Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Horror Genres: The Breakdown (updated!)

Horror is a big-ass genre. A lot of things could be called "horror" as much as they could be called other things. Some people are adamant that Silence of the Lambs is a mystery-thriller while others are staunchly supportive of its horror status. Now, this all comes down to personal taste and one's own views on the horror genre. To some it's still lowly schlock and they could never imagine an Oscar-winning movie to fall in that category. To each their own I say. I'm not out to change anyone's mind. (and if you're reading a horror blog you're probably more to my way of thinking which is: horror rules - suck it, nerds!)

I'm going to do a series of post breaking down the different sub-genres with a description of each as well as some highlights and low-lights.

This one is going to be a list of the genres. If you think I've left something out, let me know. But for now, on to the list!

In no particular order...

Creature Features

I submit that this genre is more about monsters. Jeepers Creepers to King Kong to Hollow Man I would consider a Creature feature. Basically a creature or monster we as a collective consciousness do not have an understanding of. It needs to be explained. 

Literary Monsters

These ones are monsters that we do share a collective knowledge of, specifically from the Victorian era such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Phantom of the Opera and Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Filmmakers are forced to produce a representation of the monster that either affirms our understanding of it or challenges it. 


Killer - usually masked - usually chasing and killing sex loving teens until a virginal chick offs him until the next sequel


Ghosts, demons, the generally unexplainable. These forces follow unassuming people either warning them or harming them.


The big-bad-Devil did it!!! No seriously, he totes did. Big in the 60s and 70s they make reappearance every so often trying to re-define our relationship with religion.


A lot of people consider this one a genre unto itself and rightfully so. Science Fiction has enough of its own history to accomodate that. But there's still an awful lot of horror that scares the bejesus out of me.


Funny yet still scary. This one extra super tricky to get and maintain balance in. A lot of people have tried. Few have succeeded.


Big in the 70s it's recently had a bit of a comeback riding on the torture-porn wave. Lots of time is devoted to violence in this. The plots are generally quite simple with the goal being an emotional and cathartic outcome.


'nuff said.


Mother Nature can be a cold hard bitch sometimes. These movies have nothing to do with killers, possession or any other thing. These movies establish fear through real elements. These situations, though extreme, are plausible. This genre lends itself to establishing a link with the audience through identification.

I'll mention at this point, which most of you already know, that movies can be a blend of genres. Survival of the Dead could be considered both a Survival and a Zombie. The ensuing blog posts will deal with the best possible examples of each genre. Thanks for all your input and keep it coming! Let's dork it up and make this as thorough as possible.


  1. How about killer animal movies. You've got Jaws, Cujo, Burning Bright, etc. Then there's situational horror where the tension/terror comes not from a villian or monster, but simply from the predicament the characters find themselves in. Frozen comes to mind. It's interesting that you used an image of Freddy to illustrate the Slasher genre - he's one that kind of spans the gap between slasher and monster movies (Jason too, in the later films when he starts looking all corpsified and gross).

  2. I think you're absolutely right. I'll amend the post and include... lets call it Survival Movies. I think the animal movies such as Jaws, Cujo AND Frozen would fit into that in my mind. I also think something along the lines of Zoltan: Hound of Hell would fit into the Satanic genre. Thanks for the input.

  3. My copy gives the title as Zoltan: Hound of Dracula, which could possibly qualify it as a literary monster (okay, that's a stretch). My favorite horror movies usually blend or transcend genres, but like you, I'm always trying to classify them anyway.