Ever find your heart racing at the squeak of an old floorboard in a haunted house flick? Or get goosebumps thinking about what could be lurking in the shadows? If that sounds like your idea of fun, you’ve come to the right place!
Horror is a wild ride. It plays with our deepest fears and turns them into a popcorn-munching, edge-of-the-seat experience. And the cool part? Each subgenre – from those insane slashers to mind-bending psychological horror – has its own way of freaking us out.
Horror capitalizes on our darkest fears. Each horror subgenre, be it the relentless pursuit of slashers or the twisted plots of psychological horror, offers a distinct frightful flavor.
So, let’s dive into our exploration of 17+ horror subgenres. We’ll get into what makes each one unique and share must-see films that’ll give you chills. By the end of our journey, you’ll be able to tell a Giallo from a Gothic like a pro, plus you’ll have a bunch of new movie picks for your next late-night scare fest.
Grab some snacks (and maybe a cushion to hide behind), and let’s get started!
A Brief History of Horror
It all started with a spark… or perhaps we should say a scream. Horror, as a genre, has been around for centuries, predating film and even the written word. Horror history began with the oral storytelling tradition, tales of the supernatural, and eerie folklore shared around the fire, designed to send shivers down the listener’s spine.
But it wasn’t until the late 19th century, with the advent of film, that horror truly found a home in popular culture. The silent era gave us the first adaptations of Gothic classics like Frankenstein and Dracula. These black-and-white, silent tales paved the way for the horror movie as we know it today.
As film technology improved, so did the scares. The 1930s and 40s, often referred to as the “Golden Age of Horror,” saw the emergence of Universal’s iconic horror monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, and the Wolfman.
By the mid-20th century, horror began to shift and change with society’s anxieties. The Atomic Age brought us films featuring radiation-created monsters and alien invasions, mirroring societal fears.
In the 70s and 80s, the horror genre exploded with diversity. Audiences were treated to slasher movies like Halloween, psychological horrors such as The Shining, and body horrors pioneered by directors like David Cronenberg.
The advent of digital effects in the 90s and beyond opened up a whole new world of possibilities for the genre. Today, horror movies continue to evolve, with filmmakers continually exploring innovative ways to terrorize audiences.
Now, while we might still enjoy a good old-fashioned haunted house story, the genre has branched out into various subgenres, each catering to a different set of fears and preferences. Ready to explore these creepy corners of the horror world? Let’s dive into the darkness together…
The Top 17+ Horror Subgenres
Now that the stage has been set, let’s take a look at the current top subgenres of horror in films and books!
Psychological horror is a subgenre of horror that plays a cunning game of chess with your mind. Rather than relying on gore and jump-scares, these films generate fear by exploring the characters’ minds. They delve into the darkness within the human psyche, blurring the lines between reality and illusion.
Common themes include sanity, isolation, and the terrifying capacity for evil that resides in us all. Expect unsettling atmospheres, suspenseful build-ups, and endings that will leave you questioning everything.
Psychological horror is perfect for viewers who crave more than just surface-level scares. These films encourage active engagement, requiring you to piece together clues and question what’s real. The thrill is in the uncertainty, the exploration of complex characters, and the chilling reveal as the narrative unfolds.
If you’re intrigued by the mysteries of the human mind and enjoy a good, suspenseful storyline that keeps you guessing, then psychological horror is the perfect subgenre for you.
Famous Examples of Psychological Horror Films:
One of the most renowned films in this subgenre is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), a masterpiece that twisted audiences’ expectations with its shocking narrative turns.
More recent examples include The Silence of the Lambs (1991), which chilled viewers with its exploration of a serial killer’s mind, and Black Swan (2010), which blurred the lines between a ballerina’s striving for perfection and her descent into madness. Other psychological horror films include Shutter Island (2010), The Babadook (2014), and Get Out (2017).
Slasher Horror is a subgenre that’s all about the adrenaline rush. These films are characterized by a typically masked villain who dispatches victims, often teenagers, one by one in increasingly creative and gruesome ways. They’re notorious for their high body counts, suspenseful chase scenes, and the “final girl” trope, where one character (usually female) survives to confront the killer.
