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Best Sci-Fi Horror Movies

Though the sci-fi horror genre has been around for century, it’s really in the last few decades that it has hit it’s stride. Nowhere has that jump in popularity more prevalent or evident than in the world of film. The 70’s and 80’s represent a golden era in sci-fi horror movies, with the rise of such giants in the industry as John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Ridley Scott. But even from the 90’s onward sci-fi horror shows no signs of slowing down, and some really incredible entries have come out in just the last couple of years.

There are so many excellent sci-fi horror movies out there that it was very hard to narrow this down to a manageable list. Even with an “Honorable Mentions” section at the end, we know we missed plenty of viable candidates. Let us know some of the better films we left off down in the comments below!

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space 2019 poster with sci-fi horror background

Did you know colors could be scary? H.P. Lovecraft certainly thought they could be, and he wrote a deeply unsettling story to prove it. Color Out of Space is a cosmic horror film based on that titular story, and it’s about the Gardner family who find that a meteorite has crash-landed on their farm. Suddenly, their once peaceful life in the country is shattered as the family finds themselves fighting an alien being that can infect and mutate their bodies and minds. Come for the Nicolas Cage performance, stay for the grotesque practical effects. With a slow build in the first half and a wild spree of body horror in the second half, Color Out of Space is a rare example of a Lovecraft adaptation done right. 

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation horror movie poster with scary sci-fi landscape

Criminally underrated and suffering from a shoddy release, Annihilation is a film that deserves your attention and awe. Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, it’s a story about a group of scientists who venture into a mysterious zone called “the Shimmer” to collect data and locate the early explorers who have vanished inside. The movie shares some similarities with the book, but writer/director Alex Garland also made some significant changes and it’s best to view them as alternate entries in a shared universe. It’s notoriously difficult to translate cosmic horror to the big screen, but Annihilation manages to do it and do it well. Full of mind boggling images and a deep unfurling dread, this is a movie that really translates a sense of hopelessness and unfathomable fear.

Timecrimes (2007)

Timecrimes horror movie poster with creepy killer

Though perhaps more of a sci-fi thriller than horror, there are enough shocking scenes and gut-twisting suspense to earn the Spanish language film Timecrimes a spot on this list. The film opens with a man named Hector spying on a beautiful woman. His moment of voyeurism is suddenly disrupted when he is attacked by a man whose head is wrapped in bandages. Fleeing the scene, Hector is able to find refuge in a remote lab where a scientist convinces him to hide in what turns out to be a time machine. To say more would be to spoil critical scenes, but just know this movie, though saddled with a low budget and amatuer actors, is a wonderfully confounding and deeply disquieting.example of sci-fi horror.

Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon sci-fi horror movie poster with space ship and planet

Sure it flopped on its initial release (as did several other films on this list). Sure it’s been panned by critics and holds a highly debated place in film fandom. But whether you hate or, in our case, love it, there’s no denying that Event Horizon is fully ingrained in pop culture and space horror sensibilities. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a spaceship that stumbles across a portal to hell. As this infernal dimension begins to assert it’s dark influence the crew is slowly driven into a violent madness. Full of existential dread and shots of pure horror, Event Horizon is a film not to be missed. Just hope you return from the experience in a better state than the crew.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly horror movie poster with a fly and black background

We’re big fans of both body horror and practical effects over here at Puzzle Box, and one of the movies that best combines those two elements is David Cronenburg’s The Fly. Really there are many great choices in the Cronenburg cannon, but picked this one for its engaging premise and delightfully gross effects. Jeff Goldbloom, who gives a particularly captivating performance, plays a scientist whose failed experiment in teleportation transforms him into a gigantic insect. It’s a disgusting and nightmarish riff on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but it’s also a surprisingly poignant look into the complexity of human relationships. 

Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator horror movie poster featuring a severed head and a creepy scientist

Herbert West, a slightly off-kilter scientist, has discovered a secret formula that can reanimate dead tissue and ultimately bring the deceased back to life. After a successful trial run on a fellow student’s cat, West takes his extraordinary elixir to the morgue and from there all havoc breaks loose. Though the movie is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, there were some major changes made and a lack of overall otherworldly dread. Instead we get a gloriously violent and darkly comedic romp full of gore and humor, all centered around the delightfully cheesy performance of actor Stewart Gordan. And really, what more could you want?

