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I was reading another Stack Exchange post that was trying to suss out the difference between the horror and thriller genres.

Some people were saying that horror movies typically have supernatural elements that are scary. But for example Silence of the Lambs, according to Wikipedia, is a horror-thriller without any supernatural elements.

Does a horror movie have to have supernatural elements? What makes a horror movie then?

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No

Horror does not require supernatural elements. The Horror genre is defined by the deliberate attempt to invoke a phychological reaction of terror, fear, shock and revulsion in the audience. It is not a requirement that it has a supernatural element.

It does overlap with the Thriller genre, which is more intended to impart excitement through the use of suspense and menace rather than outright attempt to impart fear or shock.

There are many sub-genres of Horror including:

  • Slasher. Films like Psycho and Scream
  • Psychological. Silence of the Lambs, The Shining
  • Religious / Supernatural. The Exorcist, The Omen
  • Science Fiction. Alien, A Quiet Place.
  • Splatter. Saw, Hostel

There's all sort of ways of categorizing these movies, for example The Shining has some supernatural themes, but many do not have any supernatural elements at all.

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  • Supernatural elements have also no monopole on being frightening, especially because other elements exist in reality. There are real life sadists and psycho-/sociopaths. "Alien" is a fictional lifeform, but there are many, many lifeforms on earth which have a lifecycle which is by no means less disgusting or terrible for the host. – Thorsten S. May 21 '18 at 18:24

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