Serial Killer Horror

What is the Serial Killer Horror Subgenre?

Serial killer horror is a subgenre of crime horror with elements of psychological horror thrown in. There is a degree of fascination with serial killers that is different than that of typical crime fiction. Part of the reason is the sheer brutality and violence that serial killer horror displays. In many respects, serial killer horror has the same appeal as extreme or graphic horror. Readers want to know why and how a seemingly normal person can become a soulless monster capable of committing such depraved acts, and the serial killer is just that, a monster hiding in plain sight, disguised like everyone else. In this way, serial killer horror is similar to creature horror.

Often, these stories are told with the killer as the protagonist. Seeing the darkness in the killer, and yet still rooting for them can cause the reader to react with horror at the darkness within themselves. Conversely, some serial killer horror is told from the point of view of an investigator or one of the killer's many intended victims. This type of terror will have readers on the edge of their seat in anticipation and morbid fascination. Either way, expect lots of violence and a high body count from this bloody subgenre.

Serial Killer Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: Characterization is high in serial killer horror as part of the appeal of the genre is the attempt to understand these monsters who appear to be human.


Level of Plot: The level of plot is moderate to high in this subgenre as serial killer horror will have some elements of mystery.


Level of Supernatural: Supernatural elements will be low in the serial killer subgenre as its focus is on more human monsters.


Level of Scary:  The level of scary in serial killer horror is moderate to high. Some tales focus on the mystery, while others seek more to terrify.


Level of Violence: Violence runs high in serial killer horror as it's a staple of the genre.


Typical Setting: The typical setting of serial killer horror is urban and modern. This lends realism to the subgenre.

Related Horror Subgenres

Crime horror, dark suspense, dark mystery, and even psychological horror are all obvious choices to be related to serial killer horror due to the subject matter of these subgenres. Extreme and visceral horror can also be related to serial killer due to the level of violence and the high body counts of these subgenres. A not so closely related subgenre would be creature horror, which has supernatural monsters to serial killer horror's more human ones.

Don't Read Serial Killer Horror If You Dislike…

Violence. A staple of this subgenre is the high body count that serial killers rack up. So, if you dislike violence and crime, this is not the subgenre for you.

Psycho by Robert Bloch- Inspired by the life of serial killer, Ed Gein, this novel is the story of Norman Bates, a man whose mother is very protective of him, to the point of murder, even twenty years after her death.


Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay- This series opener was the inspiration for the popular TV show about everyone's favorite serial killer.By day, Dexter Morgan is a forensics blood splatter analyst for the Miami-Dade police department. By night Dexter is a serial killer who targets monsters like himself who escape justice, but when his sister asks for his help in investigating the serial murder of prostitutes, Dexter's double life becomes dangerously muddled.


The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris- Clarice Starling is asked to interview Hannibal Lecter, an erudite and cannibalistic serial killer, in what she believes is a profile on serial killers. In reality, she has been sent to enlist his help in tracking down another murderer. Lecter trades clues about the killer for details about Starling's own disturbing past.


American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis- In a critique on consumerism, American Psycho introduces Patrick Bateman, a young, wealthy investment banker who seems to have it all. At night, however, Bateman begins experimenting with murder, descending quickly into more violent and depraved escapades, or so he tells us.


Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King- A former detective is on the trail of a mass murderer when he receives a message from the killer. Will he be able to identify the killer before the bodies pile up once more?


Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite- This bloodbath of a novel follows two serial killers, their intended victim, and an ex-lover to their terrifying collision. Ander Compton considers killing to be his art form. After staging his own death, he escapes to America to perfect his art in the seedy streets of New Orleans. He sets his sights on Jay Byrne, a frivolous playboy, only to discover that Byrne shares his dark desires. Together, they seek out the perfect victim.Because of his growing attraction to Byrne, Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran could become their next target.


The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson- Lou Ford may seem like a regular, small town police officer, but this is the perfect facade for his dark secrets and desires. Once the cracks start showing, he will do everything in his power to keep up the mask.


Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind- A perfumer with no scent of his own and an uncanny ability to detect the scents of others and of objects lives a hard, lonely life until he discovers what he believes to be the ambrosia of scents, the scent of a young girl. Obsessed with capturing that scent, the perfumer begins to murder young girls


Shining Girls by Laura Beukes- Harper Curtis is the perfect serial killer with the help of a supernatural house that lets him time travel, slipping away after each murder is committed, but then, one of his would-be victims escapes.


Intensity by Dean Koontz- When a young woman vacationing in Napa Valley finds herself in the sights of a "homicidal adventurer", she must do anything she can to survive and prevent him from claiming his next victim.

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