Looking for a great new horror film to watch? These three can’t-miss films deliver, whether you want suspense, splatter, or slasher fun.
There are as many different types of horror fans as there are sub-genres of horror. And that diversity and inclusivity are part of what we love so much about the genre. There’s literally something for everyone. And honestly, you could probably write a essay for me on why the genre deserves more credit.
If you love a great mystery or an edge-of-your-seat thriller, you’ll find those stories in spades. If you want a twisty, thought-provoking movie that will keep you guessing, horror has that. If you just want to revel in plenty of guts and gore, you won’t have to look far. Heck, even if you are a serious cinephile who appreciates stunning cinematography and beautiful storytelling, the genre has plenty of gems to offer you.
Below are three of our favorite subgenres, along with an underrated recently released film from each one we think you might love.
1. Splatter/Gore Films
For those who don’t understand, these are the kind of films that give horror a bad name outside of our community. They are often considered distasteful, exploitative, and even offensive. And many non-horror fans assume they have no redeeming value, thus cheapening the genre as a whole. Although, this is a very shortsighted view of both the genre and gore films themselves.
Though most gore fans have been judged more than once in their lives for their taste in movies, loving gore does not make you sick or twisted. You’re not a deviant. In fact, it’s not only normal but grounded in psychology. A study by researchers at the University of Central Florida and Indiana University came to the conclusion that gore simply holds our attention. It’s simultaneously revolting and compelling in a way that stimulates our brains. While we find blood and guts unnerving, we can’t look away once we see it.
It may be disturbing, but it’s also novel, and the brain is naturally triggered by extreme visual stimulation — both good and bad.
It’s exactly why most people, when seeing an accident on the road, can’t help but slow down to see what’s happening. We know it’s wrong. We feel guilty doing it. We may even shame others for this behavior. But there’s an almost neurological imperative at play. Our brains are programmed to stare at disgusting and shocking things. Whether or not we choose to indulge in it, we all have this morbid fascination with, well, morbid things.
In fact, many of us are repulsed by bloody violence in real life but love it on the big screen. Why? We find it gratifying to experience something that would normally upset us but from a safe and secure point of view. Watching something horrific in a controlled and safe environment allows us to test the limits of our response to fear, discomfort, and stress. And there’s lots of evidence to suggest this is not only normal but very healthy and actually quite beneficial.
At the same time, research into the behind-the-scenes work involved in bringing a gore or splatter film to the screen will make abundantly clear the amount of skill and artistry that goes into making these films. If you love gore, don’t ever let anyone shame you. And if you’re looking to expand your horizons regarding extreme horror, we recommend this underrated gem on Shudder.
The Sadness (2021)
One of the greatest joys for a hardcore horror fan and gore aficionado is to find yourself shocked when you didn’t think you could be. It’s easy to think we’ve seen it all, especially in an oversaturated subgenre like splatter horror. Of course, few subgenres are more saturated than zombies. So, to discover a film that tackles both and somehow manages to leave your jaw on the floor is something special indeed.
I first saw The Sadness at Fantastic Fest. It was one of the most exciting films in a fest packed with the best genre content you’ll ever see. It’s the kind of film that serves as an immediate jolt to the system. As you begin watching, you realize right away you’re in for a ride — the kind you rarely experience while watching a horror movie. It’s a zombie movie like you’ve never seen, and it’s one that takes you to the very edge of what you think you can stomach — and then gleefully pushes you over it.
The pace is frenetic, and the balls-to-the-wall madness starts early and never lets up. It’s not for the delicate. There’s plenty here to disturb you and make you question the sanity of both the filmmaker and you as the viewer. But it’s also an absolute blast and one of the most original and unforgettable films I’ve seen in some time. Watch it now on Shudder.
Slashers and gore flicks often get lumped into the same category because they focus on explicit scenes. But the slasher is a separate and unique subgenre all its own with defining characteristics. A slasher involves a killer stalking and murdering a group of people, usually with some type of bladed or sharp tool like a knife, chainsaw, axe, or scalpel. The term “slasher” often gets applied to any film involving murder, but true slasher films have characteristics that set them apart from other films in the genre.
