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As you plan new and unusual ways to get together and share a scare with your friends this year, you have to think about many different aspects of fear.

What makes your friends’ skin crawl? What makes them jump in fear?  What makes them cower?

Are they friends of gore? Do they want to see blood and guts and limbs?

Do they want a slow burn of increasing intensity that leads to a frenzied few minutes of climactic fear? Or do they want to be hit in the face with a fright in the opening moments and be taken on a thrill ride the entire evening?

These are the choices you will need to consider. And in order to do a good job planning a night out with friends you will want to know the difference between horror and suspense.


Many people believe that the “horror” in “horror movies” means simply feeling scared. However, that is not the case. Horror has a more specific definition that distinguishes it from other types of scary events.

Horror includes the grossed out feeling, the gag reflex, the I-need-to-cover-my-eyes response that comes from seeing something unbelievable or shocking.

This can even include the feel of disgust that comes from knowing that someone dreamed up such a horrible vision.

An example of a movie utilizing disgust is The Human Centipede which, for many, is simply unwatchable. While typical gore and murder remain fan favorites, this disgusting near-parody of horror movies works overtime to plow through taboos and raise a sense of disgust in viewers.

This movie achieves horror through disgust.


Suspense is a more refined and more broadly popular aspect of horror movies. In order to be effective, suspense doesn’t have to include a bloody mauling, stabbing, shooting, or even have to include a bad outcome for the character.

Suspense instead depends on your ability to put yourself in the character’s shoes, and to understand that something bad is just about to happen to them. The best suspense directors keep viewers on the edge of their seats for minutes at a time, wondering the the terrible thing that could happen will actually happen.

Many great suspenseful movies, whether directed by Alfred Hitchcock or M. Night Shyamalan, do not even include bloody scenes or, if they do include bloodshed, the camera does not count on the visual to create a sense of fright.

This Halloween, gather your friends together for a night that matches their interest – either horror or suspense. And then, when it gets dark, take them to the Haunted Scream or another local haunted in-person experience.

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