Is it Horror? Altered States (1980)

Is it horror

Yesterday I was watching a movie called Mr. Baseball on Cinemax, when it was coming to an end, I checked the menu on the TV to see what as next.  Well, it was Altered States, which I saw as a child and stayed far away from because it scared me.  The score, I could never forget the score of the movie.  I looked it up and found, Altered States is a SciFi/Thriller.  Hmm…Thriller, Michael Jackson wrote a song called, “Thriller” and the video dealt with the Occult, Zombies and Werewolves.  Am I to believe the word “Thriller” means horror?


So, that is a technical definition of the word “Thriller”.   Let me get back to the movie.  Did Altered States “Thrill” me?  Yeah it did.

Altered States is about a Scientist who, while studying schizophrenia, begins to think that “our other states of consciousness are as real as our waking states.  He travels to Mexico to participate in what is apparently an Ayahuasca Ceremony.  During the ceremony he trips hard and hallucinates a bunch of crazy things.  When he gets back to Boston he wants to do more experiments, he experiences actual, physical biological devolution.  There is a lot of science in the movie.  He basically goes back to a primal state.

299full-altered-states-photoThe movie has a score like you wouldn’t believe.  There scenes where it sounds like earlier horror movies and then there is a more emotional sound of a dramatic film.  There is a bit of “body horror” in the movie as well.  The doctor, Eddie Jessup does a few of the experiments and his body begins to changes and the scenes are terrifying.  I think a big factor in judging whether or not Altered States is a horror film, the tone of the movie.  There is so much to the movie and it has a little bit of everything.  To generalize it as simply horror would do this film no justice.  It has heart to its core.  Altered States is a movie with a strange love story, science, body horror and there is a little comedy.

Overall it is a good movie.  I ended up really interested in the story and even the characters.  In a way, I am reminded of the movie Poltergeist, sure it is a ghost story, but it is an overall good movie, great balance with a lot of heart.

The question I have posed in this post.  Is Altered States a horror films.  Let’s hear from a couple of members of the Horror Syndicate.

Bryan Enright aka The Horror Jew says:

Altered States? Of course, the horror community has adopted AS as their own.

Jared Letourneau aka ZombiSurvivor:

Sci-fi/thriller is probably more accurate.

So, with that, what do I think about Altered States.  It scared me as a kid, well the body horror did.  The score is a mix of dramatic and horror.  The tone, is straight out of a scary movie.

Altered States is…


Not everyone will agree and that is fine.  Sometimes horror movies are what you make of them.  Is there a rule of thumb?  I don’t know, there are other movies that may or may not be horror.  Silence of the Lambs, I don’t know that I call it a horror movie.

Until next time, if you have a movie you are unsure if it a horror movie, let me know.  On Twitter or Facebook, we would love to hear from you.

Since this is techincally a horror review here are some scores. has a rating of 6.9

Rayzor rates Altered States 7.6 


About Ray Marek III 265 Articles

I am a lifelong horror fan. I have written for a few web sites, Kung-Fu Comrades, Nightfall Unlimited and Rage of Rayzor.

Freddy’s Revenge was the first Horror Film I watched, I was 5. When my mom found out I liked horror films, she began challenging me. Soon to follow were the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead.
Horror is in my blood, I want to share that with you…my blood…horror.

I write unpublished comics. Lifelong dream is to write comics for a major comic book publisher or build my own comic book company.