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The horror!!

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Michelle

'Horror' is one of those words that can mean different things to different people. It can be scary. It can be gross or disturbing. Sometimes, it can even be funny.

A variety of content can be regarded as horrific or horrifying, and this doesn't only apply to the genre of horror films. You can have extreme and unrealistic depictions of horror, perhaps in the form of extended and gratuitous torture or death scenes in a film. You can also think of 'horror' in terms of the supernatural - ghosts, zombies, and vampires. 'Horror' often overlaps with other criteria the Classification Office must consider, such as violence and cruelty.

The word 'horror' may appear on the descriptive note attached to the classification on a film. Descriptive notes, in conjunction with classifications, are designed to help people make informed choices for themselves or others about what films to watch. It's interesting to note that films which fall into the horror genre may not always contain the word 'horror' on the descriptive note, and instead may warn of violent or other content in the film.

As with all the classification criteria included in section 3-3D of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, when classifying horror content in a film the Classification Office must take into account the extent, degree and manner of the horror elements. For example, does the film have a lot of horrific blood and gore? Are things depicted on screen or are they instead implied?

This contextual consideration of horror means that you can have horror films, or horror in films, with different classifications:

  • What We Do In The Shadows - R13: Contains violence and offensive language
  • Housebound - R13: Violence, horror scenes and offensive language
  • Carrie (2013) - R16: Violence, horror, offensive language and sexual themes
  • Deliver Us From Evil - R16: Violence, offensive language and content that may disturb
  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - R16: Horror, offensive language, violence and drug use
  • Gnaw - R18: Horror, graphic violence and offensive language
  • Killers - R18: Sadistic violence, drug use, offensive language and sex scenes

Michelle works in the Information Unit at the NZ Office of Film and Literature Classification. Her views do not represent those of the Chief Censor or of the Classification Office. The Information Unit provides information to other staff, to the public, and to industry members - they are not involved in assigning classifications. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Classic old horror movie posters

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