The slasher genre is a thrill ride, plain and simple. It’s the perfect choice if you’re looking for edge-of-your-seat tension and scares that make you jump. The often over-the-top kills add an element of gruesome spectacle, and there’s something fun about guessing who’ll be next on the chopping block.
If you’re a fan of high-stakes cat-and-mouse chases and enjoy rooting for a lone survivor to overcome the odds, then slasher movies are definitely your cup of tea.
Famous Examples of Slasher Films:
Some of the most iconic films in this horror genre include John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), featuring the relentless Michael Myers, and Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), which introduced the terrifying Freddy Krueger. Another slasher genre film is the Friday the 13th series (1980-), bringing the hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees to our screens.
More recent additions like Scream (1996) and Final Destination (2000) reinvigorated the genre, adding a layer of meta-commentary and innovating the conventions of the subgenre, respectively.
Gothic horror, a timeless subgenre, is all about atmosphere. It’s characterized by elements of fear and horror, often in conjunction with romance and doomed love. These stories are usually set against the backdrop of decaying castles or haunted mansions, complete with gloomy landscapes and ominous weather.
Themes of death, the supernatural, madness, and the uncanny are commonly explored, creating a chilling aura of suspense and psychological terror.
If you’re drawn to darkly romantic narratives, eerie atmospheres, and stories that tease your imagination with supernatural tales, then Gothic horror is a perfect fit for you. It provides a chilling sense of dread, but it’s often more about the suspense and the slow reveal than the blood and gore.
It’s a subgenre that’s rich in detail, visually and narratively, and it invites you to lose yourself in its hauntingly beautiful settings and intense emotion.
Famous Examples of Films:
One of the earliest and most influential examples of Gothic horror is Dracula (1931), an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel that solidified many Gothic horror tropes in cinema. Rebecca (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is another masterpiece featuring a mysterious mansion and a suspenseful tale of love and secrets.
More recently, Crimson Peak (2015) delves into the realm of Gothic romance, filled with hauntings and a dark, brooding atmosphere. Other Gothic horror films include The Others (2001), The Woman in Black (2012), and the visually stunning Sleepy Hollow (1999).
Supernatural horror is a subgenre that delves into our fear of the unknown. It centers around paranormal and otherworldly entities, often dealing with themes of death, the afterlife, and demonic possession. The laws of nature are often defied as ghosts, spirits, demons, and other supernatural beings take center stage.
The scares here come from the unpredictability of these entities and the powerless feeling they induce in both characters and viewers.
If you enjoy being scared by things that go bump in the night, then supernatural horror is definitely your genre. It’s perfect for those who love ghost stories or are fascinated by the concept of the afterlife and the demonic. The suspense and anticipation of the unseen can often be more terrifying than what’s visible, making supernatural horror a hair-raising experience.
Famous Examples of Films:
One of the most iconic supernatural horror films is The Exorcist (1973), a chilling tale of demonic possession that has terrorized audiences for decades. Poltergeist (1982), with its haunted house narrative, is another classic in the genre.
More recent films like The Conjuring series (2013-) have taken supernatural horror movies even further, delivering heart-stopping scares in depicting real-life paranormal investigators. Other noteworthy films include Insidious (2010), Paranormal Activity (2007), and the Japanese horror classic Ringu (1998).
Zombie horror is a subgenre that brings our fear of death and disease to life in the most terrifying way. These films feature reanimated corpses or infected individuals, usually with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
The horror in these films arises from both the relentless threat of the undead and the often-depicted societal collapse. Themes of survival, isolation, and sometimes the darkest aspects of human nature under duress are often explored.
If the thought of survival in a post-apocalyptic world excites you, then zombie horror is the subgenre to bite into. The relentless nature of the zombie horde makes for nail-biting tension, while the often-included social commentary adds a layer of depth to the carnage. Plus, there’s something cathartic about facing the end of the world from the safety of your couch.
Famous Examples of Films:
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) is often hailed as the granddaddy of modern zombie horror, with its flesh-hungry undead and societal critique. Romero’s later films, like Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985), furthered the genre.
