You know the movies that walk a very thin line between horror and suspense thriller? Yes, you know them and you love them, even though you balk before adding them to your carefully curated horror film collection because they don’t exactly fit in. Perhaps you believe in your heart of hearts that they are true horror, but there are many who would argue the contrary. Silence of the Lambs, for example, is celebrated as the only horror film to ever have won an Academy Award for best picture but is still commonly listed as a crime, drama, thriller. Whether or not a resolute decision on which film genre Buffalo Bill and Dr. Lecter truly belong in is ever made, it won’t change the fact that horror fans love this movie – because it’s excellent, of course, and because it’s just close enough.
Not all of the non-horror films most loved by horror fans are dramatic suspense thrillers, however. Some are the light-hearted yet dark comedy fantasies that creative visionaries the likes of Tim Burton have cooked up for us. It’s always nice to take a break from serious and enter the surreal – and horror fans find gems in dark comedy, fantasy and black comedy as well. Without any further ado, here are 8 non-horror films that horror fans love.
I saw this film in theaters when I was 14. That’s right, no Pocahontas and to hell with The Baby-Sitters Club. I was seeing Se7en – don’t worry about how I got in. Directed by David Fincher and released in September of 1995, Se7en is categorized as a neo-noir, psychological crime thriller but its unmistakable similarities to horror earn it some favor among many fans. Exploring the concept of the seven deadly sins and the extreme psychosis of a man who has gone to hideous lengths to make a statement about them, witnessing the trail of gore that’s left in the wake of his violent and twisted spree and then realizing that he just might win in the end is something you don’t see outside of the horror genre every day. The film plot is enough to pique the interest of any horror fan, but when delivered in such a manner as David Fincher and actors, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt did, Se7en offers up tremendous appeal.
If Beetlejuice didn’t come to mind when you read the words “non-horror movies loved by horror fans,” I don’t even know who you are anymore. Though the film did win a Saturn Award for Best Horror, it still remains in the comedy fantasy classification by most standards. Nevertheless, let’s turn on the juice and see what shakes loose. A young married couple tragically enter the afterlife and decide that in order to preserve the home they love, they will have to develop some haunting skills, a long-dead, maniacal ghost who specializes in haunts and poltergeists of the unsavory sort is unleashed and wreaks havoc on the home and all of its inhabitants, and a plethora of monstrous creatures and unhappily dead folks await on the outskirts. All this and it’s not a horror film, but we can all agree that we love it, as well as Michael Keaton.
Edward Scissorhands gets the American romantic dark comedy treatment but is yet another Tim Burton classic that horror fans can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s the huge creepy mansion that Edward appears out of, maybe it’s his leather-clad, scissor fisted self, or maybe it’s an appearance by the one and only Vincent Price as the inventor. All I know is, Edward Scissorhands is horror meets bittersweet romance where the bored housewives, along with their prying eyes and wayward gossip, are far scarier than the dude who has razor sharp blades for hands. Edward looks like something out of Hellraiser, but is sweeter and more innocent than almost everyone else in the sunny suburban town in which this dark fairytale takes place – and for that, we love him.
Cape Fear (1962 & 1991)
Both the original and the remake of this American psychological thriller managed to frighten me more than almost every horror film I’ve seen. That is because the things that a twisted and vengeful human being is capable of are far more real and terrifying than any monster or undead serial murderer. Both Robert Mitchum and Robert De Niro will go down as some of the scariest dudes I’ve ever seen on screen, and the fact that they have both played equally unnerving characters in films, like Night of the Hunter and Taxi Driver, shows that casting for these roles could not have been better. Both versions of Cape Fear were successful in bringing a whole lot of horror to a non-horror genre.
Speaking of Taxi Driver, here is another neo-noir psycho thriller that easily makes the list of non-horror films loved by horror fans. It’s also widely considered one of the greatest films of all time. If you can watch De Niro’s Travis Bickle grow increasingly more disturbed and violent as a result of his own overwhelming loneliness without the feeling of dread that often accompanies a horror film plot, then you at least have to agree that the an alienated man who struggles with violent urges and extreme self-righteousness is not only the main character’s diagnosis but a formula for the perfect horror movie villain. This psychological thriller helps explain why countless horror films in the psychological sub genre, like Jacob’s Ladder and Oculus, are so exceptional. It’s because a slow descent into madness is truly and certainly a frightening thing.
If we could have stuck with India passed the point where this film leaves off, it may have turned into a horror. The British-American psychological drama thriller (really, the categorizations just keep getting longer) is like a Hitchcockian-style origination story for your new favorite horror movie villain, but it’s much more thoughtful than action-packed. Beautifully eerie visuals and a growing sense of unease that comes to a head and then builds back up again throughout the movie is horror fan sweetmeat. Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, and Nicole Kidman all play characters who are spectacularly effed up, but as the main character, India, Wasikowska is successful at both charming and rattling you all at once.
This is one black comedy film that many viewers are surprised to find is not actually catalogued in the horror film genre. It’s easy to see where the confusion comes from, however. It could be from when the main character Patrick Bateman, sensationally acted by Christian Bale, lures his drunk coworker back to his apartment and murders him with an axe while “It’s Hip to be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News plays on his stereo. It could also be from when he kills two women at the same murdered coworker’s apartment, one of whom he chases after, while naked, in white high tops and wielding a chainsaw, and then kills her by dropping the menacing power tool on her on the staircase below him. Black comedy might not be for everyone, but we horror fans can dig it.
Death Becomes Her
Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her feels almost like an extra-long episode of his wildly popular HBO series, Tales from the Crypt. Despite its star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep, Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn and Isabella Rossellini, this flick assumes the qualities of the kind of campy horror comedy that horror fans have come to love so much, they search B movies for the same kind of amusement. I’m not saying that Death Becomes Her is on the same level as Wolfcop or Frankenhooker, but it’s extremely enjoyable for horror fans nonetheless.