Welcome to part four of our series of horror subgenres. I’ve been loving the research I’m doing for these posts. My TBR pile keeps growing with every one. And, if you’re a writer like me, this can help a ton when marketing your horror stories. Knowing what you’re working with can certainly help you narrow down your markets.
So let’s get into the subgenres.
This is a pretty easy to define subgenre. A monster story is all about good against evil. Evil is usually in the form of a monster. Of course, it could just as easily be in the form of the absolute idiot who put together a human being out of spare parts and then took off and left it. Or the human who made a potion to turn himself into a different man so he could do all the dirty twisted shit he wanted to do and not get noticed. Or the human who thought all the creatures who couldn’t go out into the sun were going to kill him.
What I’m saying is, even if this subgenre seems straightforward, it’s really not. These examples (Frankenstein, Jeckle and Hyde and I Am Legend) are much deeper than most people give them credit for. I’m not saying the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein wasn’t a delight. I’m just saying there’s more to the story than popular media would have us believe.
Most horror content is fake. We’re all fully aware of this. And if it’s not, it’s called a snuff film and that’s a sin against God and Man.
The blood is fake, the lines are rehearsed. The acting is well paid. Even in my horror podcast, we use a ton of sound effects and other fakery.
Mumblegore focuses on a more natural approach. It focuses more on improv. The actors aren’t well known, the budget is a shoestring. It’s basically an amateur film, but on purpose.
I haven’t had the chance to watch many of these films yet. But some examples from recent years are Save Yourself, Rent a Pal, and The Rental.
This subgenre is an updated version of Weird Fiction. Starting in the ’90s and early 2000s, it’s a lot of pulp, lots of camp. There are always some sci-fi and speculative fiction elements, of course. And since this was the time I was starting to get into writing, and since I write speculative fiction, I’d say this is more my genre than any we’ve talked about so far.
The first thing I thought about with this one is the old kidney heist urban legend. The one where a guy wakes up in a bathtub full of ice, about 160 grams lighter than when he passed out.
And that’s the subgenre. We’re talking about people donating organs who didn’t plan to, or people getting extra bits grafted on that they didn’t need.
A classic example is the story Donovan’s Brain. But another good one is the storyline in the show Gotham. Fish Mooney is captured by a man who calls himself the Dollmaker. He’s taking bits off people to sell to others who need them. The rich eat the poor. Nothing new.
Penny dreadfuls were the trashy entertainment of their day. That day being the 19th century in the UK. They were cheap paperback horrors full of gore and rather risque content. For the time, I mean. They sound like they were damn fun.
Several were based on some true crime stories that were happening around that time. Most notably, the tales of Spring Heel Jack and Sweeney Todd.
This is the stuff that gets to you. Most adults aren’t lying awake at night quaking because of a clown in the sewers. They’re thinking about whether they’re going to run out of food before payday. They’re thinking about what would happen if their kids didn’t come home after school. They’re thinking about that lump they felt, and whether they should make a doctor’s appointment.
The best horror makes us think of these sorts of things.
Psychological horror reminds us of our mortality and that of those we love. It makes us question the safety of our immortal souls. It relies not on monsters, but on the monstrosity, we all fear might lurk within us. There might very well be some supernatural elements. But that’s just a vessel to get us where we need to go. Smack in front of a mirror that shows us our darkest self, and the darkest corners of our world.
Some great examples of this are Saw, Butterfly Effect, and Split. The first two, I have no intention of ever watching again.
They scared me too much.
That’s it for this time. I’ll be back soon with more horror subgenres.
The end of the world began with a winter storm.
Sadie’s quiet life is interrupted when a tree crushes the roof of her attic apartment. She’s forced to move to a smaller apartment in the building. Then, her aunt guilts her into clearing an ouija board of a particularly irritating spirit.
But it wasn’t just the roof that was broken by the tree. There was something trapped within the building, waiting. Waiting to wake and bring about the end of the world.
Not with screams, but with silence.
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