Horror Spirits Movies

Halloween is near, so it's time to get into our spooky spirits. Watching horror movies is a great way to do this—but do you know what kinds of horror movies there are out there? With recommendations for each subgenre, find your perfect match!

Horror Spirits Movies

Updated: October 30, 2023

October 30, 2023

The variety in horror genres is copious—there are too many to count, in fact. When you watch a movie, you might think, “Oh! I know what type of horror this is,” or you may select movies based on a genre you enjoy. However, there are specific genres of horror that may be more accurate to your liking. Usually, a horror movie consists of more than one subgenre. A mix of concepts and effects of varying subgenres are merged to enhance the watching experience. A survival horror, for one, might incorporate pieces of science fiction horror, but that doesn’t mean that characters in all science fiction movies have survival as their goal; the same applies to all movies.

Psychological Horror

Psychological horror movies explore the mental and emotional states that characters go through. These characters are quite complex and get put through terrible scenarios that could be mentally demanding or traumatizing, harming their mental well-being and driving them into a state of vulnerability, ranging from insanity, or, at a lower extreme, to a point of instability and doubt. Through their journey, these characters should be relatable to you in some manner—whether their situation is like your own, or their response is. Oftentimes, what characters go through is not “real” or tangible—it is a false perception created by the characters’ own mental processes. In fact, there may not even be an antagonist in psychological horror!

By watching psychological horror, you might suddenly feel anxious, uneasy, or panicked. This is because, rather than cheap thrills, psychological horror movies use peculiar effects to instill genuine fear and get into your head. Eerie and leading sounds play in the background, building up suspense and uneasiness for the viewers. Chaotic perceptions and unstable cameras are also used, designed to make the movie more immersive—but an unintentional effect is that it also makes viewers feel disturbed. Nevertheless, this genre reels in many fans because, at its core, it's meant to make you feel heard by working with experiences and fears many people have and building on them.

Feature Film: The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs is a classic psychological horror and thriller movie directed by Jonathan Demme in 1991. Based on the novel of the same name written by Thomas Harris, the story follows Clarice Starling, a top student who is training to join the FBI and is advised to have an interview with a notable psychiatrist. However, things are not so simple. Bearing a tense and eerie atmosphere, the movie explores the minds of murderers and delves into the darkest parts of the human mind. Starling, who was once innocent, disconnects from everything going on around her.

Survival Horror

Survival horrors center their focus on surviving rather than the complexity of the mind or situation. Characters are placed in a threatening situation with little knowledge and few abilities to fight back. Throughout the movie, they will develop and learn more about what they are facing and use this knowledge to acquire skills that will enable them to survive and escape back to civilization. These characters gain new skills given the high pressure and lack of resources, forcing them to become innovative due to the wager of their life. Survival horrors will have enemies, who could either be natural or supernatural. Typically, in survival horrors, we see serial killers or psychopaths as the antagonists and common environments include (haunted) houses.

Survival horror movies have a dark motif following the story and visual choices. Eerie music plays when the characters are defenseless to inflict anticipation or shock.

Feature Film: Resident Evil franchise

Resident Evil is an action horror film series released from 2002 to 2021. Many of its directors were based on (but not identical to) the Resident Evil games. In different movies, situations and characters may slightly vary—but they share a core. In an alternate society, viruses cause people to become zombies. Our protagonists are put into a state of danger and helplessness. With no one to help them, they are bound together and go through obstacles to escape their region and survive the infection.

If you enjoy watching Resident Evil, you can explore the rest of the franchise and even the games!

Art House Horror

Art house horror is a lesser-known genre; it is a niche that focuses on symbolism and allegories to convey deeper meanings and themes. These themes are often about society and culture but may also incorporate science fiction or supernatural concepts. It is common for art house horrors to work with psychological horror due to its use of emotions and explorations of the depth of people. Though genuine fear is used as a fear tactic, these films have a different motive, aiming to be thought-provoking.

Art House horrors tend to be slow burns, movies that unfold their narratives at a leisurely pace, with experimental and unique techniques. Time is an aspect often tampered with to create tension, through time skips, parallel storylines, or flashbacks. Surreal imagery is also used to bring viewers unease and emulate a messed-up dream. It brings up themes of supernaturalism and irrationality, making viewers feel connected to the unknown and more immersed in these films’ events.

