I have been wanting to write this post for some time, and now I finally have time to write it! Yay!
The Horror and Thriller genres are two that commonly get mixed up in the reading and film worlds; therefore, I wanted to take some time to write my take on how the two genres differ. As an avid reader and watcher of both genres, I have come to realize that every writer, reader, filmmaker and audience member has a different perception of what goes into a Horror film/book or a Thriller film/book. But based on my own writing, reading and watching experience, I have come to the following conclusion:
Horror is about Fear
Thriller is about Suspense
Even though fear can be present in Thrillers and suspense can be present in Horror, these are very different goals for each genre. Horror is centered on making the audience feel dread, while Thrillers are focused on the plot and creating an atmosphere of suspense. Horror tends to be personal for each audience member because the writing or filmmaking is geared to single each audience member out and play to their individual fears.
But with Thrillers, audience members tend to root for the protagonists and separate themselves from the characters, while with Horror the goal is to put the audience in the characters’ roles and situations. This allows the audience to feel isolated and dreadful, whereas Thrillers are meant to create suspense and action. In Thrillers, dread and fear is not the goal of the writers or filmmakers, while they are the goals of Horror writers and filmmakers.
Even though Horror can be defined differently by audience members and filmmakers/writers, it all comes down to what scares the audience. Some people may be scared by a Thriller that involves a child being kidnapped and held for ransom, while others might be scared more by a cannibal hunting down his next meal. The difference is, however, that Horror doesn’t have to be as realistic as Thrillers do. Horror can bend reality to make the storyline scarier and more gruesome, while Thrillers stick to more distinct reality lines.
When it comes down to it, it really depends on what the filmmaker/author is trying to portray, and how the audience receives the story.