Distinguishing Tacky, Unoriginal Horror Movies From Truly Iconic Ones

Ming Wei Yeoh, Copy Editor

October signals the start of falling leaves, chilly weather and—of coursethe spookiest season of the year. It’s common for friends and family to gather and get into the Halloween spirit with some scary movies. There are the classics, which are almost universally loved, like The Shining, Carrie and the many versions of Rings. But what exactly makes these movies so captivating? With the countless horror films out there, these specific titles must have gained their popularity for a reason. Though their storylines and iconic characters are as different as could possibly be, maybe there is a pattern with these classi spooky films that sets them apart from the others. 

Annabel Schoenberger, ‘25, is an avid fan of horror movies and plans to watch some with friends to celebrate the Halloween season. Their top favorites include Scream, The Conjuring and Sleepy Hollow. When asked what they liked the most about these films, Schoenberger talked about the impressive special effects, as well as the scary and sometimes gory characteristics. In their opinion, however, a good horror movie does not necessarily have to be completely original or unique. 

“They all fall under the same category,” they said. “Every single horror movie has the same subjective plot. They’re all technically the same.” 

But that definitely does not take away from Schoenberger’s enjoyment of the genre. There are a few things that would turn them away from a specific film, though, such as boring plot or stale characters. In a rather morbid take, they joked that their own perfect horror movie would include “everyone dying.” As their interview came to a close, another film recommendation Schoenberger offered to students was The Shining, one of her other top favorites.

Paul Olson, who teaches Video Production I and II, offered some insight of his own. Olson’s horror favorites include the original Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and both It movies. He often prefers films that are adapted from books and short stories, such as It, which he enjoyed immensely in the original book format. They make a stark contrast to present examples of the genre, to his disappointment.

“The format gets copied over and over. We see similar themes and trends, as far as movies go. It doesn’t matter who the director is,” he said. 

Reboots are a common pattern, he observed. Countless horror films, including two of his personal favorites, are remade with a young, popular cast and strange adjustments that don’t seem to make sense. They are rarely as successful as the original or as well-made. Olson went on to describe some ways that creators could produce new, quality movies, starting with skillful storytelling and realistic character development. 

“We want to care about characters rather than [see] just a stereotypical person,” said Olson. 

Olson gave his final movie recommendations for MHS students plenty of thought. He settled on The Frighteners and a few Hitchcock classics—the original Psycho, Birds and Rear Window. He also encouraged students to check out Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, which he compared to a real horror film despite its short length. 

In today’s culture, scary movies are almost an integral part of Halloween. The next time they watch one, horror fans can think about keeping an eye out for a couple of new things, and judge if it’s really a good movie or not.