The Thing (1982)

The Thing 1982 sci-fi horror movie poster featuring a man in an arctic suit with beams of light coming through his head

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of paranoia and gorey practical effects. Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell Jr, Carpenter’s version is actually the third adaptation of the story and by far the most famous. In an isolated arctic setting, a team of scientists uncover an ancient alien being. Despite their best intentions, the creature is revived and begins to take them out one by one. What makes this plot particularly terrifying is the alien’s ability to mimic other lifeforms.The frenzy of shapeshifting that ensues, from the normal humanoid forms to the outrageously bizarre spectacles, keeps the scientists (and the audience) guessing on who is friend or foe. For the staff at Puzzle Box Horror, this is easily one of our favorite sci-fi horror films.

Scanners (1981)

Scanners horror movie poster from 1981 featuring a man whose head is exploding

Ok we swear this isn’t cheating, but we’re double-dipping in the Carpenter oeuvre. His movie Scanners, essentially about a group of telepathics seeking world domination and the counter-group fighting to subvert them, is what we consider essential viewing when it comes to the sci-fi horror genre. Yes it has the infamous head-exploding scene, and yes it’s as entertaining and memorable as you’d assume from a Carpenter film. But it also features some fine character acting and touches on some intriguing sociopolitical themes. Overall it’s a satisfying blend of cerebral commentary and visceral chaos. 

Alien (1979)

Alien 1979 horror movie poster featuring an alien egg

It’s impossible to talk about sci-fi horror without the angular, toothy distorted image of a xenomorph coming to mind. The whole alien franchise is fantastic (yes, even that one), but we have to give credit to the one that started it all. Ridley Scott’s Alien is dark, tense, and claustrophobic; a slow-burn of mounting dread and unseen foes until about the halfway mark when it explodes (literally) with stomach-churning horror. Featuring the unforgettable designs by H.R. Giger and inspiring decades of filmmakers after it, Alien stands as a shining example of the “horror in space” genre.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 movie poster featuring aliens and a person in a cocoon

It’s not often that a remake is better than the original, but the 70’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is arguably superior to its predecessor. The enthralling performances of the leads, the creepy practical effects, the unnerving musical score, and the harrowing ending all work in perfect unison to make this a shockingly scary film. The cold war paranoia of the first movie has also been updated to showcase more relevant social metaphors, such as the loss of self and breakdown of community. Body possession movies have always been terrifying, and this one, about an alien plant that consumes its sleeping host and assumes their form, is a must-watch entry in the sci-fi horror genre.

Honorable Mentions

Possessor (2020)

The Invisible Man (2020)

Life (2017)

Ex Machina (2014)

Europa Report (2013)

Sunshine (2007)

Slither (2006)

28 Days Later (2002)

Donnie Darko (2001)

The Faculty (1998)

Demon Seed (1997)

Mimic (1997)

Cube (1997)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Aliens (1986)

From Beyond (1986)

Altered States (1980)

The Fury (1978)

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Puzzle Box Winter Horror Guide

Winter is a wonderful time with falling snow, crackling fireplaces, and precious family moments. However, like all beautiful things, this season also has a dark side – and Puzzle Box Horror is bringing you the ultimate guide to winter horror seasonal scares. From real-world terrors like almost dying from frostbite to holiday folklore creatures that pull you into the depths of Hell, here are the top winter horror stories you need this season.

Movies

30 Days of Night 

Released: 2007

30 days of night winter horror movie poster

Before there was Twilight, there was 30 Days of Night… a truly brilliant horror film that tells the story of bloodsuckers, captivity, and bone-chilling terror in Alaska. The town of Barrow is preparing for the annual “30 Days of Night,” a period during the winter when there is a polar night for an entire month. Or in simpler terms, 24-hour a day darkness. As the community is snowed in and confined to their homes, a band of bloodthirsty vampires arrives and begins to pick off the townspeople one-by-one. With monstrous killers on the loose, and no communication to the outside world, the main characters must find a way to stay alive and overcome the darkness. Both literally and figuratively. If you’re a real vampire enthusiast with a side of winter horror obsession, this is the perfect film for you! Stream on Amazon here.

