an alien overlord or two. I like the sci-fi stuff to a point. Mostly the older stuff, where the stories were new and shiny. Especially “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It is my favorite scare the wits out of me movies. I can’t watch it by myself or I can’t sleep. I try not to watch it at night too…for the same reason! That might not be strictly a horror movie, I don’t know, but it is to me!

Posted By Heidi : October 24, 2012 12:22 pm

Supernatural here too. I saw the original “Halloween” in the theater, well, saw is a bit strong. I had my hands over my eyes for most of the movie. I don’t like slasher movies, or the like. Give me a rotten old mummy, a non-sparkling vampire, or an alien overlord or two. I like the sci-fi stuff to a point. Mostly the older stuff, where the stories were new and shiny. Especially “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It is my favorite scare the wits out of me movies. I can’t watch it by myself or I can’t sleep. I try not to watch it at night too…for the same reason! That might not be strictly a horror movie, I don’t know, but it is to me!

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 12:30 pm

I love both the 1956 and the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both are superbly done. And they both fall under sci-fi/horror for me.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 12:30 pm

I love both the 1956 and the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Both are superbly done. And they both fall under sci-fi/horror for me.

Posted By evandorkin : October 24, 2012 2:34 pm

I almost always go for the supernatural. You could argue that the shark in Jaws is acting unnaturally in how it keeps coming back and keeps targeting the same area and seems almost willfully evil, and the sequence on the boat is pretty much a “cabin in the woods” at sea. But I understand why it doesn’t seem like it’s really a horror film. Some folks say if it means to scare, it’s horror. For me, Silence of the Lambs is a thriller/police procedural with scary stuff. I can see both sides, but I prefer the unreal myself.

Also, I think most folks consider Halloween’s killer to be supernatural, he’s not presented as ordinary. He can’t be killed, for one thing, even after considerable damage from knives, bullets. There’s an otherness to him even from the first film where there’s little back story. Later it becomes more explicitly (and stupidly) supernatural in the sequels. But he is a sort of “boogeyman” as described by Donal Pleasance at the end. If nothing else, he learned to drive by mental telepathy or something when he escapes the asylum. Unreal.

Posted By evandorkin : October 24, 2012 2:34 pm

I almost always go for the supernatural. You could argue that the shark in Jaws is acting unnaturally in how it keeps coming back and keeps targeting the same area and seems almost willfully evil, and the sequence on the boat is pretty much a “cabin in the woods” at sea. But I understand why it doesn’t seem like it’s really a horror film. Some folks say if it means to scare, it’s horror. For me, Silence of the Lambs is a thriller/police procedural with scary stuff. I can see both sides, but I prefer the unreal myself.

Also, I think most folks consider Halloween’s killer to be supernatural, he’s not presented as ordinary. He can’t be killed, for one thing, even after considerable damage from knives, bullets. There’s an otherness to him even from the first film where there’s little back story. Later it becomes more explicitly (and stupidly) supernatural in the sequels. But he is a sort of “boogeyman” as described by Donal Pleasance at the end. If nothing else, he learned to drive by mental telepathy or something when he escapes the asylum. Unreal.

Posted By Emgee : October 24, 2012 3:30 pm

The only imagination in a realistic horror movie is shown in the ways invented how to kill people. I call that Abbatoir Horror.
So, yeah, supernatural for me every time.

Posted By Emgee : October 24, 2012 3:30 pm

The only imagination in a realistic horror movie is shown in the ways invented how to kill people. I call that Abbatoir Horror.
So, yeah, supernatural for me every time.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 3:35 pm

Emgee, that is too often the problem: the movie just becomes an excuse to show new and inventive ways to kill people. Abbatoir Horror’s a good name for it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 3:35 pm

Emgee, that is too often the problem: the movie just becomes an excuse to show new and inventive ways to kill people. Abbatoir Horror’s a good name for it.

Posted By swac44 : October 24, 2012 4:21 pm

Sometimes I watch The Shining and wonder how much of what’s happening is just in Jack Torrence’s head, but you can’t deny the menacing vibe of the Overlook Hotel, with his son Danny’s psychic gift adding another supernatural (or perhaps paranormal) element.