Feature Film: Crimes of the Future

Crimes of the Future is an abstract arthouse horror film that was created in 2022 by David Cronenberg. The movie's plot line doesn't seem too crazy, exploring a society where humans gain new abilities, and two individuals working on modifying people's bodies. It is quite violent and addresses many identity, body, and technological issues in unusual ways. The movie is rather slow-paced and has intricate details that could change the narrative entirely. It explores philosophical principles of human life and the body, and brings thoughts and wonders into the viewer's mind, triggering the feeling of fear.

Slasher Horror

Slasher horrors revolve around mass murder more than around intricate themes or individual situations. These movies follow a killer, who is usually a psychopath or serial killer and will tell the story of people attempting to survive as the killer begins mass-murdering people around them. These killers might have a signature way of committing murder—one which may either be eccentrically violent or creepily creative. The victims in a slasher horror also vary, as some killers have a target demographic, while others simply target as many people as they can. Throughout the movie, while the killer continues murdering, the victims learn more about the killer, working to outsmart, escape, or unmask them.

Murder is what slasher horrors do, and it's how they scare the audience too. Beware, as it will be blatantly shown—you may see a lot of blood and visual effects.

Feature Film: Carrie

In 1976, the movie Carrie was released. Based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, it follows a young girl named Carrie who discovers her supernatural powers and uses them to take revenge. Those around her attempt to escape and survive her rampage, but her killing spree cannot be stopped as she begins killing hundreds of people around her.

Body Horror

On a more grotesque note, body horror goes into physical pain. Using extreme graphics and scenarios, body horror movies distort or mutilate someone's body, taking us through the experience in a painfully detailed way. This transformation will hurt the character physically due to the pain of transforming as well as affect their psyche. Through the pain, one may lose a sense of self and reality, slowly nearing the point of insanity. Common reasons for a character's body changing include someone else’s force, or science fiction elements (such as genetics, illness, or supernaturals). Body horror movies don't only show pain and gore, but also delve into characters’ reactions and changes as an effect.

Body horror movies can be extremely graphic, and thus uncomfortable to watch. The physical aspects of body horror movies are what is actually scary, but the suffering that characters undergo also frightens the audience.

Feature Film: The Fly

The Fly (1986), written by David Cronenberg, is a classic science fiction-based body horror. Its story follows a scientist, Seth, and journalist, Veronica, who conduct experiments and testing. During these tests, something goes wrong, and Seth begins to change; he is still in tune with his mind, but cannot control his urges, and his body is rapidly changing as he grows into a fly.

Supernatural Horror

Supernatural horrors come in a wide range, but they focus on paranormal activity and supernatural beings (such as witches, vampires, zombies, ghosts, and many more). Though we often see components of supernatural horrors in other movies, it is nonetheless its own subgenre. In these films, characters might not be able to comprehend what is going on, and others may not trust their reports on it due to their disbelief in supernatural beings. Characters attempt to learn more about these beings and how to escape or work with them throughout the story. However, amidst this process, characters might face psychological factors due to the shock and disbelief inflicted on them by their new experiences. In the face of this unknown, our protagonists adapt and profoundly develop, finding creative ways to defeat the unknown. Spiritual elements may also be involved in supernatural horror, since they can be a part of the supernatural, along with peoples’ tendency to turn to religion during a time of desperation.

Many people fear what they don’t know; this is the concept that supernatural horror works from. With a lack of knowledge about supernatural beings, people may fear what is to come. This makes characters susceptible to losing their connections and beliefs in reality. Most elements that make supernatural horrors so great are the visuals that bring the supernatural beings to life.

Feature Film: The Exorcist

Directed by William Friedkin in 1973, The Exorcist is an adaptation of a novel the same name that goes through the story of paranormal activity and exorcism. A young girl begins to experience unnatural things, spanning from behaving weirdly to levitating, which raises concern in her mother. When they go to the doctors for help, to no avail, they turn to religion, and priests try to help release the demon inside her.