Krampus 

Released: 2015

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Who doesn’t love a good holiday horror movie? Especially when it’s about a demonic creature from European folklore that guarantees you’ll sleep with one eye open on Christmas Eve. Krampus has everything you could typically expect from a Christmas film – a dysfunctional family, a blizzard snowing people in, a child doubting his holiday spirit – but instead of Santa, you have Krampus. This horned, demonic creature originates from German folklore, and descends each winter to punish those who have lost their Christmas spirit and drag them straight to Hell. Which seems a little harsh, if you ask us… but you’ll get a kick out of this winter comedy horror film that’s scarily good. Stream on Amazon here.

Frozen 

Released: 2010

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Sometimes your winter vacation can turn into a nightmare, and it definitely did for the three college students in Frozen. It’s a simple premise, but truly terrifying. One second, you’re in a chairlift getting ready to ski and snowboard at a high-end resort – and the next, you’re trapped in freezing cold temperatures 100 feet above the ground. When the three friends get stranded in the chairlift with no help in sight, they go to extreme measures to stay alive and avoid freezing to death. There’s no ghosts or demons, just three people fighting against nature to protect themselves from the woes of winter… and it’s incredibly frightening. Stream on Amazon here.

The Thing

Released: 1982

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When a group of researchers in Antarctica encounter “The Thing,” it’s not just the bitter cold that they need to protect themselves from. This alien orgasm is a parasite that can imitate people to perfection, giving them all paranoia that they can’t trust each other. And to be honest, they probably can’t. Like many winter horror films, this is a story of survival amongst both evil forces and the steep snow… and it’s simply chilling to watch. After you’ve finished watching the 1982 version of The Thing, you can also watch the 2011 remake that many horror fans believe is as brilliant as the original! Purchase the DVD here.

The Invisible Man

Released: 1933

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If you’re in the mood for a black-and-white holiday movie that’s a bit less cheery than It’s A Wonderful Life, this eerie winter horror film will definitely do the trick. As the name suggests, it tells the story of a man who checks into a hotel on a snowy night with this face fully wrapped in bandages and topped off with goggles. After a series of events, it’s uncovered that this man has discovered the science of invisibility, and he’s even more dangerous than you think. An invisible man who can sneak up on his victims before their brutal murders, in the middle of the snowy winter? What could possibly go wrong? Stream on Amazon here.

Books

The Shining

Author: Steven King

Published: 1977

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The Shining isn’t just one of the best haunted books of all time, it’s also a winter horror masterpiece. While it’s the supernatural forces that cause Jack Torrance to lose himself and become a danger to himself and his family – it’s safe to say that any of us would go crazy after being trapped in a haunted hotel during a winter snowstorm. Jack begins working there as a caretaker as he recovers from alcoholism, and his inner demons combined with actual evil spirits begin to take over his body. As the snow falls around this Colorado hotel, he goes on a quest to kill his son Danny (who posseses psychic powers called “the shining”), wife Wendy, and anybody else who stands in his way. Even if you’ve seen the cult favorite 1980 film starring Jack Nicholson, this Steven King novel is a classic that you should definitely read from your creepy hotel room. Available on Amazon here.

The Winter People 

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Published: 2014

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Living “off the grid” in a Vermont farmhouse to survive the winter cold may seem like a dream at first. Netflix, blankets, and hot cocoa… oh my! But things take a turn when 19-year-old Ruthie moves into the home with her mother and sister, only for her mother to mysteriously vanish one day. Trapped in the middle of nowhere with no answers, she uncovers an old diary that pulls her into a town mystery that may or may not decide her mother’s fate. Along with provide answers for the other townspeople who have disappeared throughout the decades. Available on Amazon here.

Ghost Story

Author: Peter Straub

Published: 1971

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You know you’ve written a killer book when even Stephen King compliments it. The famed horror author has nothing but great things to say about Ghost Story, as does Puzzle Box Horror. It tells the tale of four old men who gather around one winter night to tell the many stories of their past. Some are simple, others are frightening, but there’s one that’s purely horrifying. A terrible mistake that shows that your past can always come back to haunt you, and no sin is truly forgiven. Available on Amazon here.