BTW, I just want Evan Dorkin to know that occasionally Milk & Cheese chase me through my dreams, brandishing broken bottles and switchblades, demanding some sort of retribution. I hate it when dairy products go bad.

Posted By swac44 : October 24, 2012 4:21 pm

Sometimes I watch The Shining and wonder how much of what’s happening is just in Jack Torrence’s head, but you can’t deny the menacing vibe of the Overlook Hotel, with his son Danny’s psychic gift adding another supernatural (or perhaps paranormal) element.

BTW, I just want Evan Dorkin to know that occasionally Milk & Cheese chase me through my dreams, brandishing broken bottles and switchblades, demanding some sort of retribution. I hate it when dairy products go bad.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 4:25 pm

swac, there are definitely parts of The Shining that could be the imagination of Jack but for the most part, it’s spelled out as real (Wendy noticing alcohol on Jack’s breath from Lloyd the bartender, the fact that all three see ghosts and, the clincher, Jack being freed from the icebox). Also, the closing shot is presented as a neutral observation of a picture in the hotel from 1926 and it’s clear, he’s the caretaker.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 4:25 pm

swac, there are definitely parts of The Shining that could be the imagination of Jack but for the most part, it’s spelled out as real (Wendy noticing alcohol on Jack’s breath from Lloyd the bartender, the fact that all three see ghosts and, the clincher, Jack being freed from the icebox). Also, the closing shot is presented as a neutral observation of a picture in the hotel from 1926 and it’s clear, he’s the caretaker.

Posted By Cary Watson : October 24, 2012 4:31 pm

Definitely supernatural, for the simple reason that these films generally require a higher level of imagination to conceive and create. A slasher film is simply Jaws on land: we wait for the next victim of the implacable killing machine and the only variety comes from seeing how bloody or perverse the death scene is. Other than Psycho, I’d be hard pressed to think of a slasher that had any merit. Having said that, Psycho, for me, is one of the great all-time films. As you say, being a parent skews one’s view of serial killer films, but I have to give a shout-out to Chamber of Death (also called Melody’s Smile), a 2007 French thriller that for my money is better than Silence of the Lambs. It has all that film’s tension and horror, and also manages to throw in a romance and a lot of twisty plotting. A link to my review’s below:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2011/08/film-review-chamber-of-death-2007.html

Posted By Cary Watson : October 24, 2012 4:31 pm

Definitely supernatural, for the simple reason that these films generally require a higher level of imagination to conceive and create. A slasher film is simply Jaws on land: we wait for the next victim of the implacable killing machine and the only variety comes from seeing how bloody or perverse the death scene is. Other than Psycho, I’d be hard pressed to think of a slasher that had any merit. Having said that, Psycho, for me, is one of the great all-time films. As you say, being a parent skews one’s view of serial killer films, but I have to give a shout-out to Chamber of Death (also called Melody’s Smile), a 2007 French thriller that for my money is better than Silence of the Lambs. It has all that film’s tension and horror, and also manages to throw in a romance and a lot of twisty plotting. A link to my review’s below:

http://www.jettisoncocoon.com/2011/08/film-review-chamber-of-death-2007.html

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 4:35 pm

Cary, I’m completely unfamiliar with Chamber of Death so thanks for the heads-up. Seeing that Melanie Laurent is in it is a definite plus for me.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 4:35 pm

Cary, I’m completely unfamiliar with Chamber of Death so thanks for the heads-up. Seeing that Melanie Laurent is in it is a definite plus for me.

Posted By James : October 24, 2012 4:53 pm

I agree with Evan regarding Halloween. Along with telepathic driving lessons and the ending, Michael Myers is often framed by the camera to suggest he isn’t bound by the laws of physics. I’m thinking specifically of the scene when Jamie Lee Curtis spots him outside of her house. He’s gone two quick edits later(backyard/Curtis’ reaction/backyard). In real life, Curtis would have seen him walking away. There are several scenes like this, as I recall.