The genre’s also seen faster, more aggressive zombies in films like 28 Days Later (2002) and the infection-based REC (2007). For those who enjoy a bit of humor with their horror, Shaun of the Dead (2004) offers a brilliant horror-comedy take on the zombie apocalypse.
Sci-fi horror is a subgenre that brilliantly merges the fear factor of horror with the imaginative possibilities of science fiction. It explores the chilling side of advanced technology, space exploration, alien life, and scientific experiments gone wrong.
The horror often arises from the unknown terrors lurking in the vast expanse of space or the unintended consequences of humanity’s scientific hubris.
If you’re fascinated by the mysteries of the cosmos and the potential dark side of scientific advancement, sci-fi horror is the perfect fit for you. It not only provides the fear and suspense typical of horror films but also stimulates your imagination with thought-provoking concepts and settings.
These films often pose interesting philosophical questions while delivering bone-chilling scares, making it an intriguing and thrilling subgenre.
Famous Examples of Sci-Fi Horror Films:
Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) is a quintessential sci-fi horror film, combining the isolation of space with the terror of an unknown, highly lethal alien life form.
Similarly, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) portrays a group of Antarctic researchers confronting a shapeshifting alien entity. Event Horizon (1997) delves into the horror of a spaceship that has mysteriously returned from a journey beyond the known universe. Other science fiction horror movies include A Quiet Place (2018), Cloverfield (2008), and M3GAN (2022).
Found Footage Horror
Found footage horror is a subgenre that creates a sense of authenticity and immediacy by presenting the narrative as real, discovered video recordings, often left behind by missing or deceased characters.
These films typically employ hand-held cameras or surveillance footage to enhance realism and immerse the audience in the horror. This format lends an air of raw unpredictability and intimacy to the scares, often involving paranormal horror activity, alien encounters, or serial killers.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of cinema verité meets horror, found footage is the subgenre for you. The “this could be real” aspect of these films gives the scares a heightened sense of realism that makes the horror feel closer to home. Plus, the first-person perspective can make you feel like you’re part of the story, adding to the thrill and suspense.
Famous Examples of Found Footage Horror Films:
The Blair Witch Project (1999) is often credited as the film that popularized the found footage subgenre, with its story of three film students lost in the woods while investigating a local legend. Paranormal Activity (2007) updated the format to create a suspenseful supernatural horror from seemingly ordinary home video footage.
Cloverfield (2008) took the genre into the realm of monster movies, while REC (2007) combined found footage with zombie horror. V/H/S (2012) offered a unique anthology approach to the found footage horror genre.
Comedy horror, as the name suggests, is a subgenre that blends elements of humor with the conventions of horror. It’s characterized by a balance between scares and laughs, often using irony, satire, or farce to play around with traditional horror tropes. These films play with audience expectations, sometimes turning what would be a horrifying situation into something absurdly funny.
If you’re the type who likes to laugh in the face of fear, then comedy horror is the perfect subgenre for you. It offers a unique way to enjoy horror conventions without taking them too seriously. These films are often packed with clever humor, making them a great choice if you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted, yet still spooky movie night.
Famous Examples of Comedic Horror Films:
An American Werewolf in London (1981) is a classic comedy horror that expertly balances laughs with frights, while a more modern example would be The Cabin in the Woods (2011), which offers a fresh take on over-sexed party teens trapped by the forces of evil.
Other famous titles include the Evil Dead series (1981-), Zombieland (2009), and Wolfcop (2014), each taking on a different horror trope by combining comedy and terror.
A slightly different take on comedy horror would be parody horror movies, which spoof serious, established films through a comical lens. The difference between straight comedy horror and parody horror movies is that the former establishes original storylines while the latter builds on established stories and characters created by others.
Famous Examples of Parody Horror Films:
The Scary Movie series (2000-) uses broad humor and slapstick to spoof popular horror and genre films.
Other parody horror movies include Young Frankenstein (1974), a hilarious take on the classic monster, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) with a twist on the backwoods hillbillies targeted by teens, and Shaun of the Dead (2004), a “rom-zom-com” that parodies classic zombie movies while delivering its own unique story.