Snowblind

Author: Christopher Golden

Published: 2014

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The snow is the true villain in this novel by Christopher Golden, as the town of Coventry still struggles to recover from a devastating blizzard that happened over a decade ago. And it wasn’t just your typical natural disaster. Many people died, others mysteriously vanished, and strange things began to happen as icy figures danced in the snow and gazed inside children’s windows. With another blizzard set to hit the town, the people of Coventry must put away their painful memories and prepare to save themselves from the supernatural forces of the snow. Available on Amazon here.

Misery

Author: Stephen King

Published: 1987

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Snow and Stephan King novels are always a scarily good combination, and Misery is no exception. When acclaimed author Paul Sheldon gets caught in a snowstorm and crashes his car, he awakens to find that he has been captured by Annie Wilkes, a superfan of his work who will go to great lengths to get her definition of a happy ending. This includes holding him hostage, manipulating him by withholding food and painkillers, and even cutting off his foot. It becomes clear that Annie is unstable and Paul’s life is in danger, and he must escape her before his own life story comes to an end. This novel was also made into a highly successful movie starring James Caan and Kathy Bates! Available on Amazon here.

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Scary Documentaries: Paranormal and Urban Legends

You’ve likely seen the Instagram memes about the millennials who go crazy any time a new serial killer documentary drops on Netflix. But have you met the eye-rolling horror fanatics who are eager to tell you that they loved horror documentaries way before they went mainstream? And not just about The Night Stalker or Zac Efron’s version of Ted Bundy, but also the demon house, killer clown, and paranormal investigation that didn’t make the news. These chilling tales happen every day, and many have been made into terrifying horror documentaries that indulge your passion for true crime while frightening you way more than Making a Murderer or any scary documentary ever has. Why? Because while many horror flicks claim to be “based on a true story” (don’t get us started,) the things that transpire in paranormal documentaries actually happened. Truth is stranger than fiction, and you’ll be kept up at night after you watch the most terrifying horror and paranormal documentaries below. 

Demon House

Demon House Paranormal Documentary

Released: 2018

If you thought the Amityville house was haunted and terrifying, just wait until you watch one of our favorite paranormal documentaries and true crime stories about the Ammon family. This tale of paranormal activity and demonic possession took place only a decade ago in Indiana, and while some had their doubts about the Ammon family’s claims of levitation, death threats, and ghostly shadow figures… you can’t ignore the facts of Demon House. Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans shot this documentary on the property, only to have it demolished just two years later due to the terrifying events. Dread Central’s Steve Barton calls Demon House “one of the single most compelling horror documentaries on the existence of the supernatural that I’ve ever witnessed,” and Puzzle Box Horror definitely agrees. 

Beware the Slenderman

Slender Man Scary Documentary

Released: 2016

Slenderman, the infamous creepypasta character with mile-long limbs and no face, stepped out of the shadow of internet forums and into the spotlight with this documentary – and the crime that inspired it. Remember the two 12-year old girls from Wisconsin who stabbed their friend 19 times in 2014, only to say that it was an order from the Slender Man? This documentary tells you all the details of that horrifying day – with interviews, creepy footage, and background on the Slenderman. How did he go from being a supernatural, suit-wearing stalker that only lived on internet forums, to one of the most terrifying fictional monsters of the 2010’s? They aren’t kidding when they say that the internet is a scary place!

Cropsey

Cropsey Terrifying Documentary

Released: 2009

Without giving too much away, anybody who has seen Cropsey knows that it’s not a supernatural tale in its entirety. It’s also a bit confusing – mixing true crime with the paranormal to leave you wondering who is the true villain in this tale. Is it Cropsey, the boogeyman-like urban legend of Staten Island that people used to scare their kids into being good? Or Andre Rand, the real-life version of the monster who began kidnapping kids and causing terror left and right? This is one of the best horror documentaries that was made before Netflix and Hulu started pumping them out on a regular basis, and you’ll want to watch it five more times just to get every last detail. 

Hostage to the Devil

Hostage To The Devil Horror Documentary

Released: 2016

Exorcism stories aren’t exactly new in the horror genre. There’s only about a million horror movies about possessed children and the priests who try to free them. But horror documentaries about real-life exorcisms in which the devil literally locks you in a room for days on end? That’s a little more rare, and exactly why you need to watch Hostage to the Devil on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name, this terrifying documentary shares the details of a battle between good (okay, this is debatable) and ancient evil as they fight for the soul of a possessed child. After you watch the documentary, be sure to start Googling all the extra details that didn’t make it on your screen. You’ll never be able to watch horror movies about exorcisms the same way again. 