For the first half of the movie, Carpenter shoots Myers near the edges of the frame (the young boy runs into him outside of school) or in the distance, indistinct, in wide shots (the backyard scene). These scenes really build up a subtle suggestion that Myers isn’t quite canny, so to speak. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the many sequels. What’s great about Halloween is Carpenter’s direction, especially his playfulness with the camera, not the plot as such (as Pauline Kael noted, the story is pretty creaky).

Regarding The Silence of the Lambs, something about the film I think gets overlooked (at least sometimes) is the subtly feminist story of Jodie Foster making her way through a bureaucratic (patriarchal?) profession dominated by men. It’s what I presume attracted Foster into taking the role. That story actually takes up more running time than Lecter’s appearances.

Posted By James : October 24, 2012 4:53 pm

I agree with Evan regarding Halloween. Along with telepathic driving lessons and the ending, Michael Myers is often framed by the camera to suggest he isn’t bound by the laws of physics. I’m thinking specifically of the scene when Jamie Lee Curtis spots him outside of her house. He’s gone two quick edits later(backyard/Curtis’ reaction/backyard). In real life, Curtis would have seen him walking away. There are several scenes like this, as I recall.

For the first half of the movie, Carpenter shoots Myers near the edges of the frame (the young boy runs into him outside of school) or in the distance, indistinct, in wide shots (the backyard scene). These scenes really build up a subtle suggestion that Myers isn’t quite canny, so to speak. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the many sequels. What’s great about Halloween is Carpenter’s direction, especially his playfulness with the camera, not the plot as such (as Pauline Kael noted, the story is pretty creaky).

Regarding The Silence of the Lambs, something about the film I think gets overlooked (at least sometimes) is the subtly feminist story of Jodie Foster making her way through a bureaucratic (patriarchal?) profession dominated by men. It’s what I presume attracted Foster into taking the role. That story actually takes up more running time than Lecter’s appearances.

Posted By tdraicer : October 24, 2012 5:08 pm

I too think that Halloween comes down on the side of the supernatural in the end-even more so in the extended version when you see that Michael Meyers has ties to the Druids. He really was the Boogyman.

Which is fine for me, because I too prefer my horror supernatural.

Posted By tdraicer : October 24, 2012 5:08 pm

I too think that Halloween comes down on the side of the supernatural in the end-even more so in the extended version when you see that Michael Meyers has ties to the Druids. He really was the Boogyman.

Which is fine for me, because I too prefer my horror supernatural.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 10:31 pm

Evan, James and Tdraicer: I’m out of the loop on this one. It’s been years (hell, maybe a couple of decades) since I’ve really watched Halloween all the way through (I overloaded on it in the eighties). As a result, I’ve forgotten just how unreal he is. Of course, I know he escaped from an asylum but thinking of him as a supernatural force of evil (perhaps taken over in the asylum) is something I haven’t given a great deal of thought to. I am definitely going to watch it again soon. And I’ve never, ever seen the extended director’s cut so I guess that’s the one I’ll go with. Also, never watched any sequel past the first one and that one only once in 1981. I have since totally forgotten it. Obviously. Need to see it again.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 24, 2012 10:31 pm

Evan, James and Tdraicer: I’m out of the loop on this one. It’s been years (hell, maybe a couple of decades) since I’ve really watched Halloween all the way through (I overloaded on it in the eighties). As a result, I’ve forgotten just how unreal he is. Of course, I know he escaped from an asylum but thinking of him as a supernatural force of evil (perhaps taken over in the asylum) is something I haven’t given a great deal of thought to. I am definitely going to watch it again soon. And I’ve never, ever seen the extended director’s cut so I guess that’s the one I’ll go with. Also, never watched any sequel past the first one and that one only once in 1981. I have since totally forgotten it. Obviously. Need to see it again.

