Halloween is just around the corner and just as we must be selective about what kind of candy we choose to consume (taking into account the color, flavor, texture, chewiness, caloric count, etc.) in order to maintain a manageable sugar high that doesn’t end with your sweat-drenched head suspended over the toilet-seat, we must also exercise a certain captious selectivity in our horror film choices to avert the same onerous disaster. There are innumerable horror films out there ranging from titillating to tedious, and we’ll help you identify, classify, and select the ideal sub-genre that is best-suited for your hor-slash-terr-thrill-venture needs, in order to chivalrously save you from manic Halloween overload. (which will in-turn enable you to do as we do: save the over-load for booze, candy and self-deprecation). And yes, there will be some overlap in sub-genre classification—a title might belong to more than one sub-genre—but let that serve as dutiful reinforcement that some of our top selections are so beautifully complex that one meager caste couldn’t possibly encapsulate the multi-dimensional aptitude of these films in all their glory.
1. Teen Slasher Flicks – You know the ones we’re talkin’ about. These are basically glorified teen day-time soaps that happen to include a few atrociously predictive yet heinous murder scenes where the ingénue/pot-smoker/minority in the group gets what’s comin’ to them. We are all wildly familiar with this increasingly prevalent genre, so I won’t spend too much time ripping this one a part (no pun intended). Our favorite thrasher anti-heroes Michael Meyers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Chucky have all gained respectable gravitas within mainstream “horror pop-culture” via the classic heart-racing, adrenaline-pumping chase followed predictably by the ripping, thrashing & stabbing of young and shamelessly naïve beautiful people. Examples of such teen slasher gems include the likes of Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, Urban Legend, The Last House on the Left, Prom Night, April Fool’s Day, The House on Sorority Row, The Dorm That Dripped Blood, Cheerleader Camp, Child’s Play, Candyman.
2. Psychological Thrillers – In my opinion, this “flavor” of horror casts the darkest shadow upon one’s psyche. The potential for long-term trauma is at highest risk with these films because the psychological component is a variable, unassuming, and exceedingly personal one. These movies are deceitfully corrosive: You may leave the movie theatre feeling slightly disturbed but in overall good shape – but over the next 6 months your personality starts to shift – you may develop night sweats, eating disorders, and excessively compulsive habits such as lock-checking and nail-biting. Maybe now you can’t sleep with the lights off. You’re washing your hands one too many times after each bathroom visit. Let’s face it: once the seed is planted, it’s pretty difficult to extricate the deep, underlying, and toxic psychological effects of these ringers. Some favorites include The Ring, Dream House, Dark Water, The Skeleton Key, The Rite, The Omen, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Rosemary’s Baby, The Village, Signs, Jacob’s Latter, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, Stephen King’s It, The Grudge, Shutter Island, Secret Window, Children of the Corn.
3. Cult Classic – This “genre” encapsulates the best of all genres – there’s no formula, rhyme or reason to this category; it’s simply horror-films at their finest, no matter what the flavor: Favorites include The Shining, The Exorcist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Psycho, Carrie, Children of the Corn, Poltergeist, Night of the Living Dead, The Last House on the Left, The Birds, The Thing.
4. Intentionally Terrible – We’d be remiss not to mention horror films that were made for the sake of, well, being horror-ible. Irregardless of A-list actors, spook-tacular sound-effects, or out-of-the-box scripting, these films just can’t seem to make the transition from cheesy to terrifying. But that’s exactly why we love them. Some favorites include Leprechaun, ALL Ed Wood Films, Sleepwalkers, Fright Night, Troll, The Bat People, I Drink Your Blood, Terrorvision, Street Trash, The Stuff, Dead Alive, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Chopper Chicks in Zombietown, Sorority House Massacre, The Return of Swamp Thing.
5.Family-Friendly Horror – Every once in a while, your parasympathetic nervous system may actually need to come up for air. That’s why there’s an entire genre of horror films that have been cultivated & developed strictly for faint of heart (or weak-of-spine). To be frank, its border-line offensive to try and classify some of these movies as part of the horror genome; however, we are equal-opportunists at Hulu, and therefore believe that every fright-tastic cinematic creation gets a chance at bat. That being said, these movies can be viewed in theatres (where the plotline is as bland as the popcorn), or one may choose to rekindle the old-fashioned “blockbuster family night” – serving up light family fright-and- fare for mom, dad, little Billy and even Fluffy. Family-Friendly favorites include Teen Wolf, Twilight, Casper, Super 8, Once Bitten, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Lady in The Water, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Coraline.
6.Torture-Porn – These films can only be classified as a gross over-indulgence of the most repugnant, offensive, abhorrent, and abominable perversions of the human imagination. An orgy of revulsive imagery mixed with the exhaustive exploitation of the most insidious fantastical monstrosities can produce none other than these vulgar atrocities. They’re so offensive that we literally can’t pull our trance-induced eyes away from them. Which means they’ve done their job to a T: House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, Saw 1-V, Hostel 1-2, Bereavement, Wolf Creek, The Hills Have Eyes, Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
7.Sexy Thrillers – These erotically-charged thrillers live somewhere in the middle of soft porn and, well hard porn. These terror teasers follow a very solid and sound-proof formula of a) sexy female [or male] lead b) cryptic vengeance-filled agenda designed to avenge the murder or wrong-doing of an antagonist upon a loved one (or against the lead himself), and c) Sexy sexiness and fun-filled sex-crazed sex. Sexual innuendos, sexy body part shots, sexy and tease-tantric dialogue, sex-infused interaction, and sex-erific impulses motivating every single character in the film. Did I mention sex? These hot & heavy hyperventilators keep us elevated in a state of bliss, terror, and mental masturbation all within the safe confines of the “horror genre” – all just so we don’t have to face the twisted perversion of our insidious inner character, nor must we hide these films from our girlfriends/boyfriends/parents. We can hide our sick revelries right out in the open with everyone else. Some of our favorites include: Jennifer’s Body, Species, The Crow, Exotica, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, Fatal Attraction, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Species, Daughters of Darkness, The Hunger, Splice, Bordello of Blood.
