Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Terror or Horror? :What's the difference?

What is the difference between 'Terror' and 'Horror'?


Do you like being scared?

I do. I love it! I truly enjoy horror movies. Well…, good horror movies anyway. And since we are just days away from Halloween it is a perfect time to treat ourselves to some scary entertainment.

There are plenty of movies and books that do their very best to try to scare us. 
Some of them succeed very well, others fail miserably. (At the end of this blog I will provide some recommendations to chill your blood).


We have so many words in English to express various degrees of these types of sentiment:

Fear, Fright, Revulsion, Terror, Horror, Dread etc…

There are also an endless list of adjectives such as Fearful, Scary, Weird, Uncanny, Macabre, Eldritch, Abominable, Loathsome, Diabolical etc…

So, we can have many different feelings to express these emotions of "Fearful dread", "Loathsome revulsion", Uncanny fright", or "Diabolical terror", etc...


Let us distinguish the difference between 'Terror' and 'Horror'.


Many people, including native English speakers, use these words as if they have the same meaning, but there is a subtle difference.

According to Devendra Varma in The Gothic Flame (1966):
The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.

So, from this definition, we can imagine walking into a darkened room that smells of death.
THIS gives us a feeling of Terror.
When we accidentally touch a corpse, that is - a dead body, in this darkened room, THAT gives us a feeling of Horror.


Another way of putting it would be to hear the screeching tires of a speeding truck as the driver loses control of the vehicle, followed by a loud CRASH outside your home. This causes Terror.
As you rush outside to investigate and discover a deadly accident has happened on your street you feel Horror. Horror and Revulsion comes when you see the mangled and bloody body of the dead driver.

Most Horror movies and books (usually the better ones) spend time building the feeling of Terror through suspense and atmosphere. In literature, Edgar Allen Poe was a master at this. Alfred Hitchcock also accomplished this in his films 'PSYCHO' and 'THE BIRDS'.


Stephen King (the famous horror story writer) defines “terror” as the suspenseful moment in horror before the actual monster is revealed. “Horror,” King writes, is that moment at which one sees the creature/aberration that causes the terror or suspense, a "shock value." King finally compares “revulsion” with the gag-reflex, a bottom-level, cheap gimmick which he admits he often resorts to in his own fiction if necessary, confessing:
“I recognize terror as the finest emotion and so I will try to terrorize the reader. But if I find that I cannot terrify, I will try to horrify, and if I find that I cannot horrify, I'll go for the gross-out. I'm not proud.”

Ironically, in one of the best (and my favorite) horror movies, ROSEMARY'S BABY gives you horror without ever showing it to you. THAT is good story-telling

Click on this link for brief clips from 10 great horror films 


Horror movies I recommend:

PSYCHO (1960)





SUSPIRIA (1977) 

EVIL DEAD (2013 and 1981)



and anything starring VINCENT PRICE

For reading I recommend the tales and poems of Edgar Allen Poe  (Especially 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Raven') and any horror novel or short story by Stephen King ('Salem's Lot', 'The Shining', 'IT'  and 'Carrie' and the short story collections 'Night Shift' and 'Skeleton Crew').


hor・ror *
((形)horrible, (動)horrify) 
名(複 ~s/-z/)
1U恐怖, うろたえ, ぞっとする思い(→ fear名1

ter・ror *
名(複 ~s /-z/)
1aU(極度の)恐怖, 恐れ(→ fear名1)
▶scream [freeze] in terror
▶a look of sheer [pure] terror on one’s face
▶live in terror of A [doing]
▶strike terror into A [A’s heart]

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