Posted By Chubbles MacWuss : October 24, 2012 10:51 pm

I think that one of the hallmark characteristics of great horror is when a story is initially PRESENTED to the viewer as one that will be down-to-earth and naturalistic — & then gradually one begins to realize that there is an entirely different layer operating — & this non-naturalistic or super-naturalistic layer SLOWLY comes to dominate more and more of the viewer’s interest…

This is what we get with “The Exorcist” for example — where great pains are taken to slowly show the viewer that every “rational” avenue has already been explored and failed …

This is what we get with Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” — where everything is a naturalistic “womens’ picture” sensibility — but gradually one starts to realize that there is something deeply “wrong” — & the focus then becomes — well, can it be healed? — (hey Mrs. Danvers, maybe you ought to give Zoloft a whirl?!? or some such) — but ultimately what’s “wrong” is much much deeper and somehow “haunts” the house — as in Poe’s “Usher” or what-have-you …

This is what we get with Twin Peaks — where this TV show is presented to us quite clearly as “another cutesy exploration of small-town whimsy”, just like Northern Exposure or like Andy Griffith or god-knows-what … But if you stick with it and start to peel back the layers of veneer — you wind up a year or two later with the infamous final episode in which Lynch out-Kubricks Kubrick — & with the black lodge/ red room sequences gives us what was surely one of the more bizarre hours EVER to air on a broadcast station throughout the history of the medium …

Posted By Chubbles MacWuss : October 24, 2012 10:51 pm

I think that one of the hallmark characteristics of great horror is when a story is initially PRESENTED to the viewer as one that will be down-to-earth and naturalistic — & then gradually one begins to realize that there is an entirely different layer operating — & this non-naturalistic or super-naturalistic layer SLOWLY comes to dominate more and more of the viewer’s interest…

This is what we get with “The Exorcist” for example — where great pains are taken to slowly show the viewer that every “rational” avenue has already been explored and failed …

This is what we get with Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” — where everything is a naturalistic “womens’ picture” sensibility — but gradually one starts to realize that there is something deeply “wrong” — & the focus then becomes — well, can it be healed? — (hey Mrs. Danvers, maybe you ought to give Zoloft a whirl?!? or some such) — but ultimately what’s “wrong” is much much deeper and somehow “haunts” the house — as in Poe’s “Usher” or what-have-you …

This is what we get with Twin Peaks — where this TV show is presented to us quite clearly as “another cutesy exploration of small-town whimsy”, just like Northern Exposure or like Andy Griffith or god-knows-what … But if you stick with it and start to peel back the layers of veneer — you wind up a year or two later with the infamous final episode in which Lynch out-Kubricks Kubrick — & with the black lodge/ red room sequences gives us what was surely one of the more bizarre hours EVER to air on a broadcast station throughout the history of the medium …

Posted By Doug : October 25, 2012 1:25 am

Great post Greg-the ‘comforting unreality’ that you mention, of knowing that supernatural horrors aren’t quite as unsettling as the possible very real horrors which are part of our world-it made me think of another comforting disconnect which now happens for me:
I’m 53,and teen age kids being killed by some evil, whether natural or supernatural, doesn’t affect me in quite the same way because I don’t identify with kids on the screen anymore.
When I was a teenager and saw “Carrie” I related to the kids.
Remember the last shock of the movie? The second time I saw it I timed grabbing my friend’s hand with the hand coming out of the ground and yes, she did scream!

Posted By Doug : October 25, 2012 1:25 am

Great post Greg-the ‘comforting unreality’ that you mention, of knowing that supernatural horrors aren’t quite as unsettling as the possible very real horrors which are part of our world-it made me think of another comforting disconnect which now happens for me:
I’m 53,and teen age kids being killed by some evil, whether natural or supernatural, doesn’t affect me in quite the same way because I don’t identify with kids on the screen anymore.
When I was a teenager and saw “Carrie” I related to the kids.
Remember the last shock of the movie? The second time I saw it I timed grabbing my friend’s hand with the hand coming out of the ground and yes, she did scream!

