True Crime vs. Horror: Can We Draw a Line?

Since the release of Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story last September, viewers have taken opposing views about the portrayal of the prolific serial killer.  

One question permeates the viewership: where do we draw the line when portraying serial killers, whether actual like Dahmer or fictional like Jason Vorhees?

Society’s Draw to True Crime and Horror

True crime historian and host of the true crime show, Buried Bones, Kate Dawson, says, “Crime is an excellent narrative. We know that. We have always been fascinated with true crime. That’s not new. What’s new [is] the amount of media that is available.”

With the emergence and saturation of podcasts and media portrayals of real-life crime, true crime fans can consume this media genre whenever they please.

True crime series implement horror elements and vice versa, but where do the differences arise?

Is There a Difference Between True Crime and Horror?

“Watching the Dahmer Netflix special was very disturbing to me because I think that it was so true to real life, and putting the viewers into a situation whereby they could very easily be one of the victims of Dahmer. In my opinion, that’s the moat. Horror movies are different because it's an exaggerated sense of horror, typically.”

Throughout ‘spooky season,' horror fans trot around their neighborhoods decked out in merch depicting fictional serial killers. Teens wear jackets with Freddy Krueger sprawled on the front; horror fans throw on a Michael Myers mask for a Halloween costume.

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