Horror vs Thriller: Blurring The Line Between Genres

What Makes Horror Movies Different From Thriller Films?

Horror means to “horrify” audiences where a thriller attempts to “thrill”. Viewers see a difference between the two. I personally think the genres are interchangeable. One keeps you on the edge of your seat while the other makes you jump into the backseat. But no matter where you’re seated, that same rush of adrenaline is found.

Some believe a film’s theme can place it in a genre. It becomes complicated when you look to blur the lines. I can debate that 1978’s ‘Halloween‘ has more “thrills” than it does “horror”. If thrillers are grounded in realism then you’re able to easily label ‘Last House On The Left‘ as a thriller.

“Writing is writing, and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and nonfiction. And even there, who can be sure?”
Tanith Lee

As a horror fan, some films I call horror classify as thrillers by the general public. I can’t help but to feel the thriller label is on films like ‘Fatal Attraction‘ or ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin‘ due to dislike for horror films. You can’t tell me that ‘Fatal Attraction‘ didn’t put fear into any cheating man’s heart.

Even ‘The Silence Of The Lambs‘ struggles with where it falls on the genre spectrum. Wikipedia has it labeled a “psychological horror-thriller”. Does the crime element cancel out any inclination to label it purely a horror movie? I suppose the deranged Buffalo Bill or Hannibal Lecter does not “horrify” audiences enough.

Another example is 1995’s ‘Se7en‘. Crime & noir elements in the film have made most viewers look at it as a thriller. But those disgusting 7 deadly sins kills have more gore than an average American horror film. Lacking grotesque violence places a movie as a thriller but ‘Se7en‘ is most comparable to iconic horror film 2004’s ‘Saw‘. Both feature cops investigating a serial killer with a moral compass. Both also feature intense graphic effects, a trademark of a horror film. Once you begin to dissect the genres, it becomes harder to label movies.


So must we separate the two? Why can’t horror just absorb the thriller genre and place so many films back to their home? As a cinephile and horror fan, the division between the genres has to stop. Ending the separation between thriller/horror is how you end stigmas against the horror genre.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! Do you believe that horror and thriller is a useless separation or do you think the line between the two is clear?


EJ Moreno
EJ Morenohttp://Vimeo.com/EJMoreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at Vimeo.com/ejmoreno