Lovecraftian horror, named after the American writer H.P. Lovecraft, is a subgenre that goes beyond the typical scares and delves into existential dread. The theme of cosmic horror characterizes it – the idea that there are ancient, powerful beings and realities beyond human understanding and that any encounter with such entities or the revelation of these truths can lead to madness.
This subgenre emphasizes the insignificance of humanity in the grand scheme of the universe and often features protagonists who are powerless to stop the horrors that they’ve uncovered.
If you’re a fan of horror that messes with your head and leaves you pondering about your place in the universe, Lovecraftian horror is for you. Its unique blend of existential dread, cosmic horror, and the bizarre offer a different kind of fear, one that lingers long after the credits roll.
The tales are often thought-provoking, steeped in a sense of dread and mystery that goes beyond traditional horror tropes.
Famous Examples of Lovecraftian Films:
The Call of Cthulhu (2005), a silent short film, faithfully adapts Lovecraft’s most famous story. In the Mouth of Madness (1994), while not a direct adaptation, masterfully encapsulates Lovecraftian themes and ideas. The Color Out of Space (2019), based on Lovecraft’s short story, brings a disturbing alien presence to a rural family’s farm.
Other Lovecraftian horror movies include Event Horizon (1997), which infuses Lovecraftian horror into a sci-fi setting; The Mist (2007), a film filled with inter-dimensional creatures and a sense of hopeless dread; and Underwater (2020), about deepwater researchers who awaken an ancient, giant evil.
Folk horror is a subgenre that blends horror elements with folklore, pagan rituals, and the eeriness of rural landscapes. These films often tap into the fear of the unknown, the isolation of the countryside, and the haunting power of old traditions. They typically feature a clash of belief systems, often between modern urban characters and the ancient, sometimes sinister customs of a rural community.
If you’re drawn to the mysteries of folklore, the chilling beauty of rural landscapes, and the unsettling clash between the ancient and the modern, then folk horror is the perfect subgenre for you.
The slow-burn terror and atmospheric storytelling often found in these films can create a lingering sense of unease that’s subtly disturbing. Folk horror offers a unique way to explore societal fears through the lens of tradition and superstition.
Famous Examples of Folk Horror Films:
The British film, The Wicker Man (1973), is considered a folk horror classic, telling the story of a police officer encountering disturbing pagan rituals in a remote island community, while Witchfinder General (1968) delves into the horrifying witch hunts of the 17th century.
More recent entries into the folk horror genre include The Witch (2015), a chilling tale of a Puritan family encountering evil in the wilderness, and Midsommar (2019), which depicts a group of friends ensnared in the disturbing summer rituals of a Swedish cult.
Body horror is a subgenre that explores the fear and revulsion associated with transformation, mutilation, or destruction of the human body. It’s characterized by graphic depictions of gore, decay, and grotesque mutations and often blurs the line between man and monster.
These films typically play on the fear of bodily invasion and the anxiety around the fragility of the flesh. They may contain themes of disease, mutilation, or the horrifying consequences of scientific experiments.
If you have a stomach for extreme horror and find fascination in the grotesque, then the body horror subgenre is your arena. It offers an intense, visceral form of terror that plays upon our innate fear of physical harm and the corruption of the human form.
These films often come with a deeper commentary on issues like the human condition, identity, and societal norms.
Famous Examples of Body Horror Films:
David Cronenberg is a master of body horror, with films like The Fly (1986), where a scientist gradually transforms into a grotesque human-insect hybrid, and Videodrome (1983), which explores themes of technology as a physical contaminant. Hellraiser (1987), with its tormented souls trapped in grotesque, mutilated bodies, is another iconic example.
Other body horror movies include American Mary (2012), which delves into underground body modification, and Tusk (2014), a chilling tale of forced transformation.
Action horror is a subgenre that combines the excitement of action films with horror elements. These films often feature high-octane sequences, intense battles, and heroes facing off against hordes of monsters, zombies, or supernatural entities.
It’s characterized by a fast-paced narrative, high stakes, and often a blend of spectacular stunts, special effects, and terrifying antagonists.