My Amityville Horror

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Released: 2012

Amityville isn’t just your typical haunted house story, it’s the demon house story. Any real horror fan knows the tale of the original demon house – how Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family in cold blood, one year before the Lutzes moved in and went running after experiencing insane amounts of paranormal activity and ghostly events. There has been an entire lineup of horror movies (and a lot of skepticism) in the decades since the Lutzes ran for their lives, but there’s something that sets My Amityville Horror apart. It features Daniel Lutz, the oldest member of the family who experienced these horrific events in the demon house firsthand. While he stayed silent for nearly 40 years, he doesn’t hold back in this documentary about America’s most famous haunted house, and you’ll have chills running down your spine with every word he speaks.

Killer Legends 

Killer Legends scary documentary poster

Released: 2014

If you loved reading the Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark book series as a child (and who didn’t?), then you’re going to love Killer Legends. Ghosts, demon houses, and serial killers all come together with this documentary that dives into the real-life origins behind the world’s most famous urban legends. You know – the murderous mental patient with a hook for a hand, the killer clown, the babysitter who gets a call coming from inside the house. Some are paranormal, and some aren’t… but each one will give you a glimpse of real-world terror that brings back major memories of telling these stories around the bonfire. This is the meta scary documentary if you are looking for variety.

Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror 

Horror Noire- A History of Black Horror film

Released: 2019

“Delving into a century of genre films that by turns utilized, caricatured, exploited, sidelined, and finally embraced them, Horror Noire traces the untold history of Black Americans in Hollywood through their connection to the horror genre.” Perhaps one of the most modern horror documentaries on this list, Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror features a lineup of Black horror enthusiasts (including scholars like Tananarive Due and creators like Jordan Peele) to tell the story of Black Americans in a supernatural world. While it’s less scary and more informative, this eye-opening documentary will help you see films like Get Out and Blacula in a whole new way. Grab your popcorn and save up all your mental energy, because you’re going to need it for this mind-blowing horror documentary.

The Nightmare 

The Nightmare horror documentary poster

Released: 2015

Sleep is an escape from the horrors of everyday life, right? Not when you have sleep paralysis, a terrifying condition that makes you unable to speak, move, or have any control over their body while waking up or falling asleep. The lack of control is frightening enough, as it’s the foundation in which we live our lives – but what do you do when you start imagining ghosts, shadow figures, and supernatural beings in the corner of your bedroom when you can’t move a muscle? That’s exactly what you’ll discover with The Nightmare, a mix of real-world and supernatural horror that interviews those with sleep paralysis to discover the terrifying worlds they’ve created in their minds. You’ll never want to fall asleep again after watching this horrifying documentary, and we mean that literally. 

A Haunting in Connecticut

A Haunting in Connecticut 2002 documentary poster

Released: 2002

No, we’re not talking about the super underrated 2009 scary documentary The Haunting in Connecticut… as this 2002 documentary told the ghost story from your living room first. The Snedeker family moves to Connecticut and finds a beautiful house that they think is a major steal, only to discover that it used to be a funeral home as they experience terrifying visions and paranormal activity from every corner of the property. Awesome. Unlike the movie, this paranormal documentary details how the family called in expert ghost hunter Ed and Lorraine Warren (of The Conjuring fame) to rid the house of demons. Like most demon house stories, the Snedekers haven’t gone without a bit of skepticism… but this is a tried-and-true ghost story that any paranormal lover will love watching on a Friday night. 

The Enfield Poltergeist

The Enfield Poltergeist frightening documentary poster

Released: 2002

Even the Brits have their ghosts and supernatural fixtures, and The Enfield Poltergeist is definitely proof. Back in 1970’s London, two young sisters started acting strangely – and that was just the beginning of it. There was also moving furniture, levitation, shadow figures and disembodied voices that many came to believe was a poltergeist. Or in other words, a troublesome ghost that has nothing better to do with its time. As one of the original poltergeist tales, this scary documentary is a must-have for any ghost enthusiast. 

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Subgenres of Horror from A to Z

Are you a die-hard horror fan? Are you someone looking to expand your horizons, and find just the right kind of horror for you? Well, we’ve got just the thing. We’ve dissected the horror into the nine main subgenres of horror with our recommendations on where to start with each.

