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10 Horror Sub-genres That Will Make You Scream

Updated on April 18, 2013

If someone asked you to pick your favorite horror movie, what movie would you pick? Would it be about a crazed killer, demons, witches, aliens, vampires or zombies? Or are there other frightening things that lurk in the closet that makes it hard to sleep at night? What type of movie scares the crap out of you? The genre seems to have spawned a freakish amount of subgenres that just might make you scream.

If you look at film theory books, you’ll find an ever-evolving list of horror subgenres. Trust me, I have and it always seems my favorites don’t make the cut. No longer! That’s because it’s my turn to choose my subgenres and make my lists. That’s right, it’s all about me and what I like; so welcome to my husband’s world. Bwahahaha!

It’s all about the big scare. So, do you really love horror movies? I hope so, because the genre is a lot larger than most people give it credit for. How big is it? Scary big. I’ve summed my genre list to 10 and believe me when I say that it wasn’t easy.


When most people think about horror movies, they usually imagine a slasher film. It usually involves a demented man who offs all of the sex crazed teenagers while leaving the virginal girl alone. The 80’s were ripe with them. They gave us memorable antagonists like Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers and Freddy Krueger.

The subgenre, however, isn’t just about a madman carrying a knife, axe or whatever sharp implement he chooses to thin out the herd of horny teens. Slasher films have a tendency to be more about the antagonist than the protagonist: those crazy anti-heroes that spawn a billion sequels and keep the franchise going. We never wear the virginal final girl’s face on a mask at Halloween. It’s all about following the killer and finding out why they ended up that way. It’s all very deep, you know. Just kidding, not really. The body count is important, but not as important as the way the victims are knocked off. Blood must be splattered in a shocking way and the weirder the better.

Splatter /Gore Fest

Speaking of splattered blood, Splatter films sounds similar to Slasher films, but have some key differences. The subgenre got their start in the French Grand Guignol theater where, in 1897, the patrons were treated to an excessive amount of blood and guts. They loved it. So much so, the theater made its way to England as well. What is the sum up? Gore. And I’m not talking about Al Gore. I’m talking about blood and guts and a camera that doesn’t always pan away when it happens. If it’s pouring from the walls and dripping from the ceiling, then there’s a good chance that the movie is a splatter film.

Shaky Cam

Shaky cam, oh how you nauseate me. Literally. Those of you that get motion sickness need not waste their time. This sub-genre is all about making movie of one kind or another. Security cams or hand-helds, constant jerky movement is a must and any steady long shot should be suspect. Shaky cam films really hits on all the senses: the extreme movement of the camera, the sound of the person sitting near you vomiting, then the smell of the aforementioned vomit. Yum. Leave it up to vomit to cover the smell of popcorn.


The fun of horror movies is the realization of things that go bump in the night. In this subgenre, it isn’t the thing hiding in the closet or under the bed; it’s the thing that you aren’t expecting to see that frightens you: demons, ghosts and even the Devil himself. This subgenre taps into the fear of the unknown, death, life after death and plays on the moral structure of religion. Usually Catholicism, but any will do in a crunch. In the end it’s about warping moral boundaries in all the wrong ways. So much so you find yourself praying in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it doesn’t even matter if you’re not even Christian.


Things on this planet not scary enough for you? How about we find beings from other planets to scare the living crap out of you? It may not, however, be as simple as that. Creepy crawly, oozing insectoids, little green men and pods of who knows what just might not cut it for you either. You sure are needy. For that we can create our own worst fears. We have the technology and it is great…until it turns on us. Well, if not now, it will definitely in the future.

Asian Horror and American Remakes

Oh how we Americans love to remake perfectly good Asian Horror films. There was one point where all the new horror movies were ripped off strategically retold for American consumption. There is a reason why. They were damn good and freaking scary as hell. The problem is some were great and some – not so much. Another problem some of these movies faced was cultural interpretation. Some scary things are universally scary, others aren’t. In the end if a remake was made, no matter how good, it’s always best to check out the original.


George A. Romero. Yep, he really did make the zombie movie credible and now they make for great TV shows and cartoons. But, this isn’t about TV shows, no matter how awesome they are. This is about great zombie movies. We are no longer watching mindless, creeping dead guys groaning for a feast of brains. Now they run around screaming for brains, only now paired with a nice chianti. Yep, not only are zombies more self-aware, they throw out pop culture references and have comedy timing. I really don’t care, just as long as they find time to scare between the rim shots.

Serial Killer

It’s hard to find a good serial killer movie that doesn’t evolve into being cop movie. They have good intentions of scaring you, but, in most of these types of movies, the emphasis isn’t on the killer, but on the cop. You can usually find the Blue Rays of those movies in the action section or, if they have it, thriller/suspense. Let me help you pick out the real horror movies in this huge mix, because let’s face it: serial killers are supposed to be scary! It isn’t all about the tortured cop and his lonely wife who is banging her boss because he’s never around. It’s all about the guy running around town cutting off body parts and using them as tchotchkes. Just me? OK, moving on.

Torture Porn

In case you are wondering, I didn’t make that subgenre name up. People in the industry did and it seems every director that has made a movie in this subgenre hates it. It does, however, get right to the point. Seeing is believing. How, you may ask, is this different from the Splatter film? You sometimes see the cut/slice/body part removal in a Splatter film, you always see it in torture porn. It is usually slow and drawn out in a way that is so realistic and so uncomfortable it’s hard not to look away. It’s the S&M of subgenres. It’s not about the blood; it’s all about the pain.

American Remakes

I end with the remakes, because they really should be the last ones you watch. Updates of horror movies done before CGI can sometimes add quite a lot to an older film. Sometimes the director can screw it up so badly you wonder why they bothered in the first place. Similar to the differences in Asian Remakes, there are, sometimes, something about an older period film that only makes sense for that period. Some things, like TV types, cell phone or having insane asylums just don’t translate. On the other hand, other remakes are done scene for scene and word for word. For that I ask, “what the hell do we need you for then? Do you really think the bell bottoms offend that much?” Apparently they do.

What is your favorite Horror Movie sub-genre?

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I really have trouble seeing a difference between slasher and serial killers in your article. Also, is American remake really a subgenres...I mean, each remake will belong to its own subgenre, so why create a new one? The same comment goes for asian horror I guess, you may have to list all the ethnies then :)

      I was reading your article because I am trying to condense all the horror subgenre classification found on the web into one detailed classification. Here is where I am so far:

      Feel free to contribute, all comments to improve it are welcome:

    • vmartinezwilson profile imageAUTHOR

      Vanessa Martinez Wilson 

      6 years ago from Vancouver, WA

      Thank you Blue Sidewinder!

      I do like a good paranormal horror movie and those do tend to stick with me after I've watched them. A good serial killer/horror film is harder to find. right now I'm watching a lot of Japanese/Asian horror films and am really enjoying them. They tend to also be very paranormal based. I do love the different aesthetic as well.

    • Blue Sidewinder profile image

      Evan Eulie 

      6 years ago

      Great breakdown. Horror is certainly a complex and awesome genre. You bring up some good points here. I'll take anything involving the paranormal, so serial killers are probably my least favorite but there are exceptions. Great article!


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