Politics Magazine

Flights of Horror

Posted on the 27 November 2023 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

I’m never quite sure where to put him. Alfred Hitchcock, that is. Part of the problem is that “horror” is a very slippery genre. Most people classify much of Hitchcock’s work in the “thriller” genre, wanting to avoid the disrespectful older cousin, horror. I recently rewatched The Birds, a movie I first saw in college. You see, Hitchcock is an auteur demanding respect (never mind that many horror directors are highly educated and sophisticated). Even dainty colleges like Grove City considered him worthy of students’ attention. But while watching the extras it became clear that other horror directors considered The Birds horror, or, as they put it, Hitchcock’s monster movie. With its famously ambiguous ending, the film is still a frightening experience. And yet we consider it safe, because it’s Hitchcock.

Flights of Horror

I think about this quite a lot.  Even in Holy Horror I wondered whether including Psycho was fair game.  There’s no doubt that the remake is horror, and Robert Bloch, the author, was a horror writer and friend of H. P. Lovecraft.  But Psycho is Hitchcock.  Doesn’t that make it more respectable than mere horror?  Horror is often defined as being, or having, monsters.  That’s a bit simplistic in my book, but it is workable.  Pirates of the Caribbean movies all have monsters in them, but they’re blockbuster adventures.  Have the monsters deserted horror?  Or maybe is it that we have an ill-fitting genre title that we just don’t know what to do with?

The Birds is a scary movie.  Animals mass and attack, with the intent to kill.  Daphne du Maurier wasn’t really considered a horror writer, but her books and stories were adapted into horror films.  Like Hitchcock, she’s often considered above mere horror.  It seems that we’re being a bit dishonest here.  Why are we so afraid of horror?  The category, I mean.  Perhaps because the slashers—which Psycho kinda initiated—gave horror a bad rap.  Too much blood.  But there’s blood in The Birds.  Is it the mindless desire to kill?  Just ask the residents of Bodega Bay after the fire broke out.  It seems we have a real prejudice on our hands.  Horror grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and there’s nothing that can be done to make it respectable.  Horror fans object to recent attempts to call certain films “elevated horror” or “intelligent horror.”  Those who use terms like this sometimes imply that the rest of it is, well, for the birds.  It’s time, perhaps, for a new category.

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