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : October 25, 2012 2:49 am

I guess i am not the greatest Horror Fan anyway.
I never was into Universal Monster Movies,Hammer Horror or
Slasher Flics.
I love TCM(the Movie)cause it is a raw and gritty B-Picture.
I like De Palma´s Carrie for it´s great Cinematography.
The last Horror Story,that had my Interest was
“Let the right one in” Loved the Book and both Film Versions.
It mixed Natural and Supernatural Horror,in a way,early King did.
Watched “Let me in”with my Son,a few Weeks ago.
The Bully´s frightend him more,than Abby did.

Posted By Ghijath Naddaf : October 25, 2012 2:49 am

I guess i am not the greatest Horror Fan anyway.
I never was into Universal Monster Movies,Hammer Horror or
Slasher Flics.
I love TCM(the Movie)cause it is a raw and gritty B-Picture.
I like De Palma´s Carrie for it´s great Cinematography.
The last Horror Story,that had my Interest was
“Let the right one in” Loved the Book and both Film Versions.
It mixed Natural and Supernatural Horror,in a way,early King did.
Watched “Let me in”with my Son,a few Weeks ago.
The Bully´s frightend him more,than Abby did.

Posted By Gene : October 25, 2012 3:50 am

I grew up loving horror films. Supernatural films were certainly what I favored as a child. As an adult my favorite films that could be categorized as horror would be Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Hitchcock’s The Birds, Clayton’s The Innocents, Bergman’s Hour of The Wolf. Of course none of these titles fit neatly within a pure horror genre and perhaps that is what I like about them. They elegantly blend horror with psycho-drama and suspense and portray the angst of both the human condition as well as the terrors just outside our door. If I think further about this, I would say that some of the films I truly admire are those produced by Val Lewton. What I like about them is the fact that the true horrors are not supernatural but natural and embedded within everyday life. So, I guess I side on realism but not the kind of stuff a film like Hostel offers. I stop somewhere around the late 70s/early 80s with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. Exploring the human condition and leaving the truly horrible to the viewer’s imagination is far more effective than the clinical brutality of a Rob Zombie.

I have seen parts of Henry, and acknowledge that it is well done but it, like the Great Pasolini’s Salo and Villaronga’s In a Glass Cage take a path that is dangerous as entertainment even though all three films are meant to be earnest explorations of human depravity and cruelty. As to Argento I have only seen Suspiria and Tenebre. The former I flip-flop on as to whether I find it effective or not, the latter I find to be impressive but the brutal misogyny prevents me from further viewings.

As entertainment then I would choose the supernatural path, but using horror as catharsis – when handled carefully – raises the genre above entertainment to a true art.

Posted By Gene : October 25, 2012 3:50 am

I grew up loving horror films. Supernatural films were certainly what I favored as a child. As an adult my favorite films that could be categorized as horror would be Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, Hitchcock’s The Birds, Clayton’s The Innocents, Bergman’s Hour of The Wolf. Of course none of these titles fit neatly within a pure horror genre and perhaps that is what I like about them. They elegantly blend horror with psycho-drama and suspense and portray the angst of both the human condition as well as the terrors just outside our door. If I think further about this, I would say that some of the films I truly admire are those produced by Val Lewton. What I like about them is the fact that the true horrors are not supernatural but natural and embedded within everyday life. So, I guess I side on realism but not the kind of stuff a film like Hostel offers. I stop somewhere around the late 70s/early 80s with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. Exploring the human condition and leaving the truly horrible to the viewer’s imagination is far more effective than the clinical brutality of a Rob Zombie.

I have seen parts of Henry, and acknowledge that it is well done but it, like the Great Pasolini’s Salo and Villaronga’s In a Glass Cage take a path that is dangerous as entertainment even though all three films are meant to be earnest explorations of human depravity and cruelty. As to Argento I have only seen Suspiria and Tenebre. The former I flip-flop on as to whether I find it effective or not, the latter I find to be impressive but the brutal misogyny prevents me from further viewings.

As entertainment then I would choose the supernatural path, but using horror as catharsis – when handled carefully – raises the genre above entertainment to a true art.