8.Monster Madness – The illustrious monsters we love to fear. These movies all operate based on the sole premise that there is one (or several) innate root cause of suffering and evil – and this evil is usually materialized in the form of a petrifying, nauseatingly gruesome, flesh-eating (or piercing) monster (s) such as zombies, vampires, demons, sharks, fowl creatures, parasites, aliens etc. This genre has many sub-genres of course, but they are all happily encompassed within the “freaky creature” umbrella, and they provide endless nights of frightfully fun entertainment that can be had by all. Some favorites include: The Descent, 28 days later, 28 Weeks Later, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 30 Days of Night, Tremors, Jaws, The Thing, The People Under The Stairs, The Puppet Master, The Crazies, Jeepers Creepers, Pumpkin Head, Demon Knight, Alien, Predator, The Blob, Slither.
9.“Thrill-ody” – Thriller Parody or Spoofs – Slightly more sophisticated than the “cheesy horror”, and slightly less sophisticated than “dark comedy horror”, these gag-nificent films remind us of why we love combining campy slapstick with gruesome gore – served with a hint of cheekiness. Some of our favorites include: Scary Movie 1-4, Evil Dead 1-2, Army of Darkness, Vampire in Brooklyn.
10. Haunted Hokiness – Many of these films can also be grouped within the “psychological thriller” category, but there are enough determinable sub-genres of “haunting” housed within the core genre that we believe they deserve a grown-up category of their very own. These films will have you checking under your bed at night (and no, not for the last piece of pizza crust you accidentally dropped under there last week). A guaranteed good time for everyone, this is one commitment to which you won’t regret making (yes, we did just make the commitment joke). Some of our favorite haunt-astic films include: The Haunting, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, The Unborn, The Amityville Horror, The Changeling (original 1980 film), The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting in Connecticut, The Messengers, An American Haunting, The Uninvited.
11.Action-Adventure Horror – Sometimes you just want a kick-ass adventure film. Other times you want to scare the living shit out of yourself (-because you’re a friendless, American-apparel wearing masochist with a roller-blading problem). And sometimes you just want both. Thanks to this haphazardly-fused conflation of a genre wherein two halves kinda-sorta make a cohesive whole, we’ve been given the red-headed step child of all horror film genres: the action-horror classification. A common thread throughout these films is reminiscent with a turn-of-the-tide theme wherein the victim suddenly becomes strangely empowered three quarters of the way through the film, and miraculously rallies up the wherewithal to strike back at his/her offender – who doesn’t love to enthusiastically cheer on the formerly weak and guileless protagonist on her quest for revenge? A slam-dunk for any social gathering. Our favorites include: Constantine, The Crow, From Dusk Till Dawn, Mimic, Alien, Predator.
12.Drama or “Novel” Horror – As enticing as an Emily Bronte novel, or as enchanting as a Hawthorne masterpiece exploring the vast depths of the human condition, these Dramatic chronicles invoke a vastly dimensional and highly eclectic appeal to those who demonstrate enough intellectual prowess to fake interest. Many of these are period pieces, having been adapted from literary works of that same era, but not all – and it’s certainly not a mutually exclusive relationship (again with the relationship jokes… it’s just too easy). Oh yeah, and if Johnny Depp is in the film with any sort of accent at all, it will most likely fall under this categorization. Some highlights include: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Interview with the Vampire, Sleepy Hollow, The Prestige, Mary Reilly, From Hell, Perfume.
13.Dark Comedy Horror– One of the more clever denominations to emerge from the horror caste, this genre is simply heaven-sent (or more appropriately, “hell-sent”). Tongue-in-cheek meets unabashed wit and eerily effective parodies of same like-minded, yet less-comedic endeavors prove this division of horror to be without a doubt one of the most competent yet. Noteworthy contenders include the likes of: Shawn of the Dead, Vampire’s Kiss, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Child’s Play, Little Shop of Horrors, The Lost Boys, I Was a Teenage Zombie, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Gremlins, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Death Becomes Her, Tales From The Crypt, My Boyfriend’s Back, Leprechaun, The Frighteners, Scream, Idle Hands, Psycho Beach Party, Slither, Fright Night.
14. Aggressively Gruesome Fantasy Horror – This brutally offensive, brain-bashing assault upon humanity isn’t exactly my top choice, but I definitely see the appeal. It takes a hell of an imagination to create and substantiate such characters as Freddy Kreuger, Pin-Head, Killer Clowns, and flesh-eating human-bats that live 2 miles under the surface of the earth. Who am I to question such prolific creativity? Even if it does usually involve a gag-reflex. Prominent placeholders include: Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, Silent Hill, Resident Evil 1-3, Pet Sematary, The Descent, Cube, The Puppet Master, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Demon Knight, The Cell, Thinner, Drag Me To Hell, Dreamcatcher, Salem’s Lot.