Not all horror movies are created equal. Take, for example, The Shining which is, by most accounts, an excellent movie, and Sleepaway Camp which isn’t, and was never supposed to be a movie of the same quality. I love them both but for very different reasons and this creates a dilemma if I try to place them both on any single rating scale of, say, 1 to 5. To rate The Shining 5 out of 5 and Sleepaway Camp 1 out of 5 based on overall quality gives the impression Sleepaway Camp isn’t worth watching, but nothing could be further from the truth. At the same time, rating them both 5 out of 5 because they’re favorites of mine doesn’t differentiate between the two in any way – it doesn’t tell you anything about what makes each movie good. So with the goal of making a rating scale that is somewhat useful, I thought about the characteristics that make 80’s horror movies great and narrowed them down into three broad categories:
Scare – Startling, creates a creepy vibe or makes the viewer feel uneasy in some way. What is scary to one person may not be scary to another, so this category is pretty subjective. I’ll base this rating on how well I think a movie sets a mood or tone that some may find unsettling. A high rating here means you might be covering your eyes or even having nightmares.
Splatter – Blood and guts or really cool kill scenes. If exploding heads and entrail-eating zombies are your thing, look for movies with a high rating in this category.
Cheese – Terrible acting, absurd dialogue, cheap or way over-the-top special effects. Someone set out to make a good movie but it just didn’t turn out that way – at least not in the way they intended. This “so-bad-it’s-good” quality is prevalent in 80’s horror movies (and, if we’re being honest, in the entire decade in general) and can catapult a low-budget B-movie ahead of a multi-million dollar blockbuster for pure entertainment value. Movies that rate high in this category are fun and probably the ones you’ll watch over and over again.
Each movie will be given a rating between 1 and 5 in each of the three categories as well as in one final category:
Binge Score – This is an overall rating based purely on how much I like a movie. I’ll make no attempts at objectivity for this category – if a movie brings me joy for any of a number of reasons, I’ll give it a high Binge Score.
So now if we apply this system to our example, The Shining would receive 5 for Scare, 2 for Splatter, and 1 for Cheese, while Sleepaway Camp gets a 2 for Scare, 3 for Splatter, and 5 for Cheese. I’d give them both Binge Scores of 5 because they both make me happy. Now, at a glance, you are able to get an indication as to what a movie has in store as well as whether or not I like it. Keep in mind I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time worrying about the exactitude of any of the ratings and neither should you. If this system helps people discover new movies, or starts discussions about old favorites, then it’s served its purpose.