Posted By Adam : October 25, 2012 7:16 am

For me William Castle’s ‘House on Haunted Hill’ is the perfect super/natural film. For all the gimmickry associated with it, it has the relative intelligence (not to say natural denotes intelligence) to choose an ambiguous ending. Most of the ghoul-activity is revealed to be set-up, and yet the possibility of the house being haunted is not weakened at all.

It was written by Robb White who wrote adventure novels among other things – and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a great script. It manages to be funny (but not all out like ‘And Then There Were None’) and creepy.

“Darling, the only ghoul in this house is you.” I mean what a great line!

Posted By Adam : October 25, 2012 7:16 am

For me William Castle’s ‘House on Haunted Hill’ is the perfect super/natural film. For all the gimmickry associated with it, it has the relative intelligence (not to say natural denotes intelligence) to choose an ambiguous ending. Most of the ghoul-activity is revealed to be set-up, and yet the possibility of the house being haunted is not weakened at all.

It was written by Robb White who wrote adventure novels among other things – and I don’t care what anyone says, it’s a great script. It manages to be funny (but not all out like ‘And Then There Were None’) and creepy.

“Darling, the only ghoul in this house is you.” I mean what a great line!

Posted By Commander Adams : October 25, 2012 4:40 pm

When I was a kid, I automatically linked horror with the supernatural in my mind, and felt cheated if a movie was advertised as horror in the TV guide and didn’t feature a monster or some supernatural element. As an adult, I link horror as a genre as much as or more to comedy or romance than science fiction, fantasy, in that it tries to invoke certain and specific emotions, feelings or moods in its audience through its narrative techniques. The difference between horror and suspense is not, I think, that rationality breaks down; if that did happen, we would not be able to identify with the story. Instead, what happens is a breakdown of our expectations of rationality, and we are confronted with the unreasonable, yet the all too real.

Posted By Commander Adams : October 25, 2012 4:40 pm

When I was a kid, I automatically linked horror with the supernatural in my mind, and felt cheated if a movie was advertised as horror in the TV guide and didn’t feature a monster or some supernatural element. As an adult, I link horror as a genre as much as or more to comedy or romance than science fiction, fantasy, in that it tries to invoke certain and specific emotions, feelings or moods in its audience through its narrative techniques. The difference between horror and suspense is not, I think, that rationality breaks down; if that did happen, we would not be able to identify with the story. Instead, what happens is a breakdown of our expectations of rationality, and we are confronted with the unreasonable, yet the all too real.

Posted By chris : October 25, 2012 10:12 pm

I would argue that “Halloween” has a foot in both the natural and supernatural. Yes, it’s real person doing the killing(Michael Myers). Yet, when Dr. Loomis refers to him he calls him pure evil. Also, at the end of the movie, after Myers pulls the mask back on and Loomis unloads his gun into him, Loomis looks down to see that Michael is gone. My personal supernatural explanation is that the mask gives Myers the power not only to kill but to survive the deadly onslaught. If only Loomis had shot before Myers got the mask back on.

Posted By chris : October 25, 2012 10:12 pm

I would argue that “Halloween” has a foot in both the natural and supernatural. Yes, it’s real person doing the killing(Michael Myers). Yet, when Dr. Loomis refers to him he calls him pure evil. Also, at the end of the movie, after Myers pulls the mask back on and Loomis unloads his gun into him, Loomis looks down to see that Michael is gone. My personal supernatural explanation is that the mask gives Myers the power not only to kill but to survive the deadly onslaught. If only Loomis had shot before Myers got the mask back on.

Posted By Dave : October 25, 2012 10:22 pm

I despise the slaher films. I love psychological (The Innocents) and gothic (Hammer) horror. Even Rosemary’s Baby plays alot on psychological fears.

Posted By Dave : October 25, 2012 10:22 pm

I despise the slaher films. I love psychological (The Innocents) and gothic (Hammer) horror. Even Rosemary’s Baby plays alot on psychological fears.

Posted By Richard : October 26, 2012 2:55 pm

As was implied by others, many of the better horror films allow the natural and supernatural to bump into each other. You can argue that the shark in Jaws is natural, but as presented it takes on a mythic stature. That is why Jaws is way better than any of the many reality TV shows about shark attacks. Real sharks don’t come with their own swim up music or borrow from Alfred Hitchcock. It’s scarier that way.

