Do Critics Really Hate Horror?

Do Critics Really Hate Horror?

Horror Pits Fans Against Critics

Horror movies are some of the only micro-budget films that routinely receive wide popularity and box office success, but conventional wisdom states that critics hate them. I assumed this to be the case, and set out to back it up with some facts.But, What I found surprised me.

I decided to compare IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the primary online representatives of audience and critical reception, respectively. The IMDb Top 250 takes into account how many users have rated a movie, and the weighted average of these ratings. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best available barometer for popular opinion on film. Currently, the list contains only six horror movies.

Rotten Tomatoes, on the other hand, has a list of the 100 best reviewed films according to a wide selection of critics. By my count, it contains 10 horror movies. Proportionally speaking, the Rotten Tomatoes list contains about four times as many horror movies as the IMDb list. There isn’t an exact science to genre classification, so the numbers could be one or two off depending on what qualifies as horror according to you. Bottom line, the critics actually seem to like horror movies more than general audiences.

However, critics don’t simply like more horror movies than moviegoers. Generally, they like different horror movies entirely. Take this year’s ‘The Witch,’ with a critical rating of 91%, and an audience rating of 55%, or 2014’s ‘Oculus’ (critical rating: 73%, audience rating: 53%). The basic trend here is that critics often appreciate unique, unconventional horror films, whereas a large portion of the audience finds them off-putting.

It seems many of the people that saw ‘The Witch’ in theaters were expecting a straightforward horror movie loaded with jump scares and constant stimulation. What they got instead was a well-researched period piece about the religion and family dynamics of 17th century America, that just so happened to be one of the most unsettling movies in recent memory. A large portion of the audience wants horror to meet their expectations, whereas critics prefer to have their expectations defied.

So where did we get the idea that critics hate horror movies? Well, in the past, that was often the case. Horror movies that are revered as classics and trend-setters today were savaged by critics when they were released. Back in 1968, The New York Times claimed that ‘Night of the Living Dead’ sounded like it “had been recorded in an empty swimming pool” and repeatedly called the actors “nonprofessional.” At the time, that was arguably one of the nicer reviews. In 2013, the same outlet published an article recognizing the film as “shocking,” “resonant,” and a “horror classic.”

The simple fact is that film criticism isn’t what it once was. The internet has opened it up to more people, not just the employees of major media outlets. Over the years, critics have grown less elitist, and less inclined to write off genre movies as cheap popcorn thrills (Roger Ebert, one of the few to defend ‘Night of the Living Dead’ on its release, probably deserves some credit for this as well). After all, we live in an age wherein ‘The Avengers,’ the live action equivalent of a Saturday morning cartoon (not that that's a bad thing), is a critically acclaimed movie. Being fun doesn’t necessarily count against a movie, so long as it’s well-made.

Over the years, critics have also become less inclined toward moralizing in their reviews. Half of Variety’s review for ‘Night of the Living Dead’ consisted of hand-wringing over the film’s violence, before it even addressed its quality. This attitude seems foreign today, when critics rarely address the content of a film. It would seem they’ve grown desensitized after decades of watching gore-fests for a living.

Genre bias certainly does exist in some elements of the media (how many horror movies have ever won an Oscar?), but our picture of the snobbish, self-righteous critic is painfully outdated. If anything, it’s time for general audiences to give original, risk-taking horror movies a shot.
Cover Image Credit: A24

Popular Right Now

A Letter To My Humans On Our Last Day Together

We never thought this day would come.

I didn't sleep much last night after I saw your tears. I would have gotten up to snuggle you, but I am just too weak. We both know my time with you is coming close to its end, and I just can't believe it how fast it has happened.

I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday.

You guys were squealing and jumping all around, because you were going home with a new dog. Dad, I can still feel your strong hands lifting me from the crate where the rest of my puppy brothers and sisters were snuggled around my warm, comforting puppy Momma. You held me up so that my chunky belly and floppy wrinkles squished my face together, and looked me right in the eyes, grinning, “She's the one."

I was so nervous on the way to my new home, I really didn't know what to expect.

But now, 12 years later as I sit in the sun on the front porch, trying to keep my wise, old eyes open, I am so grateful for you. We have been through it all together.

Twelve “First Days of School." Losing your first teeth. Watching Mom hang great tests on the refrigerator. Letting you guys use my fur as a tissue for your tears. Sneaking Halloween candy from your pillowcases.

Keeping quiet while Santa put your gifts under the tree each year. Never telling Mom and Dad when everyone started sneaking around. Being at the door to greet you no matter how long you were gone. Getting to be in senior pictures. Waking you up with big, sloppy kisses despite the sun not even being up.

Always going to the basement first, to make sure there wasn't anything scary. Catching your first fish. First dates. Every birthday. Prom pictures. Happily watching dad as he taught the boys how to throw every kind of ball. Chasing the sticks you threw, even though it got harder over the years.

Cuddling every time any of you weren't feeling well. Running in the sprinkler all summer long. Claiming the title “Shotgun Rider" when you guys finally learned how to drive. Watching you cry in mom and dads arms before your graduation. Feeling lost every time you went on vacation without me.

Witnessing the awkward years that you magically all overcame. Hearing my siblings learn to read. Comforting you when you lost grandma and grandpa. Listening to your phone conversations. Celebrating new jobs. Licking your scraped knees when you would fall.

Hearing your shower singing. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles in the sun. New pets. Family reunions. Sleepovers. Watching you wave goodbye to me as the jam-packed car sped up the driveway to drop you off at college. So many memories in what feels like so little time.

When the time comes today, we will all be crying. We won't want to say goodbye. My eyes might look glossy, but just know that I feel your love and I see you hugging each other. I love that, I love when we are all together.

I want you to remember the times we shared, every milestone that I got to be a part of.

I won't be waiting for you at the door anymore and my fur will slowly stop covering your clothes. It will be different, and the house will feel empty. But I will be there in spirit.

No matter how bad of a game you played, how terrible your work day was, how ugly your outfit is, how bad you smell, how much money you have, I could go on; I will always love you just the way you are. You cared for me and I cared for you. We are companions, partners in crime.

To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life.

Thank you for letting me grow up with you.

Love always,

Your family dog

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

Related Content

Facebook Comments