Horror types and sub-genres

Continuing the discussion from Mike Russo's Spring Thing 2024 Reviews:

You sound like me - you are selective in your preferred horror sub-genres. You like Gothic horror with dreary mansions and whispered talk of ghosts and ancient family secrets, and creature horror which is supernatural, and likely cosmic horror. You don’t like realistic slashers or stalker horror where people are injured in realistic ways.

I am the same; if it’s body horror, I want it to be super-outlandish and not actually possible like The Thing or Alien or Slither. If it’s a slasher/stalker I prefer it have a supernatural element (like A Nightmare on Elm Street) or a very measured sense of camp (like the recent Thanksgiving which if played straight would cause psychological damage, but instead is hilarious and fun - the director wants you to both cringe and laugh at how capable the villain is in their methods) or a puzzly/mystery brain behind it like the original Saw. I don’t want to watch people suffer in pain and be tortured realistically.

I actually love that classic “slasher” horror - where everyone can be a suspect, and everyone can be a victim, and the cast is whittled down one by one - was practically invented (or at least codified) by Agatha Christie with her cozy version of it in And Then There Were None.


Yup, that’s all well-spotted as to my subgenre preferences! I’m maybe a little more squeamish, even, though – I mostly liked Cabin in the Woods, which plays with slasher conventions with a comedic edge in exactly the way you describe, but still found the violent bits upsetting. And I love The Thing, but I think it’s the rare example of its kind where I find the shock of the outre body-horror and violence meshes perfectly with the psychological, paranoiac drama that drives the character work – and I’m also content to have just seen it once when I was 15 and never again :slight_smile:

The mystery dynamic of the slasher-movie cast being whittled down does appeal to me too, now that you’ve mentioned it – I never made the connection before but you’re exactly right that there is a cozy angle on it!

(I’ll add that I’m curious about your thoughts on the Coppola Dracula; it’s not quite gothic, I don’t think?)


Every time I think I’ve found my niche in horror, I find something in it that I dislike - I was beginning to think cosmic horror was my jam before watching Color Out of Space. Loved the V/H/S movies but disliked Europa Report, a much more acclaimed example of found-footage. The Thing is one of my all-timers, but I’m not huge on Carpenter’s other stuff. There seems to be little in common with the stuff I like, which makes it harder to find more of whatever it is…


I’m not a huge fan of that version. I’d maybe classify it as neo-gothic? It’s definitely a period piece and the design is weirdly ambitious but the Dracula story really isn’t scary to me. To me this feels like by-the-numbers big budget blockbuster Oscar-bait with a big director and big stars, not edgy enough to get an R rating, too many recognizable faces and “really?” casting decisions to be taken seriously and suspend disbelief. The only real horror in this movie is Keanu’s “British” accent… :neutral_face:

Gary Oldman is of course awesome, but the “we dug up Joan Crawford and put her in a silk caftan” look…oof. I felt at points like they wanted the Rocky Horror Picture Show cosplayers to take this up. This looks like it intends camp, but takes itself way too seriously.

I understand that Dracula is essentially a parable of repressed desire and sexuality personified, but I found nothing about this movie hawt. Since it’s also not scary and not funny, I was bored.

I almost feel this is what they were going for, but less sure-handedly.

I feel Copolla’s Dracula was trying to throw all the Oscar category switches and also do a sober “here’s the real historical context of the vampire myth you didn’t know - but look: Sir! Anthony! Hopkins! has arrived!” sort of thing rather than making an entertaining movie.



Funny, that someone connects Agatha Christie to horror. I’m a big Christie fan, having devoured many, many of her books in my youth.

I have similar preferences as you people. I don’t like gore. I like dark fantasy and mysteries/secrets. I don’t like psycho thrillers, they are too tough for me.

I recently tried to read “It” by Stephen King. Similar to IF that starts too verbose, I did quit “It” because it was elaborating endlessly on a paper ship and a boy. I prefer a bit more concreteness and action.

Edit: I loved watching Coppola’s Dracula in the cinema.


And it’s okay to not have a subgenre niche.

Some of my favorites:

Gothic: The Others, The Changeling, The Shining
“Smart” slasher: Scream, Identity, You’re Next, Triangle, The Blackening
Grand Guignol: Final Destination, Thanksgiving, Barbarian
Giallo: The Silence of the Lambs, Saw, Seven
Creature: Slither, The Thing, Gremlins, Alien
Supernatural: Doctor Sleep, Insidious, Poltergeist

I’m a huge fan of Stephen King but also didn’t like IT. He went through a period where he was kind of using up all his short story pieces and nailing them together into over-long mega-novels (potentially during his cocaine phase) - The Tommyknockers similarly starts off with a super-intriguing hook, but then becomes another unrestrained “everything but the kitchen sink” experience. The recent movie remake of It actually improves on the book and highlights the best parts. The sequel (also based on the book which mixed the characters adult and childhood lives but the movie separated them out) not so much.