If you’re a fan of adrenaline-pumping sequences and horror, then action horror will give you the best of both worlds. It offers not just scares but also the exhilaration of fight scenes, chase sequences, and larger-than-life confrontations.
These films often provide an escapist thrill ride where you can cheer on the protagonists as they take down the forces of darkness.
Famous Examples of Action Horror Films:
The Resident Evil series (2002-) is a prime example of action horror, with its protagonist battling zombies and bio-engineered monsters. Aliens (1986) blends science fiction, action, and horror as a team of space marines confronts an alien hive. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) transitions from crime thriller to full-blown action horror when its characters face off against vampires.
Other action horror films include Underworld (2003), which sets vampires against werewolves in an epic conflict, and Train to Busan (2016), a thrilling zombie horror with intense action sequences.
Apocalypse horror is a subgenre that features the end of the world as its main theme. It often explores themes of societal collapse, survival in desperate circumstances, and the existential dread of impending doom. The apocalyptic event can take many forms – from pandemics to natural disasters to invasions by zombies, aliens, or other malevolent entities.
This subgenre is characterized by a combination of terror, despair, and occasionally, hope in the face of overwhelming odds.
If you’re drawn to stories of survival, societal collapse, and the human capacity to adapt to global catastrophe, apocalypse horror is your subgenre. These films often provide a grim exploration of the human condition under extreme conditions, serving as both thrilling entertainment and a reflection on societal fears.
They offer a unique form of terror that combines the fear of the unknown with the struggle for survival in a drastically changed world.
Famous Examples of Apocalypse Horror Films:
28 Days Later (2002) depicts the breakdown of society following a devastating virus outbreak. The Mist (2007) features an otherworldly threat that envelops a town and pushes its inhabitants to their limits. A Quiet Place (2018) presents a post-apocalyptic world where making noise can be deadly due to sound-sensitive creatures.
Other apocalypse horror movies include The Road (2009), a grim and powerful story of survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Bird Box (2018), where unseen entities cause anyone who looks at them to go mad.
Natural horror is a subgenre that involves nature striking back, usually in the form of animals or plants attacking humans or natural disasters pushing people to their limits. The threats are often derived from the real world – animals, insects, weather phenomena – but are amplified to horrifying proportions.
This subgenre highlights mankind’s vulnerability against the raw power of nature, often featuring characters in isolated or wilderness settings.
If you’re intrigued by the thought of nature turning against humanity and find a thrill in the idea of battling against primal forces, then natural horror is right up your alley. These films often combine suspense, horror, and the exhilaration of survival adventure.
They offer a unique kind of fear derived from real-world elements, which can make the experience all the more nerve-wracking.
Famous Examples of Natural Horror Films:
Jaws (1975), with its man-eating great white shark, is a quintessential natural horror film. The Birds (1963) takes something as mundane as ordinary birds and turns them into a terrifying threat. Anaconda (1997) and Arachnophobia (1990) feature oversized animals as the horror element.
Other natural horror films include The Ruins (2008), which features killer plants, and Crawl (2019), combining a hurricane with deadly alligators.
Dark Fantasy Horror
Dark Fantasy Horror blends the mystical elements of fantasy with terrifying horror themes. It’s a subgenre that often brings to life our darkest fairy tales, creating worlds where magic, mythical creatures, and malevolent forces coexist.
The stories usually unfold in surreal, gothic, or fantastical settings, and it’s not uncommon to encounter haunted houses, castles, cursed objects, witches, vampires, or other supernatural beings.
If you’re drawn to the mystical, the uncanny, and the macabre, then Dark Fantasy Horror is a subgenre you’ll thoroughly enjoy. It offers a different kind of fright – one intertwined with enchantment, curiosity, and an eerie beauty.
The blend of fantastical elements with the gruesome realities of horror creates a unique viewing experience that can be as thought-provoking as it is terrifying.
Famous Examples of Dark Fantasy Films:
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is a dark fantasy horror masterpiece, merging the grim realities of war with a hauntingly beautiful fairy tale. Crimson Peak (2015) sets a gothic romance in a haunted house with dreadful secrets. Sleepy Hollow (1999) brings to life the chilling tale of the Headless Horseman.
Other dark fantasy horror movies include Hellboy (2004), which combines elements of dark fantasy with action, and The Witch (2015), a historical horror film with a chilling tale of witchcraft.
Splatter Horror Films
Splatter horror, or gore horror, is a subgenre focusing on graphic portrayals of gore and graphic violence. The aim is to shock and repulse the viewer with extravagant displays of blood, guts, and grotesque effects.
The narratives often involve mutilation, dismemberment, or brutal deaths, and the genre as a whole revels in the visceral and the shocking.
If you have a strong stomach and get a thrill from intense, graphic horror, then splatter horror might be your perfect fit. It offers a level of shock and visceral terror that few other subgenres can match. The films often serve as a form of extreme escapism, testing the boundaries of what can be portrayed on screen.
Famous Examples of Splatter Horror Films:
Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead series (1981-) is a collection of iconic splatter horror films notorious for their over-the-top gore. Braindead (1992), also known as Dead Alive in North America, directed by Peter Jackson, is another famous splatter horror hailed for its excessive blood and guts.
Hostel (2005) and the Saw series (2004-) are well-known for their graphic depictions of torture and death. Other splatter films include Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Ichi the Killer (2001).
Witch Horror is a subgenre centered around witches, witchcraft, or occult rituals. These films often delve into themes of pagan folklore, the supernatural, and fear of the unknown.
It’s characterized by portraying witches as malevolent, powerful beings or as symbols of paranoia and societal unrest. The settings can range from historical to contemporary and often feature a strong atmospheric or creepy tone.
If you’re fascinated by witchcraft, pagan lore, or the occult, Witch Horror can offer an eerie and unnerving cinematic experience. These films often explore themes of power, fear, and the unknown, providing plenty of psychological horror along with the supernatural.
The sense of unease and dread they create can be as potent as any jump scare.
Famous Examples of Witch Horror Films:
The Witch (2015) is a chilling depiction of a Puritan family haunted by witchcraft in 17th-century New England. Suspiria (1977 and its 2018 remake) revolves around a dance academy run by witches. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) showcases the terror of occult conspiracy in a modern setting.
Other witch horror genre films include The Blair Witch Project (1999), a found-footage horror about a legendary witch, and Häxan (1922), a silent film examining historical views on witchcraft.
Other Noteworthy Subgenres
Here are a few other horror subgenres that you might find interesting:
- Possession Horror: This subgenre mixes horror and thriller elements through the possession of a character by a supernatural force and leaning into fear, guilt, and emotional instability to amplify tension. Notable films in this category include The Exorcist, Insidious, and Prince of Darkness.
- Haunted House Horror: This subgenre delves into experiences beyond the realm of scientific explanation, including ghosts, demons, and hauntings, and set inside specific buildings or locations. Classic examples of this subgenre are Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, and The House on Haunted Hill.
- Torture Horror: Films in this subgenre primarily focus on graphic depictions of torture, aiming to instill disgust and horror in the viewer. Memorable films in this subgenre are Saw and Hostel.
- Holiday Horror: These stories unfold around specific holiday seasons like Halloween or Christmas, often casting a sinister shadow over traditionally joyful occasions. Well-known films in this category are Halloween and Black Christmas.
- Disaster Horror: This subgenre amalgamates elements of disaster films with horror, showcasing large-scale catastrophes and their horrific aftermaths. Noteworthy examples include Cloverfield and The Mist.
- Vampire Horror: Focusing on the mythology of vampires, this subgenre blends gothic and supernatural horror elements. Iconic vampire films include Nosferatu, The Lost Boys, and Let the Right One In.
- Werewolf Horror: Centered on the lore of werewolves, these films often depict a character’s struggle with their inner beast. Standout examples are An American Werewolf in London, Dog Soldiers, and The Howling.
- Mockumentary Horror: These often-comedic horror movies are part of a genre that playfully deconstructs and mocks the clichés and conventions of horror while being presented through a documentary or news-report lens. Examples include What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Troll Hunter (2011).
