Trick or Treat: Which is the Best Halloween Media?

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Halloween and horror media can be divided into two categories: traditional horror and casual viewing horror. Two of our writers will define their categories and express the effectiveness of the categories as horror mediums in this mini-debate.

Trick – Traditional Horror

Olivia Middleton

As the 31st of October approaches, we must all prepare for the horror-filled holiday of Halloween. Some of you may choose to celebrate it with the casual viewing such as Hocus Pocus or Casper the Friendly Ghost. This style of ‘casual viewing’ is incredibly popular yet does not do the holiday justice. The best way to celebrate is the traditional way; with different forms of horror media.

There is a horror film for everyone. With such a wide range, everyone will find one that they enjoy, even people who say they don’t like horror films. Not every film will make you unable to sleep at night. If you fall under the category of easily scared, you can still celebrate Halloween by watching toned down films or older horror films such as Alien or The Fly. These accommodate your need for horror, but not by scaring you. On the other hand, you can fill yourself with fear by exposing yourself to genuine scary films. For die-hard horror fans, there are a range of films to go for. Jumpscare films such as Paranormal Activities or The Conjuring can offer short, quick scares while psychological horrors tend to linger with you as Get Out had me on edge for days. Saw and Hostel appeal to those looking for some gore porn to celebrate Halloween. A film can appeal to anyone as there are so many types, even people who hate horror can find enjoyment in the psychological thrillers.

A more immersive experience can be found by playing horror games. These range from the classics such as Slender: The Eight Pages which are quicker paced games compared to the longer games, driven by dark themes such as Silent Hill. These may be more enjoyable as they are more interactive that a horror film. Take Until Dawn for example. This game allows you to choose your own story, so the horror can be avoided, and you never know when to expect it. It keeps you on edge as you decide your own fate. Many horror games are just as immersive as this, increasing their fear factor and making them worth playing.

However, we must consider the very possible reality that not all horror films are good. In fact, the reality of the situation is that there are plenty of horror films that are below par in their fear factor and above par in their comedy. These still count as traditional forms of horror, so you are still celebrating the holiday accordingly; however, the fear is replaced with cheap jump scares and laughter. Well known films such as Sharknado and Birdemic. These films attempt to take themselves seriously as horror films yet fail miserably either due to bad acting or ridiculous storylines. Most of the horror films I have seen have caused me to laugh rather than cower in fear.

Watching horror films can burn roughly 113 calories at a time (obviously varying depending on the fear factor.) It is a form of workout from your coach which is a great reason to watch.

Mainly watching horror films or playing horror games can be incredibly fun.  Arrange a horror film night with your friends; choose a range films from different periods. When you scream or jump, you can’t help but laugh. I recently had a horror movie marathon with my friends and all we did was laugh at how funny our reactions were. Fear brings you together as friends.

We need to remember the reason this media is known as ‘traditional’ Halloween media. Halloween is the holiday of horror and so should be celebrated so.

Treat – Casual Viewing Horror

Emma Armitage

Hardcore Halloween and horror movies are not for everyone; they’re simply not the forte of self-proclaimed wusses, like myself. Whilst I cannot sit through a horror film or experience a horror game without jump scare timestamps on hand, I still enjoy the tamer version of the genre. Halloween media can be creepy, twisted and even unsettling without being outright fear-inducing.

Casual viewing horror is a sub-genre of horror media which I kind of identify as being media you can consume and then go on with your life with only being a little/not at all scared by the experience. This generally makes it universally watchable and means everyone can partake in Halloween to some extent.

For me, the epitome of casual viewing horror, is the multi-genre-horror, specifically the likes of Shaun of the Dead. As a zombie comedy, the film’s darker moments – like David literally being ripped limb from limb – are balanced with comic relief – “thanks, babe” – reducing any actual fear. I even felt somewhat calm by the end of the film since we are left with the impression that the film’s zombie virus fuelled world is at peace, and that Shaun and Ed’s relationship is the same as in the opening of the film. It all makes the film feel cyclic and safe to an extent; it’s masterful, even wholesome, storytelling. Plus, the meme-ability of the film removes some of the horror aspects when every other scene is frequently quotable.

A further example of successful casual horror is horror for children: Coraline. Upon first viewing this film as a child, I was downright terrified, but also absolutely captivated by the concept. A secret room in a new house? A talking cat? With a terrifying, spider Other-Mother who will always be hunting you, and the ghosts of dead children haunting your house? By marketing Coraline as a children’s film, it’s as if there is a seal of approval for all ages so it can’t be so scary a film (lies). The integration of more horrific aspects to the film, like the button eyes, was so seamlessly integrated into the Other world that it makes the film all the more unnerving. And yet, it’s so fantastical a setting that it’s enthralling and distracts from the horror itself.

On Steam, there is a video game genre called ‘Dark’, which perhaps perfectly represents the casual horror genre in gaming; it’s creepy and will stay with you, but you could still get to sleep that night. Games under this tag, such as Limbo and Inside, feature dark and gruesome aspects like reanimated corpses, snares, and brain altering grubs. Both games also use shadows and silence to create suspense, playing into the psychological horror genre. However, the games aren’t traditionally horrific as they have a simplistic game design and multiple lives. If it weren’t for some of the darkest themes in the games, like human experimentation, then the games would actually be some of the tamer aspects to casual horror media with puzzles and simplified death sequences made of geometrically shaped characters.

Whilst casual horror is obviously not one hundred percent traditionally horrific, how scary you find horror media and how appropriate you find it for Halloween is just personal preference: what may be seen as casual viewing by one individual, may be seen as horrific by another.

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