I once did a series about science fiction subgenres and it was pretty popular. So sometime later I decided to do a series about fantasy subgenres. It was also fun, and also still popular.
Now that I’m getting ready to publish my first horror book, it seemed like a great time to dive into one more collection. So today we begin a six-part series about the many different subgenres that horror can fall into. Horror is as varied and complex as are those of us who love it. Sometimes it’s bright and shiny, blood and guts spilling out while a sexy blond lets out a braying, insane laugh. Sometimes it’s a man alone in a room with his memories. Sometimes it’s a whisper from under a bed, or in a closet. Sometimes it’s the sound of chewing, grinding teeth.
Sometimes, it’s a scream.
I love horror, in almost any form. So let’s talk about what different flavors we can experience when partaking in the horror genre.
(Note: much of my research was done on Wikipedia. If you like this, consider donating to them.)
Art house Horror
Sometimes called elevated horror, art-house horror is a more sophisticated example of the genre. At least, that’s what it would like to be. It’s not about jump scares or a room full of blood. It’s more about subtle, psychological chills. It’s a horror that might not gross you out but instead upset you on a more basic level.
I’m not a huge fan of this subgenre. I think horror suffers when the artists start crawling up their own asses. But when it’s done well, it’s exemplary. Some notable examples of art-house horror are Get Out, The Babadook, A Quiet Place, and The Shining. Art house horror seems to be having a moment. And while I’m thrilled to see more artists exploring the genre, I wouldn’t mind a few more slasher flicks.
Body horror explores body mutilation. It’s the rotting zombies, the bloated corpses. This subgenre relies on the gross-out factor, but it can go beyond that. The way this horror subgenre works best is when it preys upon our sympathies. When we see a mutilated body, it’s awful. When we start wondering what it would be like to live through that sort of mutilation, that’s where it starts getting really scary.
House of A Thousand Corpses is the first film that comes to mind with this subgenre. But really, almost any slasher flick is going to have components of this. Everything from the Scream Franchise to Hannibal. And the reason is simple. As Stephen King says, we’re afraid of the bad death. Body horror explores bad death to the extreme.
I used to have a virtual pet Cthulhu on my tablet. It’s not super relevant to this. It’s just an example of a creature that was once feared being turned into a cuddly cartoon.
As the name would apply, Cthulhu mythos is stories that contain Cthulhu as a character. He is the original creepypasta when you think about it. One great writer, HP Lovecraft, made him up. Now everyone writes about him.
The character first appeared in the holy Weird Tales in 1928. And Cthulhu has continued to capture hearts, and unwary sea goers, ever since. Some fun examples of this subgenre are The Color of Outer Space and the 2005 movie, The Call of Cthulhu.
(Note, this subgenre differs from Lovecraftian, which we’ll be talking about later in this series.)
This is a subgenre we can’t reproduce, as it only describes stories written in a specific time frame. From 1760 to 1820 to be specific. But we can copy the style, and that’s something.
Eighteenth-century gothic was all about taking medieval stories and giving them a ‘modern’ feel. I mean, modern for the eighteenth century, of course.
There were a lot of supernatural elements to these stories. It’s described as supernatural plots with emotionally realistic characters. Ghosts haunting castles. Dead loved ones returning with cryptic messages. All things dark and eerie, but also uptight and proper. Some examples of this subgenre would be The Castle of Otranto and The Old English Baron.
Porn. This is porn. It’s Dracula shirtless spilling blood over his chest, then going down on the three vampire seductresses. It’s a woman being undressed and screwed silly by a ghost. It’s a wet dream that gets you pregnant for real.
There’s almost always an element of sex in horror. Sex is both the best and most terrifying thing most of us can think of. Think how many horror movies have a sexy time scene right before someone gets slashed to bits. It’s even one of the three rules for surviving a horror film. Don’t have sex. Don’t drink or do drugs. And don’t say I’ll be right back. But the first, and most important, is don’t have sex.
Often sex is the lure that ends someone’s life. A hot blond girl or dark mysterious man sweet talks you into going somewhere more private with you. Erotic horror just goes ahead and shows you all the good bits before the gory ones.
And I swear, it’s like half of American Horror Story Hotel. There is just a lot of sex in that season.
Fantastique is fantasy horror, which I’ve discussed at length. But apparently, it’s a big thing in France.
One distinction of Fantastique is that there is little to no explanation regarding the supernatural elements. Things just are what they are. There is magic. There are dragons. There is a thousand armed monster who lives under that house and will rip you apart if you go in there. No, we don’t need to know where it comes from. It’s just there.
And I kind of love that. I love that there’s just no explanation. There’s no explanation why this horrifying thing is. It just is.
That’s it for this time. But I’ll be back soon with more horror subgenres to explore.
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