A slasher film adheres to a specific formula: a past wrongful action causes severe trauma that is reinforced by a commemoration or anniversary that reactivates or re-inspires the killer. It typically features several characters introduced into an isolated location, like a campground, forest, or summer cabin. Often victims are stalked one at a time until only one character remains to be killed in the final scene by the murderer, who often has a signature weapon.
Slasher films appeared long before the term was coined and were not exclusive to any single filmmaker or studio. However, it wasn’t until the release of Halloween (1978) that the subgenre began to enjoy popularity and widespread success. This is why John Carpenter’s seminal film is often credited as being the first slasher film. It’s not the first, but it is largely responsible for ushering in the Golden Age of slasher films, which took place between 1978 and 1984.
During this six-year period, some scholars cite over 100 similar films were released. While critics mostly trashed these movies, audiences couldn’t get enough. And these Golden Age slasher films were extremely profitable and have since garnered cult followings. Many films reused Halloween‘s template: a murderous figure stalking teens. However, they significantly escalated the gore and nudity from Carpenter’s restrained film.
Following the Golden Age, slasher fatigue set in, and we entered what is known as the Silver Age (1985-1995). The home video revolution provided a new outlet for low-budget filmmaking. Without major studio backing for theatrical release, slasher films became second only to pornography in the home video market.
Then, in 1996, the slasher film’s surprising resurrection came in the form of Scream, a box office smash that redefined the genre’s rules. Directed by Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, Scream juggled postmodern humor with visceral horror. The film played on nostalgia for the Golden Age but appealed to a younger audience with contemporary young actors and popular music.
If you love slashers, we’ve got a great recommendation for a film that combines the best of both modern and Golden Age slashers.
Slumber Party Massacre (2021)
A clever and inventive remake of an 80s horror/feminist classic, Slumber Party Massacre (2021), may be best described using the popular term requel. That’s a movie in a franchise that both continues the story but also revisits familiar tropes — so much so that it is as much a remake as it is a continuation of the story.
The original film, written by feminist author Rita Mae Brown, was meant to be a parody of slashers, commenting on the misogyny of slasher films as well as the generally male-dominated genre. The producers went against her ideas and wanted a more straightforward horror film with mainstream appeal. But, thanks to smart direction from Amy Holden James, the film remains a biting, feminist satire of slasher films that stands out even in the heyday of slasher films. It’s a campy but intelligent slasher that challenges how we’ve been socialized to view women on film.
The recent remake, directed by Canadian writer-director Danishka Esterhazy, gives us another female-directed slasher flick that subverts the genre in smart and satisfying ways. While the original film was limited to feminist subtext, Esterhazy is able to double down on the commentary without sacrificing any of the incredible fun or gore-soaked horror. She expands on the themes of the previous film and brilliantly updates them for modern audiences. Written by Suzanne Keilly, the remake manages to outdo its predecessor in many ways.
It revels in nods to the original that will delight fans of 80s horror, paying loving tribute to the oft-overlooked subtlety of Brown’s original script. It’s often hilarious, wildly entertaining, legitimately terrifying, and even heartbreaking. It also happens to be an empowering story about women, made by and for women — the cherry on an already to-die-for sundae. An absolute must-see.
There’s some debate in the horror community about whether or not thrillers can or should be classified as horror films. And there’s a lot of discussion about what exactly makes a thriller.
The real challenge with categorizing films as horror or not is that horror is about evoking fear. And fear is a very personal and individualized emotion that varies widely from person to person. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of “not horror because it’s not scary” arguments when someone watches a film that fails to frighten them. But that’s a flawed argument. The art of the scare works on multiple levels and isn’t limited to just what you can experience with the five senses. It’s about what you feel, what you dread, and what keeps you up at night worrying.
Many people want evil to be very well-defined in horror films. They want disgusting monsters, supernatural beings, or hulking killers wielding impressive weapons. They want the tropes of the genre, like jump-scares and dismembered limbs.
With thrillers, the audience is kept in the dark for as long as possible. Evil lurks in the shadows. Most of the film is a mystery that needs to be unraveled. And in-your-face frights are replaced by suspense and anxiety.
