Horror movies are some of the most popular and beloved films in existence, transcending generations and captivating audiences worldwide. With countless horror films available, the genre has been subdivided into many subgenres, each offering their own unique take on fear. From psychological thrillers to slashers and zombie-filled post-apocalypses, there’s something for every fan of the macabre. While each subgenre is distinct, there is often an entry-level movie that introduces viewers to its tropes and conventions.
One of the most popular horror subgenres is the slasher film. This kind of movie is often seen as especially bloody and graphic, featuring grisly scenes of dismemberment, mutilation, and execution. The slasher genre premise is built around a maniacal killer or serial slayer as they take vengeance upon innocent victims. One of the definitive entry points into this type of horror is “Halloween,” the 1978 film directed by John Carpenter and starring Jamie Lee Curtis. This classic movie follows Michael Myers, an unstoppable killer who returns to his hometown intent on exacting revenge upon its unsuspecting citizens. The film quickly spawned a legendary series that laid the groundwork for future slashers.
Psychological thrillers are another integral part of the horror oeuvre. Unlike slashers, psychological thrillers employ far subtler tactics to elicit fear. Characters in these movies often struggle with psychosis, repressed memories, and other psychological states, a concept explored beautifully in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho.” The film follows Marion Crane, a woman who steals a large sum of money and flees to a local hotel only to confront her own demons. While “Psycho” was an innovative entry into the psychological thriller canon, it also laid the groundwork for upcoming films, influencing their use of suspenseful build-up and plot twists generation after generation.
In the modern age, zombies permeate all aspects of popular culture, from comics and music to TV shows and, obviously, movies. Zombie horror films can be broken down into two categories: zombie apocalypse movies, which feature characters attempting to survive a relentless zombie horde, and comedies, which take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre. The progenitor of the zombie apocalypse subgenre is George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” This classic movie from 1968 follows seven survivors of a mass zombie outbreak as they attempt to defend an abandoned house. It serves not only as one of the first great zombie films, but also as an entry point for those wishing to further delve into the flesh-hungry world of the undead.
The horror genre offers a wealth of variety and opportunity, with subgenres ranging from the subtle to the excessive. No matter the type of horror fan, everyone will find an entry-level movie that speaks to them. For those looking to explore the horror subgenre of their choice, the films “Halloween,” “Psycho,” and “Night of the Living Dead” each serve as perfect starting points with which to dive into the genre.
Horror Subgenres & Their Entry-Level Movies
Horror has always been one of the most popular genres of film as it connects with us on a primal level. It evokes real emotions that can leave both a physical and psychological chill. What is not so chilling is when a fan of the genre wants to explore it further and is not sure where to start. To help explore the horror genre we have broken it down into subgenres and the movies that are best to help you become a more knowledgeable fan.
Slasher films focus on a killer who usually has a very distinct modus operandi and an iconic costume.
- Halloween (1978): Directed by John Carpenter, Halloween is a classic slasher that helped to popularize the subgenre. Michael Myers, the iconic killer, has become a reference in pop culture for slasher films. A remake was released in 2018.
- Scream (1996): Directed by Wes Craven, Scream reinvented the slasher genre and reinvigorated the subgenre. Ghostface, the iconic killer, is still known today. It spawned three sequels.
Found-footage films are made to look like a compilation of video clips that were either found or recorded, usually with a handheld camera.
- The Blair Witch Project (1999): Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, The Blair Witch Project was one of the first found-footage films. It was so popular that it spawned a series of films.
- Paranormal Activity (2009): Directed by Oren Peli, Paranormal Activity helped found-footage to become the subgenre it is today. It spawned many sequels for fans of the subgenre.
Psychological films not only focus on emotions and behavior, but specifically on mental illnesses, conditions and states.
- The Shining (1980): Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel. It has become iconic in the film industry and is widely considered one of the scariest films of all times.
- Black Swan (2010): Directed by Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan focuses on a competitive dancer who is struggling with her mental health. It is a great example of the psychological subgenre.
There are many subgenres of horror films and this article only covers a few. We hope this gives you some ideas of films to help you explore further into the horror genre!