Have we become desensitised to horror and gore?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: October 12, 2022 (Last updated: last month)
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Horror films and gore have long piqued our interest since television and film became a part of our lives. In fact, one of the first horror movies ever made, ‘House of the Devil,’ dates back to as early as 1896. Our interest in the macabre and the weird is a huge part of the film and television industry. There are more self-confessed horror lovers than there are haters and we all have lots of different feelings about the genre.

Since it’s Halloween season, we wanted to take a look at whether we have become desensitised to horror, but more specifically, whether gore in horror movies has become less shocking to viewers. We’ll also recommend some gory horror films and shows for this Halloween.

What is gore in horror movies?

Gore in horror movies is usually defined as using extreme violence or disturbing imagery to shock an audience. This is shown through a display of blood, injuries to the flesh or cannibalism. Gore is so popular that it is even considered as its own genre with the recreation of blood through special effects as its own artform.

A brief history of horror and gore

Historically, gore has been used in a variety of classical horror movies, and during the Golden Age of Hollywood, gore started to be experimented with. It wasn’t until the 50s and 60s that the presence of gore in horror films became really popular, thanks to experimental classic films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ with the famous shower scene.  

As gore became more commonplace in horror movies, so did our interest in macabre psychopathic characters in films, such as ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ or ‘The Last House on the Left.’ Films like these showed very visceral murders to audiences using an eclectic mix of violent weapons and related injuries. Due to their increase in popularity, audiences began to question the effects and impacts of individuals watching these films, as more extreme horror movies with strong gore became banned in certain countries.

In the 2000s, gore in horror became popular again with the advancements in CGI technology meaning that filmmakers could recreate horrifying torture scenes with everything from severed limbs to scalp incisions. ‘Saw’ in particular led the way with the torture gore genre, and became popular at the box office, spawning six sequels which were released each year for Halloween.

Horror and gore now

With the rise of popular streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, there’s such a wide variety of horror and gore. With the accessibility to all of this content, perhaps we have become less interested in gore over time.

It’s still used in a variety of different movies and shows such as recent titles like ‘The Human Centipede’ or ‘The Evil Dead.’ 

Have we become desensitised to gore?

Many have become put off by gore, despite its use in the genre. Perhaps one of the reasons we have become more desensitised to horror is that we’ve become less worried about exposure to this type of horror and the potential implications that come with consuming it. Especially because older generations have already watched these types of movies for decades and this hasn’t translated to more gore in real life.

Another potential reason for our lack of interest in gore and horror is a shift in sociopolitical consciousness. In particular, the horrors of real life are more accessible through social media platforms, particularly for younger generations on TikTok. What’s more, audiences have become more critical of certain older tropes, for example the ‘fridging’ criticism for women in popular media. However, with younger people engaging more with politics and social issues, filmmakers are reviving the genre by making sociopolitical horrors. Good examples include ‘Get Out’ or ‘It Follows.’

Although gore is a feature in these films, it is less so the main focus, which might suggest that we’re less interested in gore and it has less shock factor overall. Our interest in horror is still here because filmmakers and producers are bringing new, more layered scares to audiences. Films and shows just like this will be coming out this Halloween.

Gory movies and streams this Halloween 

Are you looking for some Halloween gore? Here’s a list to look out for.

Horror movies 

Terrifier 2 – This slasher sequel sees the return of Art the Clown, who sets out to follow two siblings.

Piggy – This sociopolitical horror is exploring body image but includes bloody scenes, and it will be out in movie theatres soon.

Halloween Ends – Everyone’s excited for the final face off in the franchise between Laurie and Michael Myers. 

Old People – A German horror coming to Netflix for Halloween that features older people who go on a killing spree.

TV Shows

Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story – If you haven’t watched it yet, you will have certainly heard people talking about it. There are many gory scenes in this series that follows Dahmer’s murders.

The Midnight Club – After lots of success with the Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass, filmmaker Mike Flanagan is back with a new series this Halloween which follows terminally ill patients at a hospice.

Wednesday – Although it’s set to be a comedy horror, there is most likely going to be some fun gory scenes in this Addams Family iteration that’s out at the start of November.

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