It’s a different kind of fear: the fear of the unknown. And I’d argue it can be just as terrifying and unsettling as the fear you can see coming — often more so. Thrillers constantly remind us that evil is just around the corner and can be lurking where we least expect it. We can look evil right in the face and not know it. It can be hiding in the hearts of those we know and love. For me, that’s absolutely bone-chilling.
In fact, thrillers use an implicit combination of fear and anxiety to generate suspense. Films like Silence of the Lambs and Psycho, and, more recently, Get Out, are thrillers that are also widely viewed as a couple of the most effective and haunting films in the genre. Often referred to as “intellectual” horror, a great thriller can get under your skin and linger in a way few other films have the power to.
The recent thriller Watcher is a brilliant example of how the scariest thing isn’t always what’s real but rather what is conjured by the mind; the “what if” nightmare scenarios our brains create when we are scared, anxious, alone, or unsure. It’s that feeling that something isn’t quite right. It’s the red flags you can’t ignore, but those that are too easy for others to dismiss. It’s the feeling you may be in danger or, worse yet, you may be losing your mind.
Nothing is more terrifying than not being able to trust the things you see, hear, and sense.
Directed by Chloe Okuno in her feature film debut, Watcher is a stunning film that works on every level — from the visuals to the sound and production design to the breathtaking performance from Maika Monroe (It Follows). It’s a slow, deliberate film. But that doesn’t mean it’s not utterly captivating. In fact, Watcher is absolutely dread-inducing and will keep you riveted with the plight of Monroe’s Julia, an American recently relocated to Bucharest with her half-Romanian, native-speaking husband.
While Julia’s husband Francis works long hours, she finds herself almost entirely alone, away from friends and family, and unable to speak the language or easily assimilate into the culture. She’s truly isolated and vulnerable. So, when she begins to suspect a man living across the building from hers is stalking her, the terror she feels is amplified by her inability to get anyone to believe her or truly care.
As stylish as it is chilling, Watcher truly excels in its psychological portrait of a woman shattered by legitimate fear but also plagued by sleepless nights and crippling loneliness — forcing her to question what’s real or not. Is she hallucinating? Is the breaking under the stress of her frightening and disorienting new life? Is she obsessing out of boredom? Is she misreading social cues and signals in a foreign land she doesn’t know or understand? Or is she truly being targeted by a madman with malicious intent?
She doesn’t feel crazy. But the one person who is supposed to love her and have her back belittles her worries and makes her feel small and stupid.
This is an old-school psychological thriller that wears its influences on its sleeve, heavily reminiscent of films like Polanski’s Repulsion or Rosemary’s Baby. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual modern fare. It also hits every mark on the technical level and makes for a tense and satisfying watch. Monroe has never been better.
Give ‘Em What They Want
The most important element of a successful horror film is that it delivers what its audience wants. That may mean a complex, interwoven plot with lots of suspense, or it might mean heart-pounding scares and ample gore. There isn’t a type of horror that is better or worse than any other. It’s all about what gets your blood pumping and keeps you invested. However, there are a few tricks of the trade that can help elevate a horror story and make it more memorable for the viewer.
These tips from the best college essay writing service are not unique to the genre. But they definitely can help take a horror film from good to great or from lackluster to likable.
1. Get the audience to know your characters deeply. The best way to get your audience emotionally involved in the fate of your characters is to give them time to get to know them on a personal level. Whatever type of horror you choose, without that empathy, the horrific events the characters experience later in life won’t be as terrifying.
2. Create a sense of familiarity that makes even the most outlandish scenario somewhat believable. Start the story with the protagonist in a familiar place. Make them and their situation relatable. Then, when your protagonist suddenly encounters the unknown, it makes the audience sympathetic. This is because they have been there before and understand the feelings associated with leaving a comfortable situation and moving into a very uncomfortable one.
3. Use foreshadowing to create tension in the audience. Even before anything bad starts happening, the viewer will be on the edge of their seat. It can be as simple as a shiver running down a character’s spine as they walk through a closed door or a sense of dread walking down a dark hallway. Let your audience know there is something important behind a closed door or in a hallway that will make them be on their guard, waiting to find out what it is.