October 30, 2020

What Makes a Horror Film Fun?

Halloween fun fair

It might strike some people as strange to refer to "fun horror" films. If a horror movie is really a horror movie, how can it be fun? Isn't horror supposed to be horrific, and wouldn't that be the opposite of fun? I suppose it all depends on what you consider fun and what kind of horror films you enjoy. Many horror fans think it is fun to watch all sorts of horror films, including those with horror credentials nobody would dispute. I'm one of them. "Fun" doesn't mean "funny;" it means something closer to enjoyable. As someone who enjoys horror movies, I have fun watching many of them.

But yes, when most of us refer to "fun horror films," I think we have something a bit different in mind. I love Hellraiser and enjoy watching it every time I do, but I'd never claim it was fun. In truth, I find it very difficult to define what a "fun horror film" is even though it is easy to think of examples of what I'd consider to be fun horror movies. Consider the horror comedy. A good horror comedy often manages to be fun while still being a horror film. The Evil Dead trilogy is often considered the benchmark of this sort of thing. While I thought the first one was somewhat scary the first time I saw it, the second went in somewhat more of a comedic direction, and Army of Darkness took that even further. All were what I'd consider fun horror films.

I also think it is possible for a horror film to be fun without piling on lots of comedic aspects. I thought Alien and The Thing were fun, but neither were particularly funny. If an action film or a science fiction film can be fun, and many are, I see no reason why an action-oriented horror film or a sci-fi-oriented horror film couldn't be fun too.

I'm going to suggest we pause on trying to figure out how we might define "fun horror" and list some examples. Maybe that will help us figure out what, if anything, they might have in common.

Some of My Favorite Fun Horror Films

When I think of fun horror films, here are some that come to mind:

What Makes a Horror Film Fun?

So what makes a horror film a fun horror film? Obviously, you have to enjoy watching it. I suspect it also needs to be the kind of film you'd recommend to others with similar tastes (e.g., I'm not going to recommend Dead Snow to anybody who doesn't love gore or refuses to watch films with subtitles). That would suggest that it is the kind of film many horror fans would enjoy (i.e., a cult film). It probably also needs to be the kind of film that would be especially fun to watch in a group setting. What else? The first time I watched each of the films on the list above, I felt like I was watching something different from the usual fare and something that surpassed my expectations. And when I watch any of the films on the list above now, it is not uncommon for me to find myself yelling, "fuck yeah" or something similar at the TV. I think that is because they are energizing in some way. They are also films I can't seem to get tired of no matter how many times I see them.

I'm not sure this helps us set out specific criteria we might use to determine if a horror film deserves to be described as "fun." Perhaps there is too much individual variability here so that we are each going to have our own distinct lists because "fun" in this context is really more about our preferences than anything else. Maybe "fun" doesn't mean much more than "It is fun for me."

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