What Is the Difference in a Horror Movie & a Thriller?

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Horror movies and thrillers share many common elements, but they are themselves two distinctly different genres. Learn the difference between horror movies and thrillers with help from a filmmaker and freelance editor in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Filmmaking & Camera Tips
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Video Transcript

Hi guys, I'm Justin Z. I am a Los Angeles filmmaker and freelance editor. I have been getting some basic questions about film making including this one what is the difference between a thriller film and a horror film. While the difference between thrill and horror is basically nervous versus scared. A thriller film is kind of meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, make you nervous for the character's plight or their fate. They may be in a dangerous situation that they have not yet encountered but you know they're about to so it makes you nervous for them, it makes you worried for them. A horror film is meant to make you scared for yourself. It's meant to make the audience feel insecure about themselves by seeing situations on screen that they can or may not want to relate to. So the difference between horror and thriller can sometimes be dependent on the director. A good example of a master of suspense thriller movies and horror movies is Alfred Hitchcock. So a movie of his that would be considered horror is "The Birds." It treats the movie kind of like a thriller where they have a lot of very tense moments where more and more birds will show up on screen and you'll get worried for the character. But, the way that it is a horror is that it is putting these characters in horrific situations that may you feel like you are in the situation. So it kind of is both but then there are other films that Hitchcock has done where it's just pure suspense and thriller that is not necessarily meant to be scary such as the movie "North by Northwest" that has two very suspenseful scenes in it such as the plane chase and the Mount Rushmore scene where he's falling off Mount Washington's nose. Those scenes are meant to be suspenseful and kind of scary but they're not meant to make you feel scary because when is the last time you've been to Mount Rushmore and falling off Washington's nose. So the basic idea to make it really simple is that suspense makes you feel scared for the character. Horror makes you feel scared for yourself. So, if you have any questions on the difference between a horror films or suspense or thriller films, feel free to ask.


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