Science Fiction Horror

Sci-fi horror movies view the world from a technological perspective, in a modern society with experimentation or innovations. However, these advances harm society more than they do good. Scientists might create assistants or interactive entities that grow a mind of their own and take over. Sci-fi horrors explore the risks and damages of their technology, and what went wrong in the advancements. These advancements tend to affect commoners, even if not everyone is aware of them or on the front line. Characters may not be able to cope with or even believe what they see.

Special effects are frequently used to build the atmosphere and bring fanciful things to life. It brings fear to the audience because, as a society, we want new technology, thinking it will improve our lives, but we don't know if our technology will grow evil the way it does in the movies.

Feature Film: Chopping Mall

Released in 1986 and directed by Jim Wynorski, Chopping Mall is the story of three friendly mall robots who suddenly turn evil and murderous. This was the consequence of a technological malfunction in an advancement, and by the time their creators found a way to stop them, it was too late. A group of people find themselves trapped when these robots go on their murderous spree, and the victims must survive and avoid the robots.

Comedic Horror

Though horror is meant to be scary, that doesn't mean it cannot have a comedic twist. While the threats in these movies vary widely and span many other genres, the way characters react is what makes them comedic horrors. Suspense is built up through events and sounds and then is broken with comedy. While the events can be horrific, the characters bring comedy to the table: Some characters might make light jokes, while others may make dark jokes. This is also something we do in real life—crack a joke to break the silence or fear in a situation. Oftentimes, comedic horrors also mock events or other movies. Characters in these movies may be less competent, lacking a sense of reality and seriousness. They might also not grow as much as characters do in other genres due to their views on the situation. While in other genres, characters must mature to adapt to and overcome their situation, those in comedics horror are meant to be immature and playful throughout the whole movie. Additionally, more often than not, characters in comedy horrors will dramatize the threats faced in the movie.

Feature Film: Bodies Bodies Bodies

In 2022, a playful horror movie called Bodies Bodies Bodies was released, directed by Halina Reijn. The movie takes us along with a large group of people to a party game that goes horribly off-track. When the group finds one of their member’s dead bodies, the movie shifts into a horror story, with the characters blaming and accusing each other in desperate search of the killer. With comedic plot twists and a light undertone, it is a horror movie that will keep you on edge while also bringing out a laugh.

Found Footage Horror

While most horror movies take the perspective of the main character(s), there are outliers. With shaky cameras and a ‘surveillance footage’ style recording perspective, found footage movies are meant to simulate that the horror movie is a collection of footage—that it really happened. Sometimes, this perspective may be broken to take on a mockumentary feel. Since it's supposed to be happening in real-time, you won't hear many extra sounds or background music (since music wouldn't start playing in the real world). The only sounds you should hear are those of the situation. All these filming techniques are intended to make the film gritty. Found footage films are dependent on other genres; though they do affect the plot and how it is conducted, it is more closely a style of filming than a genre.

Feature Film: Rec

Co-written and directed by Paco Plaza and Jaume Balagueró, Rec is a Spanish found footage film that came out in 2007. Rec takes you through the story of a journalist who gets involved in a sudden virus outbreak from the perspective of cameras. People attempt to escape and survive while avoiding getting bitten by the infected.

Folk Horror

Folk horror is another intricate subgenre of horror, which uses folklore or religion as a foundation. These films may be seen as creepier due to the intense detail that is woven into each aspect. When these films involve religion, it is likely for religious ceremonies and sacrifices to be featured. Folktales may be used as a basis for the story or are introduced to foreshadow what is to come. Filming choices are unique to the specific plotlines of the movie as well as its director.

Feature Film: Midsommar

In 2019, Ari Aster and A24 released a movie called Midsommar, which delves into cultism. Dani, the main character, embarks on an adventure after experiencing many terrible things in her life, agreeing to turn to religion—convinced it would help her. However, alongside Dani, we learn about the corruption and terrible rituals that go on in the cult. We also get to see how Dani changes over the course of the film due to the cult’s manipulation and her means of processing the events.

In Theaters Now

Now that you’ve been introduced to multitude of horror movie genres, you must figure out how you want to watch it. You can invite friends over to stream older horrors, but if you want to go out to a theater, some movies currently in theaters include:

No matter what way you choose to spend your Halloween nights, there's a large variety of movies out there for you, and between these recommendations and explanations, you're sure to find a great match! Have a spooky Halloween!