Neo-Noir Horror

What is Neo-Noir Horror?

Neo-Noir is defined as “new-black,” from the Greek “neo” for new, and the French “noir” for black. Neo-Noir is contemporary dark fiction usually set in a dark, gritty urban setting. Neo-Noir is a descriptive sub-genre and can pretty much be applied to any genre -- fantasy, westerns, science fiction, mysteries, etc.

Noir is quite often combined with detective fiction featuring a down and out detective/P.I. trying to solve a ostensibly simple case; this character is often highly troubled, and the peoples he encounters are often amoral characters; and the setting, dark, gritty, atmospheric and disturbing.

Noir is sometimes combined with science fiction. The poster-boy example would be PKD's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep or the film adaption, Blade Runner.

Neo-Noir as applied to the horror genre combines horror elements with the noir setting. The plot and everything else can be anything. But applying noir to it guarantees the stories often deal with crime and are populated by cynical characters combined with horror elements.

The protagonist is usually a conflicted anti-hero that often makes decisions stemming from desperation and nihilistic philosophies. It isn't Splatterpunk so it doesn't just focus on the violence. Fear and disgust define this subgenre. The antagonists are humans instead of classic supernatural monsters. It was modeled after classic noir and hardboiled fiction but has since evolved into something bigger, with some even calling it an artistic movement.


Characteristics of Neo-Noir Horror

Level of Characterization
High level. The protagonist often has a disturbed psyche.

Level of Plot Complexity

Level of Supernatural
Low. Varies on author.

Level of Scary

Level of Violence 
High. Violence isn't the focal point like Splatterpunk though.


Typical Setting
Decaying urban areas.

Related Fantasy Sub-Genres


Neo-Noir Horror Isn’t For You If You Dislike

Crime stories, anti-heroes, and human villains.


    1. Kiss Me, Judas, Will Christopher Baer. Phineas Poe meets a woman in a hotel bar. When he wakes with his kidney missing, he searches for her to get it back.

    2. Dermaphoria, Craig Clevenger. Eric is bailed out of jail and living in a shady motel. He suffers from amnesia but starts to piece together his past with the use of a new hallucinogenic drug.

    3. Staring Into the Abyss, Richard Thomas. A hard hitting collection of short stories.

    4. The Midnight Road, Tom Piccirilli. Flynn works for CPS. After he makes a horrid discovery at a million dollar home, people start getting murdered around him.

    5. Drive, James Sallis. About a man who is a stunt driver for movies by day and drives for criminals at night.

    6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson. A journalist hires an investigator to team up with him to solve a murder case that is decades old. 

    7. Heartsick, Chelsea Cain. The story follows a damaged detective and a beautiful serial killer.

    8. Clandestine, James Ellroy. Fred Underhill, a police officer, involved himself in a murder investigation that ended badly and was kicked off the force. Years later, another murder draws him back into investigating, this time without a badge.

    9. The Wheelman, Duane Swierczynski. Lennon is a mute Irish getaway driver that is betrayed and left for dead. He seeks revenge against the heist team that is responsible.

    10. Freaky Deaky, Elmore Leonard. A suspended cop who worked on the bomb squad tries to track them down two radicals that decide to use their bomb expertise to extort money from a rich Detroit man. 

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