- Survival Horror: This subgenre pits characters against overwhelming odds in isolated or claustrophobic settings, focusing on the fight to stay alive, as seen in The Descent and A Quiet Place.
- Elevated Horror: Characterized by its focus on atmosphere, character development, and thematic depth, elevated horror takes the genre to new intellectual and artistic heights, like in Get Out, Jacob’s Ladder, and Hereditary.
- Arthouse Horror: This subgenre blurs the line between horror and art, focusing on aesthetics, style, and often ambiguous narratives to create unique, thought-provoking horror experiences, such as The Lighthouse and Midsommar.
- Techno Horror: Centered around emotionless, technological entities gone rogue, these films, including M3GAN, The Stepford Wives, and Videodrome, deliver scares that reach beyond the realm of the living.
- Western Gothic Horror: This subgenre combines elements of horror, gothic, and Western genres, typically portraying grim and desolate frontier settings that harbor eerie, supernatural threats. Examples include Bone Tomahawk, Ravenous, and my own novel, Iron Dogs, which I hope to add to the list of movies one day soon.
How to Find Your Favorite Horror Subgenre
Finding your favorite horror subgenre might feel like wandering through a haunted house in the dark. Here are some tips and tools to help you navigate and discover the thrills you’re truly after.
Listen to the Horror Community: There are many online communities and platforms where horror fans gather to discuss their favorite films, books, and podcasts. Platforms like Reddit, Facebook groups, or horror-specific forums can be great places to get recommendations. Remember, horror is incredibly diverse, and what scares one person might not scare another, so keep an open mind!
Follow the Masters: Pay attention to the creators behind the great horror films. If you find a film that truly scares you or leaves you unsettled, look up the director, writer, or production company. Chances are, they’ve done more in the genre that you might enjoy.
Streaming Platforms: Many streaming platforms have horror sections that are further divided into subgenres. This can be a great way to explore different types of horror. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Shudder (a streaming service dedicated entirely to horror), and Hulu all have a wide variety of horror films.
Podcasts and Books: If you’re more into literary scares, there are many horror-focused podcasts and books that cover a range of subgenres. Podcasts like “Pseudopod” and “Nightmare Magazine” offer a variety of horror stories, and authors like Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft have created classic horror works that span various subgenres.
Common Questions About Horror Genres
What was the first horror movie?
The first horror film is widely recognized to be Le Manoir du Diable (aka The House of the Devil), directed by Georges Méliès in 1896. This three-minute silent film from France is a fantastical piece that includes elements we now associate with horror cinema, such as transformation scenes and phantoms. Although it’s more humorous and magical than terrifying by today’s standards, it set the stage for the evolution of the horror genre in the film industry.
What are the characteristics of horror films?
Horror films are characterized by their aim to evoke fear, horror, and terror in audiences. They often involve an antagonist or a scenario that embodies our deepest fears and anxieties, such as supernatural entities, psychotic killers, or terrifying situations. Additionally, horror films frequently use suspense, atmosphere, and surprise to enhance the frightening elements.
What is the scariest genre of horror?
The “scariest” genre of horror is highly subjective and depends largely on individual fears and preferences. Some might find psychological horror the scariest due to its deep exploration of the human mind and its capabilities, while others might find supernatural horror the most terrifying due to its inclusion of unknown and uncontrollable beings. Others might find body horror films and slasher films with jump scares to be scariest.
Whatever type you choose, you can try using some of my horror story prompts to help you get started in creating your own scary story!
And there you have it – a trip down the dark, twisted lanes of the horror genre. From the brain-bending psychological scares to the ghoulish creatures of supernatural horror, there’s a flavor of fear for every taste.
And as you can see from the above list, a number of films fall firmly into multiple subgenre categories, so there’s no limit to how much a writer or filmmaker can mix and match.
I hope this gave you ideas for a new horror movie genre to watch or a new book to read! Or maybe now that you know so much about the subgenres of horror, you’ll get bragging rights as the horror guru among your friends!
Whichever path you choose, remember to enjoy the ride, and maybe… just maybe… keep a light on!
Love the horror genre? Check out these other great articles!