I enjoy Stephen King when he has self-imposed limits, like in The Shining (limited cast cut off from civilization experiencing horror via internal monologue) Cujo (the bulk of which takes place in a tiny car) and Gerald’s Game (primarily set in one room with one character handcuffed to a bed.) And of course Misery which probably has one of the best movie adaptations of a King work.

His short stories are also great. 1408 was actually a demonstration of how he builds a story in On Writing but he finished it for a collection. The movie is pretty good but they had to invent stuff since the story all happens in about 20 minutes.

I haven’t read all of The Dark Tower but it’s also many people’s favorite keening more toward fantasy.


I can’t argue with any of this except for the bit about it not being funny – I can’t watch this movie without absolutely howling!

Oh, I’d forgotten about that movie, but I liked it a lot too – it’s been 25 years since I saw it but I still remember some bits (the “cowardy custard” sequence, and especially the bit where Christopher Eccleston comes back and Nicole Kidman is flitting about happily as though nothing is wrong, and he just deadpans “sometimes I bleed”, which is creepy yet also hilarious.


I did read all of these as a teen, and although King apparently stopped using cocaine between the first and second books, there’s a real stimulant-abuse vibe to the series that makes it as aggravating as it is fun


I appreciate Coppola’s Dracula more and more as the years pass. The imperfections just make it better. Some scenes are stuck vividly in my imagination. Gotta be my favorite Coppola movie, in any case.

I’ve always felt like horror is a “safe” way to confront the ugliest aspects of the world. The really ugly stuff. Really ugly. I used to seek out the most traumatizing horror movies I could find when I was younger. The ones that would make me feel sick and depressed for days or weeks after viewing them. Not a process that everyone would want to go through, but I think it did help me process a lot of very important stuff.

I also love classic ghost stories. Not traumatic. Not even necessarily that scary. But they’re so delicate, so ephemeral, that they have to be executed with razor-sharp technical expertise, otherwise they fall completely flat. Other genres are more forgiving, but writing a good ghost story is like a trial by fire.


Agreed. I’m a huge horror fan. Although I have no interest in things like “Human Centipede,” and I’m not looking for the most traumatizing things, I do eventually watch nearly every horror movie that comes out. I like horror because it allows me to process my anger or aggression or fear by watching others play it out. If I feel like I might murdalize someone, I watch a horror movie instead and then I feel less murdery. It’s like therapy.


I’m a fan of the more low-key and mundane aspects of horror. I recently rewatched Blair Witch Horror Project and while everyone else is talking about the lore, I love how the relationships between the characters crumble into pieces. Parasite doesn’t seem like it’d be a horror movie, but the way it builds up resentment from the have-nots into a thrilling crescendo is incredible. And Don’t Look Now! feels like a movie that comments on how we experience time as eternal but never choose to learn from our mistakes.

I guess it’s obvious I’m quite the David Lynch fan.

I’m also fond of body horror. I got into modern IF because of Porpentine’s works anyway and I wanted to find more Cronenberg-like works. There’s something very interesting going on when people explore the politics of our bodies so directly.


Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of my favourite movies of all time. It is definitely an enveloping cinema experience, more so than any other Dracula films except the Lugosi one. Seeing it in the cinema on first release is a carved in stone memory for me.

It has strangely desultory origins. Coppola wasn’t a happy man at the time. We can in a way thank Winona Ryder for the film’s existence. She brought the project to Coppola, and also suggested Keanu Reeves.

Coppola set out to use every cinema trick in the book. He wanted to get as many FX in camera as possible. Even things like the diary pages being written under the train, that doesn’t use any optical processing. The whole shot was captured in real time using mirrors and models, the actor writing at the same time as the train model was going across nearby.

Winona Ryder leaping off the building – done in one shot with the actor going into mist and then moving the camera to show a small doll falling.

The whole idea to show the impaler battle using shadow puppets. The film is just wall to wall creativity and remarkable shots that have that have an uncanny but real quality because of how they were done. And they used probably more different techniques in one film than almost any other film, which is what makes sure you’re never sure you can guess how any particular image came about.

The performances are ripe, and that is fun, and often funny. I found Sadie Frost outrageously sexy. Also the bridesmaids. Ouch!

The Wojciech Kilar score, too. I can probably still play Lucy’s Party on the piano.

I like all kinds of horror and I’m always thinking about it and listening to the soundtracks and collecting the films and the posters are on my walls. Horror films are such a part of my life that trying to talk about too many of them at length is paradoxically difficult for me :slight_smile: About the only kind of horror film I’m a bit averse to is anthologies. But they’re not even necessarily specific to horror. And there are still plenty I like. I’m just unlikely to watch one I haven’t seen these days when I could watch something else.