How many types of horror are there?

Categorizing the subgenres of horror genre is harder than you might think. We’re not talking about the periodic table of elements here. It gets murky. There’s a lot of overlap, a lot of genre-bending and crossover. If you asked ten popular horror writers to make a list of subgenres within the main genre, you’d get ten different lists.

But let’s tackle it anyway!

We’ve broken horror down into fourteen categories or subgenres. These subgenres of horror account for the majority of horror fiction available today, while also harkening back to the origin of the genre.

Apocalyptic | Avant Garde | Cosmic | Comedy | Dark Fantasy | Found Footage | Gore | Gothic | Lovecraftian | Paranormal | Post Apocalyptic | Psychological | Sci-Fi | Supernatural

What are Horror Genre Characteristics?

Horror can range from internal terror to jump scares. Each sub genre has different characteristics but they all have one thing in common. They are intended to scare you.

Without further fanfare, let’s explore the most popular subgenres of horror fiction, with some sterling examples and basic characteristics of each genre.

Apocalyptic

Apocalyptic horror centers around the collapse of civilization. The world you know it can no longer exist with a complete collapse of systems and order. In horror this subgenre is often closely tied to sci-fi creatures such as the classic alien invasion, mysterious demons like Aamon coming to enslave mankind, and of course major religious events coming to fruition.

Best Apocalyptic Horror Movies

Avant Garde

For this subgenre, we’re getting a little weird. Avant Garde is as social a movement as it is an artistic one, with artists standing at the forefront of our preconceived notions of acceptable art and ideas. In horror literature, this takes the shape of mind-bending twists and impossible odds. In comics, it is the same incredible evil with terrifying and spine-tingling art. Recommended reading: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer. Uzumaki, by Junji Ito. Sleep of Reason, by Spike Trotman.

Best Avant Garde Horror Comics

Body Horror

This subgenre of horror intentionally focuses on grotesque or psychologically disturbing violations of the human body. From disease to dismemberment the core of it is what can happen to the human body. It is not unusual for this to also include sexual, alien infestation, strange movements, transformations, and utter destruction of the human body. We’re talking everything from Human Centipede (is this really even horror?) to John Carpenters “The Thing.”

Comedy Horror

Tucker and Dale vs Evil Movie Poster

When dark humor just isn’t enough we have comedy horror. Accidental gore films like Tucker and Dale vs Evil to subtle quips from Ash Williams in the Evil Dead. A common theme in Comedy Horror is the victim who stumbles through the film and somehow manages to survive.

Cosmic Horror

The cosmic horror genre is both personally existential, and darkly expansive. The darkest corners of space, the pitch-black pits of demons, the sense of no real control, the fear of the unknown, and dread that comes with the ineffable size of the universe. This genre is strongly tied to H.P. Lovecraft who brought it to life with novellas such as At the Mountains of Madness (1936), The Shadow over Innsmouth (1936), and The Shadow Out of Time (1936). “The Shape Of Water” by Guillermo Del Toro or “The Imago Sequence and Other Stories” 2009 by Laird Barron are other strong modern works of cosmic horror. Space itself and extraterrestrial adventures also play a preeminent role in the genre, with standout comics like Nameless, by Chris Burnham & Grant Morrison, and Southern Cross, by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belager.

Best Cosmic Horror Movies | Best Cosmic Horror books | Best Cosmic Horror Comics

Dark Fantasy

These novels give readers the best of both worlds. They contain fantasy elements like magic, strange creatures, etc. They also add a dark layer of terror and suspense, just to keep things interesting. Recommended reading: The Citadel of Fear, by Gertrude Barrows. The Girl From The Other Side , by Nagabe. Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann & Marrie Pommepuy.

Folk Horror

Folk horror is a subgenre of horror for film, books, comics or television which includes elements of folklore or urban legends as the inspiration of the main focus of horror for the story. Sometimes stated as “based on a true story” this subgenre loosely uses the phrase “true story” as many of these legends have little fact checking if any at all.

Found Footage

The Blair Witch Project movie poster

Although found footage films date as far back as the 1960’s the seminal work in horror is often considered to be The Blair Witch Project. Shakey cameras with low production quality are the foundation of the story. This genre has exploded with cell phone footage and continues to grow today. Possibly due to the ease in which someone can create a found footage horror film.

