I'll be right back ... Your guide to horror films

Grab your popcorn, lock the door and, whatever you do, don't go upstairs

A group of teen camp counselors sit around a campfire in the woods, each trying to scare the other with tales of a serial killer that slaughtered the campers at a nearby summer camp in the recent past. Someone watches from the shadows, as two of the group members leave the safety of the fire's warm glow. Will they ever be seen again?

Not likely, especially if you're watching a horror movie. But it's also the point. Horror movies tap into our fears, our primal survival instincts and our nightmares. They can be scary, funny or just plain gross.

Being October, there's plenty of horror movies to stream or buy online. Too many. For the casual viewer who wants to que up a scary flick, but doesn't know what to pick, we've put together a quick guide to help you select the right one for you.


There's a consensus among online film websites, such as avclub.com, horroronscreen.com and popcornhorror.com, that all horror movies fall into six main genres: killers, monsters, paranormal, psychological, gore and zombies. From there, each genre has a series of sub-genres. To help you wade through all of these choices, we suggest a few categories to start with.

Slasher films

This subgenre, aside from zombies, is home to some of the best known horror movie franchises — "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Scream." But not all horror movie killers are spree killers seeking out teens in the night. Subgenres include home invasions ("The Strangers"), backwoods murders ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Wrong Turn") and crime. However, the most popular subgenre with the most prolific offerings, is the slasher film.

Slasher films most often feature a single killer, who most often, sees the killing spree as a kind of moral cleansing. The murderous rampage is often fueled by revenge — a need to right a wrong. Sometimes, the killer possesses an unnatural strength or can't be killed.

Start with either "Halloween" (1978) or "Scream" (1996).

- 'Halloween' (1978)

Set 15 years after Michael Myers murdered his older sister, "Halloween" begins with a 21-year-old Michael escaping the sanitarium he's been held in. Michael returns home and begins stalking Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis in her feature film debut), a teenager who is babysitting a young boy on Halloween. Michael, who wears a mask throughout the movie, kills several teens with a butcher knife as he guns for Laurie. A sequel, "Halloween II," picks up where the first movie leaves off.

Find it: Amazon Video, iTunes

If you like "Halloween," try: "Friday the 13th" (series), "Nightmare on Elm Street" (series), "The House on Sorority Row," "Sleepaway Camp" (series).

- 'Scream' (1996)

Released in 1996, "Scream" redefined the teen slasher genre. This black comedy pokes fun at the teen slasher films of the '80s, pointing out the common mistakes the victims make that lead to their deaths. There are rules to surviving a teen slasher film: Don't have sex, don't do drugs or drink and never say, "I'll be right back."

The story follows Sydney (Neve Campbell) who, a year after her mother is brutally murdered, is stalked by a killer wearing a ghostface costume. As Sydney and her friends become the killer's targets, the rules of survival come into play and the killer becomes the prey.

Find it: Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu and MTV2.

If you like "Scream": "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (series), "Urban Legend" (series), "My Bloody Valentine."


Vampires, werewolves, leprechauns, aliens, gremlins and great white sharks — all monsters. But zombies are the monsters that have captivated audiences the most, so much in fact, they've become their own genre. It really is unfair to place the great white shark from "Jaws" in the same category as the undead, although both like to dine on human flesh.

In the beginning, zombies were mindless, slow-moving corpses seeking to eat the brains of their victims. The rules have changed. Zombies can be fast or slow. They can wander aimlessly or hunt passionately. They are the result of a supernatural force or caused by a virus/biological weapon. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that these flesh-eating zombies can only be stopped by a bullet (or machete, hammer, screwdriver, etc.) to the brain.

- 'Dawn of the Dead' (1978)

Start with George Romero's classic "Dawn of the Dead." The zombies may be slow-moving and blue, but the movie isn't just about dead. It's about the living. A group of survivors holes up in a shopping mall filled with zombies and everything the American consumer could want — clothes, food, furniture, a hockey rink and yes, even a fully-stocked gun store. The group settles in, living comfortably and forgetting the outside world for a little while. But their comfort is soon interrupted by more than zombies. Romero holds a mirror up to our consumerist culture, pointing out our flaws along the way — gender inequality, racism, classism, greed and indifference, to name a few.

Find it: Amazon

Find the 2004 remake "Dawn of the Dead": Amazon Video, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play

If you like "Dawn of the Dead," try: "Day of the Dead," "Land of the Dead."

Want something with modern, fast zombies? Try: "28 Days Later," "28 Weeks Later," "Resident Evil," "World War Z," "Zombieland."

Creepy Kids/Antichrist

Admit it, some kids are cute and some are downright creepy. There's a whole pack of murderous teens sacrificing adults and themselves to a god who "walks behind the rows" of corn in a Midwestern town. There's a girl who speaks in tongues and claims to be a demon as she levitates above her bed. And then there's Damien.

- 'The Omen' (1976)

A well-meaning American diplomat (Gregory Peck) adopts an infant after he and his wife lose a baby during childbirth. After a series of mysterious deaths, the diplomat begins to suspect (with the help of a priest's ominous warnings) that his adopted son may be the antichrist. Attempts to kill Damien are unsuccessful, as you can guess by the fact that there are two sequels tracking Damien's rise to power. A remake hit theater screens in 2006.

Find it: Amazon Video, Vudu, Cinemax

If you like "The Omen," try: "Children of the Corn," "The Exorcist," "Bless the Child."

Supernatural suggestions: "Carrie," "Poltergeist," "The Conjuring," "The Haunting," "Rosemary's Baby."

Found footage

Once reality television became a mainstream norm, the found footage subgenre took hold. Although first-person narration isn't anything new in the horror movie field, "The Blair Witch Project" brought the narrative style to a whole new level, with the story restricted to the limited first-person narrative caught on the "found footage." The scope of the narration is again limited by the fact it was put together by someone unassociated with the events.

- 'Paranormal Activity' (2007)

Katie and Micah begin experiencing strange activity in their home. To put Katie's mind at ease and to catch their tormentor, Micah sets up cameras around the house. At first, the film is a series of repeating images — the couple asleep, the pool vacuum, the living room. Then there's footsteps, a door that closes, Katie standing next to the bed for three hours. The suspense builds, as the tapes reveal the terrifying events that lead up to their disappearance.

The low-budget film went on to spawn five sequels, that reveal the events that caused the terrifying events of the first movie.

Find it: Amazon Video, Vudu

If you like "Paranormal Activity," try: "The Blair Witch Project," "Blair Witch," "Cloverfield."


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