Harking back to what originally got this topic going (@DeusIrae musing on liking some kinds of horror and not others), I encountered a study in PLOSOne the other day called, Liking music with and without sadness: Testing the direct effect hypothesis of pleasurable negative emotion

This is related. Why do some people like sad or dark or weird music and others just go ‘ugh’ as soon as they hear it? I’m definitely in camp one.

In just the summary of the study, I read something that shocked me as an insight, because it seemed to offer some finite reason for something people have been telling me about me, or that I have been trying to describe or understand in me, for decades. I do have to talk about me a bit first to give context, but I think the study may be of interest to lots of people here, so bear with me.

I think of myself as someone who instantly goes to the thing, and wants to go to the thing. I turn on a movie, I’m in the movie and open to it. I put on music, I’m in the music. I never begin with any any kind of meta reaction, or thinking about other people. I may get pushed back later in response to something, but my default position is very open.

In musicmaking, my partner in improvisational duo Thallium & Milo once said, ‘You can get to any place really quickly.’

In the theorising about the place of the Direct Effect hypothesis in this study on appreciating sad music, it says:

The Direct effect hypothesis argues that there is something intrinsic about felt negative emotion evoked by music that attracts the listener, without mandating a mediator or some factor outside the negative emotion itself… (now skipping some)

Strong contenders for the disposition of people who enjoy the sadness evoked by music are empathisers, fantasisers, ruminators, those who demonstrate an openness to experience, and those with a high propensity to fall into states of absorption [2,3,16,1822]. Current thinking is that these personal characteristics, especially empathising, absorption and openness to experience, allow the individual to connect with fictional narratives while suspending disbelief, and so exhibit a good capacity to “make-believe” [23,24], a capacity which generalises to emotions in music listening [e.g., see 16,2527]. This explanation also presents an alternative theoretical perspective to the above cited literature, because rather than presenting sadness as a mere by-product of mediation or as a means to some beneficial end, the sadness can be ‘enjoyed’ for its own sake (directly). It is not real-sadness, but a make-believe, or aesthetic, kind of sadness, still experienced as sadness, but with some real-life negative aspect of the sadness not triggered [28].

That paragraph really struck home for me, and seemed to speak to all these behaviours and traits of mine. I know I have this instant-appreciation ability with these things (sad music, horror films, etc) and this described mechanic of placing fictional narratives in an aesthetic safe zone, suspending disbelief and not being negatively overwhelmed, that sounds like what I’m doing.

Please note the whole study is about 10k words. But as I say, I think it may interest many here.



I have a circadian cycle for sad music. I like loud, angry music in the mornings, peppy poppy music in the afternoon, and sad music at night.

Perhaps this is why the nighttime thing. I have stuff to get done in the morning and afternoon, but evening/night is the time for getting totally absorbed in a book or a movie-- fantasizing and falling into other worlds.

But I don’t particularly like any sub-genre of horror. I like things that are well-done, actually scary, and that tend to be metaphors for things that are genuinely real-life scary. Serial Killers aren’t really all that scary in real life because you’re probably not going to meet one. But dementia is scary (zombies). Single parenting difficult children is scary (The Babadook). Isolation and bullying in childhood is scary (Let the Right One in). Racism is scary (Get Out). I appreciate a silly gore-fest, but when I love horror it’s because it reflects something real.


Oh sure. One of my favorite experiences was watching Nicolas Cage in National Treasue and me and my friend going full MST3K and howling with laughter the entire time at some of the events someone actually chose to write down and then film. That doesn’t make it a good movie or one I can say I liked. Everyone has their own personal The Room style “so bad it’s good” thing.

I must confess I also saw it in the theater and for some reason within 20 minutes I had developed a headache which was bothered more and more by the events onscreen and likely skewed my perception and opinion. I don’t know if the headache was caused by the movie or it may have been unrelated. I do have a problem where I can become nauseous if moving sideways past close scenery whizzing by where my eyes cannot focus on a steady horizon point and I don’t know if there was something like that in Dracula which affected me… I just remember leaving not liking any part of it (it definitely wasn’t funny at the time) and thinking “I’m never going to subject myself to that again…”

Similarly I was dragged to Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. For me Tim Burton is hit-and-miss and I could not muster any excitement because to me it’s one of the more boring ghost legends. The thing I remembered the most was there seemed to be about fifteen minutes of opening credits set over blue trees moving sideways in the dark which sort of triggered my visual disorientation issue a bit as well. I remember looking at my watch during the opening credits. I hated Sleepy Hollow on first view, but years and years later caught it again and appreciated it a bit more. It may be the difference between watching on a TV versus a large movie screen in a dark room that is harder to look away from.

Handheld/found footage doesn’t trigger my eye thing - it’s specifically when stuff moves sideways in my field of view (most usually looking out the side window of a car when close trees are whizzing by with nothing notable in the distance to focus on) and my eyes reflexively judder trying to catch something to focus on which it causes ocular muscle twitching and queasiness and disorientation leading to a headache.