Gore

Also sometimes labeled as a splatter film the main focus of the film is well the blood, guts and dismembered body parts. Shock is a key element of this genre. Movies such as the SAW series are famous for the difficult to watch torture sequences. The main goal is for the audience to wince in disgust as the victims bodies are torn to bits. This genre crosses out of fiction with some popular series in the 80’s and 90’s with actual death in them but we only focus on fictional horror here so we will leave that for other sites and forums to discuss.

Gothic

Gothic horror goes way, way back. In fact, it’s the literary predecessor to the horror genre we know and love today. So in terms of cultural education, this subgenre warrants some attention. These dark, brooding stories often blend romance and horror, with a side dish of death. They’re usually atmospheric stories, where the setting itself becomes a kind of character. Recommended reading: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. Dracula (The Graphic Novel), by Bram Stoker and Jason Cobley. Gotham by Gaslight, by Brian Augustyn. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill.

The Best Gothic Horror Comics

Lovecraftian

H.P. Lovecraft often described his own work as “weird tales.” But they contain horror elements as well. He created his own subgenre that many writers still emulate today. Lovecraftian fiction often focuses on cosmic elements that are beyond human understanding. Thus, it’s also referred to as “cosmic horror.” These stories can make us humans feel small and insignificant, in the grand scheme of things. Recommended reading: At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft. Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by Thomas Ligotti. The Ballad of Black Tom, by Victor LaValle.

ghost or supernatural spirit

Paranormal

Merriam-Webster defines paranormal as something that is “not scientifically explainable.” That’s a broad definition. When it comes to horror fiction, the term “paranormal” usually refers to ghosts, hauntings, demons and possession. And there is some truly frightening fiction that falls into this subgenre. Recommended reading: The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty. The Shining, by Stephen King. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson (it fits here, as well).

Post-Apocalyptic

The world as we know it has ended, and something terrible has risen in its place. Post-apocalyptic fiction challenges us to envision a world beyond our own, a doomsday scenario that takes us into uncharted and often terrifying territory. Not all post-apocalyptic fiction uses horror elements. Some of it falls into the dystopian category. But there are plenty of good stories out there that paint the end of the world in horrifying hues. Recommended reading: Swan Song, by Robert McCammon. Monument 14, by Emmy Laybourne. Feed, by Mira Grant. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Psychological:

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster

Put the ghosts, monsters and slashers aside for a moment. Let’s talk about the psychological effects of horror. The internal terror and the long lasting trauma that occurs under moments of major duress. Psychological horror fiction uses intense human emotions like fear and dread to grip the reader, with a healthy dose of anxiety and suspense on the side. Recommended reading: Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin. Come Closer, by Sara Gran. Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.

Psychological horror also has a rich history in books and film that dates back to the late 1800s.

Scary Documentaries

Yep even documentaries can be a subgenre here and these have certainly become more popular. Unlike the found footage genre these have at least some reason to believe the experience were real. They are often paranormal experience but also look at things like serial killers. We’ve compiled a list of the most terrifying documentaries and it sure looks like horror to us.

Sci-Fi

Mad scientists, experiments that did not go as planned, alien invasions and creatures we never wanted to know coming into existence. This subgenre of horror crosses well into Cosmic Horror but maybe with a touch less existential dread. You know where the alien came from and you know the moment the scientist crossed the line. We’ve explored the history of sci-fi horror here.

Best Sci-Fi Horror Books | Best Sci-Fi Horror Comics

Supernatural

The supernatural subgenre of horror overlaps with the paranormal category. Again, we’re dealing with things that “appear to transcend the laws of nature,” according to Merriam-Webster. I’ve broken this out into a separate category to distinguish it from the ghostly and haunting world of the paranormal. Here, we’re talking about werewolves, witches, and other things that defy the laws of nature. Recommended reading: Wytches, by Scott Snyder. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King. The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. B.P.R.D., by Mike Mignola.

Best Supernatural Horror Comics | Best Supernatural Horror Streaming Online

So there you have them, the popular subgenres of horror with some representative works to keep you up at night. For more literature, Puzzle Box has original literature as well as features on Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker.

