Not Quite Horror: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)


Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

The Monster: Film and television have relied on organized crime to create compelling story lines for decades. The criminals in The Sopranos are born from this murderous family tree. They even discuss previous gangster films as they go about their work.

Given an entire HBO series to develop, these characters grow in different directions than their counterparts in film. The show gives them time to wear track suits and grow bored. Then, in sudden and vicious moments, these men take lives with swift brutality.

The Horror: Murder on The Sopranos is no glamorous business. Even when the hit has been organized well, the victims sob pathetically and one bullet rarely does the job.

Usually, it’s not even that efficient. Characters can’t figure out where to stow a dead body, or have to rebury a corpse when development threatens to unearth it. A traitorous friend haunts Tony Soprano in visions and dreams of dead fish.

Shame and death aren’t reserved for the family business, either. A hitman dies a bloody death in his car after completing his mission. A husband stuck in traffic finds he has been delayed by the car accident that killed his wife. One character even dies after straining too hard on the toilet.

The Shared Fate: Coming after the proud glory of the Godfather movies and the swagger of Goodfellas, The Sopranos goes out of his way destroy glamour.

Life in the Sopranos world is often in the hands of bitter, hideous men with no sense of beauty. That hits pretty close to home, don’t you think?

Popular as it was, The Sopranos must’ve given nightmares to thousands of viewers expecting a nice mobster bedtime story.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen