Horror Movie Genres

Technically "horror" is already a genre, which makes these sub-genres, but whatever.

There are really two broad groupings here: Films that are organized around their central character (be he an alien, vampire, serial killer, etc.), and films organized around their tone and/or setting (e.g., haunted houses, conspiracies, comedies).


Frankenstein - There are certainly earlier accounts of man creating new life (see Greek mythology, for example), but Mary Shelley's novel sketches a blueprint that is hard to improve upon, and so many of these stories follow the same arc as their inspiration.
Example films:
Andy Warhol's Frankenstein
Bride of Frankenstein
Rocky Horror Picture Show

Vampire - Folklore about vampires predate Bram Stoker's classic novel, but Dracula crystallized them.  The story and depiction of this sub-species continues to evolve over time and in interesting ways over the years.
Example films:
30 Days of Night
Andy Warhol's Dracula
Bram Stoker's Dracula
From Dusk 'Til Dawn
Interview with the Vampire
John Carpenter's Vampires
The Lost Boys

Zombie - This has grown to be one of the biggest genres, perhaps being today what Frankenstein and vampire films were for the genre in decades past.  Zombies have also evolved over time as well.  For example, they are less likely to be lumbering these days, and the basis of their existence has shifted from vaguely supernatural resurrections to a transmissible viral epidemic.
Example films:
28 Days Later
Carnival of Souls
Dawn of the Dead
Day of the Dead
Night of the Living Dead
Resident Evil
Return of the Living Dead
The Evil Dead

Werewolves - The Wolf Man wasn't even the first werewolf movie (even by Universal Studios), but it got the legend solidified around things we all think of now: wolfsbane, silver bullets, full moons.  In recent years, werewolves have appeared side by side with vampires in a number of media properties (e.g., True Blood, Underworld, and even the crap Twilight series).
Example films:
An American Werewolf in London
The Howling
The Wolf Man

Alien - The only requirement for this genre is the presence of any entity (singular or plural) that is extra-terrestrial in origin.  The better films have the budget to move the story off-world, but that's the exception.
Example films:
Pitch Black
The Thing
They Live

Mutants - This merely gets at the origin of the character, not really its motivation, as the variety of stories in the following examples illustrate.
Example films:
Attack Of The 50 Ft Woman
Basket Case
The Fly
Toxic Avenger

Robots - Again, this is merely taxonomy about the character, but robots are almost always (mis)guided by their programming to become killers.
Example films:
Chopping Mall
Saturn 3
The Terminator

Satanic - Curiously, these films are often built around conspiracies.  Apparently Satan needs a lot of devoted human help to get anything accomplished.  The result is that some of these films straddle the line between being a monster movie and having a distinct tone.
Example films:
Event Horizon
Rosemary's Baby
The Omen

Monsters - There are a lot of other monsters that do not fit neatly into the above categories.  The best are truly original monsters without any obvious derivation from existing stories.
Example films:
Creature from the Black Lagoon
Sleepy Hollow
The Blair Witch Project
The Descent
The Mummy


Comedy - Almost all of these also fit into other genres (e.g., werewolves, haunted houses, etc.) but approach their plot/subject from a comedic angle.
Example films:
American Werewolf in London
Army of Darkness
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Brain Dead
Bride of Chucky
From Dusk 'Till Dawn
Haunted Mansion
Shaun of the Dead
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Toxic Avenger
Young Frankenstein
More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_horror_comedy_films

Nature Strikes Back - Here we have animals (and occasionally plants) attacking humans with unexpected or even unprecedented ferocity.  Many monster movies (e.g., Godzilla) also play with this theme but add mutagens (as do several example films cited below) as the catalyzing event.
Example films:
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Food of the Gods
Phase IV
The Birds
The Swarm

Torture - This is something of a new genre in that the gore is doesn't lead immediately to death.
Example films:

Ghosts and Haunted Houses - A somewhat obvious and self-explanatory genre.
Example films:
13 Ghosts
Haunted Mansion
Paranormal Activity
Stir of Echoes
The Amityville Horror
The Changling
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
The Haunting
The House on Haunted Hill
The Others
The Ring
The Sixth Sense

Slasher/Serial killer - This genre nearly burned itself out in the '70s since its formula was so easy to replicate with little more than a cast of teenage unknowns and a few bottles of fake blood.  However, some of the following examples illustrate how it is possible to transcend stereotypically shallow plots by incorporating more intelligent and unexpected settings, themes, or even the entire premise.
Example films:
A Nightmare on Elm Street
American Psycho
April Fool's Day
Children Of The Corn
Child's Play
Clockwork Orange
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Friday 13th
I Spit on Your Grave
Silence of the Lambs
The Hills Have Eyes
The Shining
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Apocalyptic future - Frankly, there just aren't enough of these since they are so large in scale.
Example films:
Robot Holocaust
Soylent Green
The Terminator (well, maybe Terminator Salvation)

Conspiracies - Sometimes paranoia is justified.  These films play upon the "everybody's out to get you" mentality.
Example films:
Children Of The Corn
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Jacob's Ladder
Rosemary's Baby
The Omen
The Stepford Wives
They Live
Wait Until Dark

Other dimensions - I don't think this is a genre exactly, but I do see it as something of an important feature in horror movies.  It elevates a movie about a killer to something more epic.
Example films:
A Nightmare on Elm Street


Copyright 2012 the Ale[x]orcist.