Survival Horror

This subgenre of horror is typically found in video games. The point of tension, like much of horror, is surviving the environment. The main character is often put to the test to survive against all odds. It’s often considered “action horror” due to the physical activity often required to survive. Apocalyptic horror scenarios are often used for survival horror.

True Crime

Pretty straightforward as the title implies. The subgenre of horror is based on real life horrors that have happened. The most popular arena here is serial killers with movies and documentaries about people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and more. The main focus is it must be from a real life crime. With that said, these are often dramatizations of the events not to be confused with the scary documentaries subgenre.

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The Best Movies About the End of the World

Remember when everybody thought the world would end in 2012? Nearly a decade later and we’re still here, but the terrifying apocalyptic movies will never stop… and we like it that way. These films are the ideal combination of action, suspense, and horror – watching society unravel as the main characters quite literally run for their lives, often to no avail. What would you do if you were simply getting your hair done at the salon, when buildings started to collapse all around you? Is there any imaginable way to escape a natural disaster of this capacity? Answer these questions and get a fix of apocalyptic horror with these top-rated films about the end of the world.

These Final Hours (2015)

These final hours movie poster

If you found out the world was ending, what’s the first thing you would do? Some would say goodbye to their loved ones or chill out with Netflix and good food, but the protagonist in These Final Hours wants to party. And party hard. The film begins in Perth, Australia as an asteroid collides with Earth, with about twelve hours to go until a firestorm reaches the country. James wants to experience the “party to end all parties” before he exits the planet, but things take a unique turn as he meets new people and comes across terrifying things. This is definitely one of the most underrated end-of-the-world thrillers, ever. 

Take Shelter (2011)

Take Shelter movie poster

The end of the world is even more terrifying when it’s all happening inside your head, and that’s exactly what happens to Curtis LaForche in this apocalyptic thriller. He sees raindrops made of oil and swarms of black birds, while nobody else does… and his increasing anxiety and strange behavior begins to cause issues with his job, family, and life. Is he simply going through a rough time period, struggling with mental illness, or foreshadowing a future disaster? You’ll have to watch this Jessica Chastain thriller (her specialty) and find out. 

2012 (2009)

2012 end of the world movie poster

For many years, there were conspiracy theories about the world ending in 2012, as this was the conclusion of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Obviously, it didn’t happen… but we did get a pretty sweet disaster movie out of it. Released in 2009, this film centers around Jackson Curtis and his attempts to save his family from impending doom. And by that, we mean a series of natural disasters that are slowly crumbling the Earth and killing off the population. This film has the ideal combination of action and scares, and you can sleep easy knowing that we all survived the year 2012. 

I Am Legend (2007)

I am legend movie poster

I hope you are enjoying the apocalypse. So what do you do when 90% of the Earth’s population is killed by a virus, while you’re the 1% who lives and the other 9% are terrifying mutants who want to kill you? Ask scientist Robert Neville, who is living a post-apocalyptic life in the ruins of Manhattan. Will Smith gives a breathtaking performance as he tries to survive and find a cure for the virus, while tracking down any fellow survivors and trying not to get attacked by the mutants. As you can imagine, it’s an eventful film!

Children of Men (2006)

Children of men movie poster

The premise of this film is quite simple. Humans have mysteriously become infertile and society is quickly (and not so quietly) dying out. There are less natural disasters and more quiet moments of fear, but Children of Men still has plenty of action. When a woman is believed to be pregnant, it becomes a symbol of hope for society… and the film follows a group of people as they do whatever it takes to stay alive. 

World War Z (2013)

World War Z Movie Poster

Brad Pitt spending a nearly 2 hour movie trying to stop a zombie pandemic, and looking amazing doing it? That’s why you need to watch World War Z. Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, a former United Nations agent who is assigned to gather clues about how to stop zombies from taking over the planet – guided by his duty to his job and need to protect his family. This movie is based on the 2006 novel World War Z, which you should also check out! If Brad Pitt can’t make the apocalypse fun who can?

28 Days Later (2002)

28 days later movie poster

This film hits a bit close to home in 2021, as it centers around four individuals trying to rebuild their life after a contagious virus hits and destroys society as they once knew it. Before there was Bird Bo or The Quiet Place, there was 28 Days Later… as this film shows the survivors trying to cope with their losses while avoiding the zombies that could possibly infect them. Among many, many other things. Some critics even say that it revived the zombie genre all the way back in 2002!