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Horror 101: Where Do You Fit In the Halloween Genre

If you’ve ever thought you wanted to get into horror, but can’t handle the blood and guts, remember the genre isn’t one size fits all! There are many categories and subcategories of horror. If you’re wondering where you might fit in all this, we’re here to start breaking it down.

Horror has overarching tropes and rules. While many can be limiting and toxic, modern horror is making strides to subvert them and expand the range of what horror can be and accomplish. But knowing some of the basic trends in horror can help when it comes time to navigate through the genre. A great place to start is being familiar with the different subgenres of horror. Then you can play to your strengths. 

Before anyone gets up in arms, no, this is not a comprehensive list, and yes, many of these films fit in multiple categories. We’re talking broad strokes here. Enjoy!


1. Creature Feature

(Examples: The Birds, Ginger Snaps) Often campy or played with a heightened style, these flicks use animals or monsters as the primary conflict and protagonist. The monsters are often metaphors for the protagonist’s failings or darkest fears. They can be fun and cheesy, thrilling and disturbing, or, as is often the case, all of the above. If you’re diving into a creature feature, get ready for special effects and lots of screaming.


2. Period Horror/Gothic Horror

(Examples: Crimson Peak, Sleepy Hollow, The Witch) These films thrive on vibes. The aesthetic is central to the build of tension. Gothic horror is often a slow burn, filled with subtext and playing off themes of romance and death. If period pieces are already in your wheelhouse, this is a great transition into horror.


3. Comedy Horror

(Examples: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, The Babysitter, Cabin in the Woods) For those who truly love classic horror but don’t want to dwell in the truly dark and depraved, comedy horror is an incredible alternative. These films are often insightful, clever, gratuitous, and massively self-aware. Comedy horror can be a beautiful tool to examine and subvert toxicity in the horror genre, or a way to safely indulge in the release of horror without steeping yourself too much in catharsis. 


4. Grounded Metaphor/Drama Allegory

(Examples: Heredity, Get Out, Babadook, Midsommar) While many types of horror deal heavily in metaphor and allegory, these are the types of films that house what could otherwise be a serious drama within the framework of horror-driven allegory and metaphor. If you’re looking for character-driven, text-driven projects and certain horror feels too stylized or heightened for you, this might be your subgenre.


5. Slasher

(Examples: Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th) Perhaps one of the most celebrated horror categories, slasher flicks follow specific formulas. The protagonist is being hunted or haunted by a singular antagonist that seeks to kill or destroy them. If you love classic horror with larger-than-life villains, this might be for you! 


6. Action Horror

(Examples: Pitch Black, Army of the Dead, Resident Evil, The Mummy). This subgenre is almost exactly what it sounds like. Combining classic elements of horror with staples of the action genre, this is a great way to show off special skills (athleticism? stunts?) or dive into a fast-paced project that thrives on adrenaline.


Why is horror so beloved? While a deep dive into that would take more time and nuance than this article can provide, it’s easy to spot certain trends. It makes us feel less alone in our darkness. It offers a safe environment in which to explore and confront our fears. It provides escape and release. If you’re looking to jump into the realm of horror, figure out what it is you’re passionate about. Exploring the different subgenres can be a fun way to become familiar with overarching tropes and trends under the larger horror umbrella. Stay safe, and Happy Halloween!