Will Morbius Be A Horror Movie?

"Morbius," the upcoming superhero movie based on the comic book character of the same name, has generated a lot of buzz ahead of its latest release date. In addition to wondering if the movie will ever actually come out or if it's going to be stuck in film purgatory, an even bigger question is whether or not the movie about the "living vampire" will be a horror movie. The answer is both more and less complicated than some may think, with hints lying in the film's comic book source material, movie trailers, and a direct quote from Dr. Michael Morbius himself.

Who is Morbius, anyway?

The first indication that the "Morbius" movie will at least have horror elements lies in the film's comic book counterpart. According to the official Marvel website:

Dr. Michael Morbius is a biochemist-turned-bloodsucker. After years of experimentation to eliminate his rare blood disease, Morbius gained a cure ... and an acute case of vampirism. The side effects? Enhanced senses, an aversion to light, and an insatiable thirst for blood.

Despite sounding like a pretty typical vampire, what makes Morbius different from your standard vamps is the fact that his abilities stem from a medical anomaly as opposed to any sort of supernatural origins. In other words, religious iconography and garlic bread won't bring this vampire to his knees because science is his creator. Additionally, unlike many pop-culture vampires who had to suffer a mortal death in order to transform, Morbius is called "the living vampire" because he's not a member of the undead. This was probably more of a groundbreaking selling point back in October 1971 when he made his first appearance as a horror-based villain in issue #101 of "The Amazing Spider-Man." In addition to battling Spider-Man, Morbius has also served as an antagonist to Blade and Ghost Rider.

This history of villainy can be attributed to his bloodthirsty affliction since Morbius has killed a lot of innocent people in order to satiate his unnatural hunger. To be fair, he doesn't just kill indiscriminately without feeling guilty and conflicted for having done so. Throughout his adventures, the character has shifted between outright villainy and anti-heroism, sometimes serving as a vicious vigilante who has even teamed up with fellow superpowered physician Dr. Strange on occasion, putting his violent, blood-consuming nature to good use.

Considering all this, it would be pretty difficult to depict Morbius' bloodlust and penchant for violence without incorporating a fair amount of horror elements into the movie. Never mind the fact that his appearance can be downright freaky in both the comics and what we've seen of the movie so far.

Horrific trailers and a PG-13 rating

In addition to the horror origins of "Morbius" in the comic books, there are some very obvious horror elements in the trailers for the upcoming film. For one thing, we see Jared Leto's face shift from looking like the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars to Nosferatu in a lace front wig, which is objectively frightening. Additionally, the trailers feature Morbius going on multiple murderous rampages, struggling to control his violent urges, and coming to grips with the fact that he has to drink blood to survive, all of which are objectively horrific things that can be found in plenty of other horror movies. Aesthetically speaking, "Morbius" also gives off some pretty heavy horror vibes with all the cool-toned dark colors and intentionally frightening imagery. 

With these things considered, it's safe to say that "Morbius" is, at the very least, a superhero movie that has heavy horror elements. Whether or not it can be defined as a full-blown horror movie is at least partially left up to the interpretation of the viewers, and some may feel that the movie's PG-13 rating automatically disqualifies it from being a true horror film.

That said, when you consider the fact that there are children's movies like Coraline — which genuinely terrified both kids and adults alike while boasting a deceptively harmless PG rating — the rating becomes less of a determining factor.

Straight from the Living Vampire's mouth

If you're still unsure whether or not "Morbius" is a horror movie, you can always look to the guy playing him for answers. Jared Leto himself has gone on the record as saying that the upcoming film will be "a Jekyll and Hyde story that's just big and fun, and sometimes is a little scary, which is, I think, different for that genre. And I'm excited about it. That should be a big, fun popcorn movie." 

For those who don't know, "Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde” is a classic horror story about a man struggling to suppress the evil within himself, which takes on a life and identity of its own thanks to a scientific potion. There's an obvious parallel between Dr. Jekyll's struggles with his evil alter ego Hyde, and that of Dr. Morbius' humanity fighting against his desire to inflict violence and his thirst for blood.

In the end, it's probably best to accept that movies can (and often do) fall into multiple genre categories, and our need to define things as one or the other just isn't very realistic. Horror movies can be defined by a deliberate intent to scare audiences, and it appears as though there are many intentionally scary elements in "Morbius" while also being a superhero movie. 

By all accounts thus far, "Morbius" is shaping up to be a genre mashup that will hopefully be worth the very long wait it took to finally get into theaters. Ultimately, we can only speculate ahead of the film's April 1, 2022, theatrical release. But audiences will know soon enough if it lives up to its promised chills.