Greetings and Happy Monday! Today I launch what will be a weekly discussion piece called "Horror or Not." The simplistic title belies the often daunting task of classifying certain films that straddle multiple genres. My compatriots in the field of horror film scholarship and I are known to wax both poetic and idiotic about some of our favorite films and whether they would be more appropriately labeled in a different category than horror. I have so far been very impressed with the readership of Horror Squad and their comments on various articles, so I am anxious to initiate discussion and/or debate on the subject. Our first film up for review is the incontrovertibly classic Alien.
The Pro (as in of course it is horror):
We have a savage monster stalking and killing hapless victims in the dark. The film employs effective, but ultimately conventional jump scares recognizable to the horror genre. The film could be perceived as a man vs. nature horror film a la Jaws or Razorback, making Alien an exquisite creature feature. We also have Sigourney Weaver as our final girl, who outwits the baddie throughout the film and ends up the lone survivor. For frak sake, Alien is the film that inspired the blurring of the line between Sci-Fi and Horror and ended up creating a fused third category; the fusion of which is in no insignificant way a result of the atmosphere and beautifully disturbing gore effects.
The Con (no way is it horror):
The freaking movie is called Alien! It is about a crew on a mining rig in space who find themselves embroiled in a very close encounter with another lifeform. The movie takes place on a spaceship and there is a scene of them landing on a distant planet. Sure there are scary moments, but ultimately it's about spacemen (and smoking hot spacewomen) battling an alien invader. The climax of the film features blaring sirens and computerized voices warning that the ship will self-destruct as our heroine struggles to evade the creature and make it to the escape pod. If that doesn't paint you a portrait of classic Sci-Fi I don't know what does.
The argument over whether Alien is Sci-Fi or Horror is basically a discussion of methodology versus tone. Space ships, alien species, robots, and advanced technology are all key components of this film so ignoring the Sci-Fi classification would be foolish. But for me, I feel that the tone of the film and the reactions it strives, and succeeds, to illicit from the audience is part and parcel of the horror genre. I consider it a horror film. Alien is a haunted house movie where the haunted house happens to be floating in space. It is a slasher film where the slasher has a large, curved head and a pharyngeal jaw. The Sci-Fi elements are the tools employed for telling what is clearly a horror story. Okay, so those are my two cents, but what do you think? Let the debate commence!