Let’s celebrate horror and all its sub genres

Devon Martinez

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Welcome to October — spooky season is officially here.  

     Some people look forward to pumpkin spice, while others look forward to watching their favorite horror movies and exploring new ones to expand their palate. I like pumpkin, but I love horror more.   

     The first horror film was released in 1896; a three-minute French short film called “Le Manoir du diable” (“The House of the Devil” in English). It was released before the invention of sound in film, and its haunting setting will still spook audiences today if you dare to watch it.  

     This new genre’s purpose was to elicit fear in its audience, inspired by literature from authors like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker.  

     What started out as one film, inspired by Gothic novels and short stories, has evolved into a giant genre with many sub-genres.  

     So, here are several of my favorite horror sub-genres and the classic movies within them that you should watch. 

Horror Comedy 

     Comedy is subjective, right? Well, for some, it can intersect with horror. Horror comedy attempts to synthesize laughter with terror.  

     The first horror comedy film was released in 1922; “One Exciting Night” was written, directed and produced by D.W. Griffith. Since its release, this concept has connected with audiences with new films being released every day.  

     This genre has a lot of classics. “Young Frankenstein,” released in 1974, is one of them, directed by Mel Brooks and starring Gene Wilder. This movie combines the horror aesthetics with irreverent comedy to entertain audiences everywhere.  

     Theses cult classics have morphed into pop culture events that culminated in some of the genres most recent additions, like “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead.” And this genre is here to stay.  

Cosmic Horror 

     Cosmic horror, also known as Lovecraftian horror (named after American author H.P. Lovecraft), explores phenomena beyond our comprehension. The horror is in the unknown, and sometimes the discovery of this truth leads to more fear. To some, this type of horror is unsettling because we cannot understand it. 

     Currently, HBO has an entire show dedicated to this style of horror called “Lovecraft Country,” based on Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name. The story is about a Black man travelling with a friend and his uncle as they cross segregated 1950s America in search of his missing father.  

     This is where cosmic horror finds its strength. Backwards human laws, interests and emotions pale in comparison to the cosmic reality that’s beyond us.  

     Although I don’t have a favorite, here are some popular recommendations if you want to test the limits of your mind. 

     2018’s “Annihilation” will have you confused from the beginning, and by the end, you’ll understand nothing. Check every cosmic horror movie list recommendation, and you’ll find this movie; its peak cosmic horror featuring a mysterious phenomenon that is mutating the Western coast. 

     Stephen King’s novel “The Mist” was translated into film in 2007, which turns a simple trip to a supermarket into something more terrifying than it’s meant to be. This is another cosmic horror film that’s on every list and has its place in pop culture, with a plot involving strange circumstances and monsters attacking a small town through a mist.  

Psychological Horror 

     This is my favorite horror sub-genre, because the mind is a terrifying place. It’s not ghosts, demons or Cthulhu. It’s your mind. The people around you are in danger — or are you in danger? The fear takes hold, and there is no going back. 

     These movies test your mind as you watch them. Some of what’s happening is usually made up in the imagination of the movie’s poor protagonist.  

     My personal favorite is “The Shining,” directed by the great Stanley Kubrick and based on Stephen King’s novel of the same title. I am not the only one that feels this way, since it’s listed in the top 100 movie lists, constantly. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is a worldwide tourist attraction because of the cultural impact of this movie.  

Surreal Horror 

     Have you ever woken up from a nightmare? Well, surreal horror is that nightmare, but it’s real-life — reality is the nightmare. Everything is disjointed, dreamlike and filled with striking imagery.  

     You can find at least a couple of surreal films being released every year, and the bizarre, psychedelic style is a staple of pop culture. Movies like “Donnie Darko” and “American Psycho” are a couple of well-known examples of this genre.  

     If this sub-genre sounds interesting to you, then I would recommend checking out the full catalog of writer/director David Lynch. His debut film, “Eraserhead,” is about a couple that ends up giving birth to a bizarre lizard-like creature; the film revolves around the fears of fatherhood but showcases it in a dreamlike way.  

     And he continued to explore more in this genre throughout his career with films like “Mulholland Drive,” “Blue Velvet” and “Lost Highway.” Basically, if you want to learn about this genre, Lynch is the man you need to check out.  

     While this list of horror sub-genres is not complete, it can at least be an introduction into the many colors and flavors of horror that you can check out before spooky season is over.  

Still from the German horror film “Nosferatu the Vampyre”.
Photo courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter.