Horror and mood

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

American Philosophical Quarterly

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) and H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror (1929) are examples of the same genre: horror. As works of horror, moviegoers to the former and readers of the latter expect a number of things from each work. For example, when we are told that Dawn of the Deadis a horror film, we may have a certain set of expectations about the kind of atmosphere or images we will experience if we watch it. More specifically, we do not expect to see a snooty cat and a courageous dog, with their celebrity voices, work together to save an abandoned kid in trouble. On the contrary, we expect to see blood, possibly murder, and to experience a dark atmosphere. The fact that we have specific expectations and intuitions about horror films (or novels, paintings, or other works) does not imply that we are always able to classify what is and what is not a horror film. Consider, for example, Roman Polanski’s “apartment trilogy,” which comprises Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and The Tenant (1976). Rosemary’s Baby is generally considered a horror movie, whereas the other two are hybrids: thriller/psychological-horror films. Other examples are the Italian giallo movies, such as Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso [Deep red] (1975). Profondo Rosso is generally considered a horror film, but with many elements particular to the detective and noir genres. Exploitation films are also hard to classify: some of them can be considered examples of horror films, such as Wes Craven’s shock film Last House on the Left (1972).

Print ISSN




Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2014 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version



Recommended Citation

Sauchelli, A. (2014). Horror and mood. American Philosophical Quarterly, 51(1), 39-50. Retrieved from http://apq.press.illinois.edu/51/1/sauchelli.html