6 Tips on How to Write an Essay Analyzing a Horror Movie

6 Tips on How to Write an Essay Analyzing a Horror Movie
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Horror movies is a special genre that demands a special approach. Of course, we all read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and know how to transcribe our "Oh shi...!" impression into neat sentences. But today we are going to talk about writing an essay - the one your teacher should see. Let's briefly look through the essential things you need to pay attention to while analyzing a horror movie in your paper.

1. Classify your horror.

In case you didn't know, the horror genre has lots of subgenres. It might be psychological horror, where you won't see a single dismembered body or any creepy dead girls, but it will still give you shivers down the spine. On the contrary it might be body horror with larvae eating one's brain through their ear or intestines hanging from the ceiling. Disaster horror, comedy horror, zombie horror (yes, despite zombie apocalypse being both body horror and disaster horror it's now a separate genre!), supernatural horror, gothic horror etc.

At least you will show your teacher that you know about the existence of horror subgenres. At best you'll get some clues about other movies in this subgenre you can compare your one with. Also, if you really liked that movie, you may watch some others that are similar to it and use the same plot twists, horrifying moments and so on.

2. What is really horrifying and what is not?

You don't really need to describe every single scary moment in the movie. But almost each horror film has its main horror line (actually the genre of the movie is defined by it) and some other horror episodes just not to let you forget what movie you are watching. Sometimes we can have an interesting twist, when the main horror line (be it zombies, aliens, ghosts or psychos) is boring, but there are some excellent movies besides it that make you wake up screaming all the week after watching.

Of course, you'll be quite subjective in your perception of horror, but your essay is based on your personal experience. You can look for some examples of such essays on free databases like or reviews of other people on the movie you watched. Analyzing the scary and cheesy plot devices you'll get a full picture of the "horror canvas" of the plot - and maybe discover something new about your own hidden fears and phobias.

3. What else except the horror?

A good horror film should contain a lot of horror, but an excellent one should have something extra. The plot, for example. Some prominent characters, not just cannon fodder for the bad guys. Some side storylines (if they are appropriate in the plot, and mostly, they are). Anything that draws your attention falls into that category. First and foremost, it should be a good movie and only then - a good horror movie.

Don't be shy to shed light on all the silly clichés used in the movie (if you need some examples - google "TV Tropes", it's a whole Wiki of, well, TV tropes). Clichés aren't always bad, but if there is nothing more except them - the movie director didn't do the best job ever. Just try to imagine the same storylines and characters outside of the screen. Do they and their actions in dire situations look plausible, or do they look as NPCs, randomly doing stuff just to drive the plot further?

4. Add some technical details about the movie and analyze them.

Usually the context of the movie has some connections to the period when it was filmed. Maybe, zombie apocalypse bears reminiscences of Cold War real life horrors? Or disaster that wipes out half of humanity is a reflection of Doomsday Clock approaching midnight?

Was the movie awarded? Why? What made it popular (or unpopular)? Were the main actor/actress a miscast or did they fit their roles perfectly?

5. Compare this movie to others

Made a quick research: is there a book with the same plot? Was it written before the movie, or after it, as a novelization? Are there sequels, remakes or simply similar movies of the same genre this film can be compared with?

If there are some key plot devices, characters etc. that drastically differ or, on the contrary, are absolutely similar while they aren't supposed to be, write about it! Some interesting details can be seen only by comparison.

6. Think about your audience!

This part will be short: if you are presenting your essay to the teacher - it's fine to write about all the plot, characters and everything. But if you are reading your paper to the audience - respect their desire to watch the movie without spoilers! Make your presentation with care: announce the movie, tell a few words about it and then ask if anybody hasn't seen it yet but is going to watch. If there are some people, add spoiler warning before revealing something important for the plot. 

Reviewing a horror movie in your essay isn't much harder than any other genre. The key difference is in subgenres and in the two semi-dependent parts of the film: the horror one and the rest. Remember these few tips and you'll write an awesome paper!

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