Horror Writing

Horror Writing: The Variety of the Horror Genre

Variety is the spice of life

This letter was inspired by a conversation with another friend of mine.

We were discussing films and videogames, a common topic of conversation in my circle. I naturally spoke about horror films and games that I enjoy, only for said friend to begin talking about slasher films. I had to confess that slasher films are not my preferred choice, to which my friend was surprised.

In a nutshell, my friend was of the mind that horror was limited to hack and slash with the occasional zombie thrown in for good measure. This triggered one of my favourite topics of conversation the versatility of the horror genre.

Horror as a genre has so much variety, there are almost limitless directions to go with it and today I wanted to talk about some of those directions. I could cover the majority (I doubt I could cover them all as new ones pop up all the time) but I will stick to the less obscure sub-genres otherwise this blog would be an insane length or a series in its own right.

I would also like to add that a lot of these sub-genres overlap, so you might have a dramatic horror with body horror thrown in for good measure, or an action horror with a monster genre mixed in.

Comedy Horror / Black Comedy

We’re horrendous things happen but in a funny way. Think Shaun of the Dead, horrendous zombie apocalypse but also upbeat music and cornettos.

Body Horror, often paired with Sci-fi Horror

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This sub-genre focuses on, you guessed it, the human body and all the grim things that can happen to it. Usually, this sub-genre will involve transformations into something other, or mutilations into something other, think of The Thing as a good example, or The Fly.

Action Horror

As the name suggests this sub-genre is basically an action story with a horror element. Imagine if Die Hard was Vampires/Werewolves/Zombies instead of terrorists. Usually, the main characters will usually fight rather than just run (although they probably run as well), there will be slightly less one sides violence and usually, the surviving character lives because of their quick thinking and propensity to fight for their survival.

Holiday/Seasonal Horror, often paired with Slasher Horror

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Christmas but scary. Well, not necessarily Christmas but your typical family holiday film with a horror element thrown in. There are loads of films based around public holidays that carry a horror element, you only need to think of Halloween to know what I’m referring to.

Supernatural Horror

My absolute favourite sub-genre of horror! This sub-genre focuses on the unseen, ghosts, demons, nameless evil forces, you name it, the less tangible the better. Usually, the plot will revolve around trying to find out what happened to cause the ghost/demon/entity to behave in this way or even to exist at all. Think the Ring, The Conjuring, and Hereditary.

Dramatic Horror

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Not dramatic in the sense of being overdramatic about horror but rather the merging of the drama and horror genre. These stories will have real emotional challenges for the characters to overcome and these will be what drives the plot. Horror normally takes a back seat in this subgenre. The Sixth Sense did this well, you had the struggles of both families, but also Bruce Willis was dead (spoilers!)

Psychological Horror

One of my personal favourites! This sub-genre can leave you totally bewildered not knowing if you watched someone having a mental breakdown or someone haunted by ghosts. This sub-genre makes use of subtle supernatural occurrences but focuses on the impact that these events are having on the human mind. Think Stephen Kings the Shining as a good example.

Monster Horror sometimes confused with Sci-Fi Horror

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This subgenre focuses on creatures such as vampires, werewolves, zombies (although zombie horror has become a subgenre in its own right). Usually, the creature will terrorise for a while, people will figure out what the hell it is, freak out for a bit, possibly go into denial and then kill it.  Think from dusk till dawn, or Dog Soldiers. Sci-fi horror is effectively the monster genre but in space, or with an alien element instead of the traditional monster, think Aliens. Sci-Fi Horror can also include experiments that go horribly wrong thus creating monsters.

Slasher & Splatter Horror

While it’s not my favourite, I would be remiss if I did not mention Slasher as a sub-genre. These stories are basically serial killers going nuts. Lots of blood, gore and usually not much in the way of a story. Also, what’s with the essentially human villains who are unkillable? Think Halloween or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Splatter horror is horror that focuses on the gore element and is often seen alongside slasher horror but not always, think Saw or Hostel.

As I said I haven’t covered all sub-genres here in this little run down, I may write a second blog covering those I have missed. Let me know if any of the above are your favourites, or if you hate them. If you have a favourite that I haven’t mentioned, then let me know and maybe it’ll be included in the potential follow up.

2 thoughts on “Horror Writing: The Variety of the Horror Genre”

  1. The variety sure is amazing, and within each one there are subdivisions too. The monster category made me think of the different types of “Victorian Monsters” that I learned about in a freshman seminar I took in college.

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