Ironically, the truly scary sequence in Jaws is the (natural)story told by Quint (the great Robert Shaw)about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the shark attacks that followed. No severed heads or contrived torture porn scenarios can compete with this.

Yeah, for me Jaws is a horror movie.

Posted By Richard : October 26, 2012 2:55 pm

As was implied by others, many of the better horror films allow the natural and supernatural to bump into each other. You can argue that the shark in Jaws is natural, but as presented it takes on a mythic stature. That is why Jaws is way better than any of the many reality TV shows about shark attacks. Real sharks don’t come with their own swim up music or borrow from Alfred Hitchcock. It’s scarier that way.

Ironically, the truly scary sequence in Jaws is the (natural)story told by Quint (the great Robert Shaw)about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the shark attacks that followed. No severed heads or contrived torture porn scenarios can compete with this.

Yeah, for me Jaws is a horror movie.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 29, 2012 12:36 pm

Thanks for the great comments everyone. I’ve been away and not able to answer all of these like I usually like to but I do appreciate the great dialogue all of you bring to it.

It’s interesting how many horror movies that have a reality-based situation, like Halloween and Jaws, can be interpreted to be supernatural as well. Certainly both Michael Myers and the shark exist as extreme outliers from their respective norms but Myers definitely swings a lot more towards the supernatural than I previously gave him credit for.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : October 29, 2012 12:36 pm

Thanks for the great comments everyone. I’ve been away and not able to answer all of these like I usually like to but I do appreciate the great dialogue all of you bring to it.

It’s interesting how many horror movies that have a reality-based situation, like Halloween and Jaws, can be interpreted to be supernatural as well. Certainly both Michael Myers and the shark exist as extreme outliers from their respective norms but Myers definitely swings a lot more towards the supernatural than I previously gave him credit for.

Posted By Kendra : October 31, 2012 10:22 am

I agree, Greg! Supernatural horror (ghost stories specifically) tend to creep me out more on the whole. Having said that, HALLOWEEN gave me recurring nightmares when I was a tween (I stayed up and caught it on TV one Halloween when I was about 12 and it scarred me for years) and Tobe Hooper’s version of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is literally the scariest film I’ve ever seen. Even the low-budgetness of it goes a long way in adding to the creep-factor.

Posted By Kendra : October 31, 2012 10:22 am

I agree, Greg! Supernatural horror (ghost stories specifically) tend to creep me out more on the whole. Having said that, HALLOWEEN gave me recurring nightmares when I was a tween (I stayed up and caught it on TV one Halloween when I was about 12 and it scarred me for years) and Tobe Hooper’s version of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is literally the scariest film I’ve ever seen. Even the low-budgetness of it goes a long way in adding to the creep-factor.

Posted By swac44 : October 31, 2012 10:49 am

Did a double feature of the original Halloween and its immediate sequel Halloween II on the weekend, and was pleased to see how well Carpenter’s film holds up, although the second one not so much, as it seems to deflate whatever supernatural aura Michael Myers has built up around him in the first film. It’s good to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance again in their familiar roles, although Curtis doesn’t get a whole lot to do, and they style of the film is rather flat overall (directed by Rick Rosenthal, who also directed a belated The Birds sequel, The Birds II: Land’s End, released to video with an “Alan Smithee” credit).

Posted By swac44 : October 31, 2012 10:49 am

Did a double feature of the original Halloween and its immediate sequel Halloween II on the weekend, and was pleased to see how well Carpenter’s film holds up, although the second one not so much, as it seems to deflate whatever supernatural aura Michael Myers has built up around him in the first film. It’s good to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance again in their familiar roles, although Curtis doesn’t get a whole lot to do, and they style of the film is rather flat overall (directed by Rick Rosenthal, who also directed a belated The Birds sequel, The Birds II: Land’s End, released to video with an “Alan Smithee” credit).

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