This was suggested by a friend of mine. I think she thought of it as a quick list for those days when I’m short on time. How woefully mistaken we both were. That said, even this is merely scratching the surface and will no doubt require a followup. But let’s start with 13 Horror Subgenres Ranked.
Ghosts just bore me to death you might say. Ghost movies are not, however, the same as hauntings. Hauntings are atmospheric and full of dread. Ghost movies are just what they sound like. Movies. With ghosts in ’em. Thirteen Ghosts (the remake) is a good example. So is 2017’s A Ghost Story which I still fail to understand the same way I fail to understand The Lobster or I’m Thinking Of Ending Things. Also I just realized, #13. Ghosts. Thirteen Ghosts. Get it? It’s a gag, son, a joke that is.
I can think of two werewolf movies I didn’t find mindnumbing: American Werewolf In London and Late Phases. For its time, American Werewolf was a practical effects powerhouse. Even now the transformation scene holds up fairly well. In part, that’s courtesy of a screaming, terrified David Naughton. Late Phases is interesting exactly for its lack of focus on the monster. Because of this admitted bias I’ve ignored what may well be a good one here and there. I’m told Dog Soldiers is worth my time. Oh and here’s a dirty little secret–I think The Howling kinda, well, bites.
#11 Torture Porn
As a term, Torture Porn is an unfortunate over-generalization. I can understand it, but it’s facile. It’s dismissive. It’s condescending and insulting to horror fans. Kinda like most of David Edelstein’s reviews. See, Edelstein is the guy credited with this label. But like most labels, it’s lazy. And an awful lotta stuff gets tossed in the gut bucket automatically because of it Some should stay there, sure, and that’s the stuff I don’t like as a subgenre. To me, what makes a movie Torture Porn is lack of story, stuff like August Underground or The Bunny Game. Luckily for this category, a movie with Torture Porn elements often crosses over with at least one other subgenre, often with interesting results as we’ll see.
Nothing remarkable, interesting, or even new has happened in this subgenre since Interview With The Vampire. Yeah I said what I said. Twilight? Please. Bloodsuckers have been walkin’ around in the daylight since Queen Of The Damned. Hand one of ’em a sparkler if you need to. Not enough? Okay, I’ll see your Blade and raise you Vampire Hunter D. I’ll make one exception, and that’s What We Do In The Shadows, but even then, we’re dealing with horror comedy. That said, I’ll admit that I’m very eager for the release of Morbius.
With few exceptions I’ve never been a big zombie movie fan. Like vampire movies, not a whole lot has changed since… well that really depends. If you’re a purist, nothing significant has happened since Night Of The Living Dead. If you wanna include 28 Days Later, then that’s the biggest, most recent development. But it’s a well known bone of contention about whether or not 28 Days Later is in fact a zombie movie, or a movie about “the infected.” Here’s the problem with the whole argument–nobody in their right mind gives a fuck. Seriously nobody. Is there a virus that makes people mindless, superviolent killing machines? Is it easily transmitted from person to person? Then shut up and eat your popcorn, bloodbag.
Just about in the middle, and rightly so. The Slasher subgenre was played out almost as soon as it started, and once again, I can’t think of much that has come along that was all that innovative, new, or exciting after the original Halloween. There are some bright spots: The Devil’s Rejects, Hush. But even with them, nothing really goes above and beyond, especially not the overhyped Scream. Yeah yeah, Drew Barrymore takes a dirtnap in the first act but we all know that’s right outta the Hitchcock playbook. The saving grace is that Slasher flicks, like Torture Porn, lend themselves easily to crossovers with other subgenres.
#7 Found Footage
This is smack dab in the middle and there’s a number of reasons why. For one thing, it’s a big kinda mishmash of subgenre and filmmaking style to the point where it’s nearly impossible to untangle them. That bothers me. As far back as the criminally overrated Cannibal Holocaust to The Blair Witch Project to now. Still, why it’s right in the middle is because when it’s done well, found footage can really knock things outta the park on a minimal budget like the first and still best Paranormal Activity.
This is a broad category with a lot of crossover. At its most basic level, Survival Horror does what it says on the tin. Protagonist A has to survive Antagonist B. Said antagonist can be anything: a virus, a creature, a demon, a ghost, a possession, a harsh environment, nature’s fury, whatever. This is ground tread by a number of Slasher movies which is what helps keep ’em going. It’s also a category that contains what others might classify as Torture Porn, Hostel for instance. This was the movie on which David Edelstein first sprung his shortsighted term, but if you actually pay attention, Hostel is in fact a bloody, visceral Survival story.
Slashers and Torture Porn also lend themselves to Vengeance Horror with Vengeance being a driving force of the Slasher, the victim(s), or both. This is what happens in (by no means a great movie but an okay example) Hostel III. Vengeance is also what drives movies like I Spit On Your Grave, Ms .45, Revenge, as well as some of the best Vengeance horrors to come along in quite some time–Hagazussa, Sweeney Todd, Mandy and Promising Young Woman.
#4 Nature Strikes Back
What I love about this subgenre is its breadth, from The Giant Claw to present day Godzilla and everything in between. It includes stuff like Food Of The Gods, Frogs, The Happening, Kingdom Of The Spiders, and Night Of The Lepus at one end to The Birds, Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Host, and Phase IV at the other end. Add a little Vengeance, and you get movies like The Long Weekend and The Great White Buffalo.
#3 The Supernatural
Here I’m including demons, devils, curses, hauntings, and possessions. As a type, this one’s wide ranging and endlessly versatile. There’s sooo much stuff that can be done under the umbrella of The Supernatural, so many things it can pair up with, and so many directions it can go. Pair it with the Vengeance of a bullied teen, and you get Carrie. Pair it with a Slasher and you get Nightmare On Elm Street, Shocker, or Sinister. But even a simple haunting works well when it’s done right, like The Haunting (the original of course), Poltergeist, or the 1981 Ghost Story.
#2 Mad Scientists
For one thing, these guys (pretty much always guys) are often responsible for creating the lethal virus, the zombies themselves, the cause of nature striking back, and any number of things. Sometimes it’s because their experiments backfire, the classic examples being Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and The Fly. But we’ll see it again in, well, The Fly, but also The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, Altered States, and even Get Out. And sometimes it’s just because they’re so obsessed they can’t leave things the fuck alone. This is the main problem in Creature From The Black Lagoon, the Quatermass movies, Godzilla, Rodan, Arachnophobia, The Shape Of Water. Just leave things the way the are!
#1 Folk Horror
Ah Folk Horror, my very most absolute favorite. The one subgenre to rule them all. Folk Horror can contain sooo much stuff and may be even more encompassing and versatile than The Supernatural (which ironically often serves a significant function in much Folk Horror). Any of these other subgenres will still work in a Folk Horror context. Hagazussa, for instance, combines this with Vengeance and The Supernatural. Similarly, what’s Mandy but Supernatural Folk Horror Vengeance? I’d also suggest that, The Ruins, with its cult-like locals guarding the pyramid, becomes a Nature Strikes Back Survival Folk Horror. Even my much beloved Folk Horror movie, Midsommar, the one that knocked the original Wicker Man from its #1 spot, has a quasi-Mad Scientist angle with its cultural anthropology grad students combined with some unmistakable Vengeance on the part of Dani.
And there’s my long-winded list. What’d I miss? What’s your favorite and/or least favorite kind of horror? Let me know in the Comments.