Supernatural Horror

What is the Supernatural Horror Subgenre?

This subgenre is somewhat broad. It can contain anything creepy that isn't found in reality. Examples would be ghosts, demons, zombies, monsters, etc. Different combinations could be made to create a Supernatural horror story villain. A dark force haunts a house that possesses the resident or residents, turning them into zombies. So there is usually multiple factors in a Supernatural story. Sometimes it could just be a single monster like a werewolf. The protagonist usually becomes stranded.

All of the things that go bump in the night fall into this expansive subgenre. Ghosts, vampires, and zombies, all of whom have their own subgenres, fall into supernatural horror as well. This is because these creatures so sparked the imaginations of writers when they first appeared in supernatural and inspired more stories about them. This is the subgenre of monsters, and not of the human variety.

Though stories of monsters and the supernatural have persisted throughout history, supernatural horror can trace its roots all the way back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, published in 1818. This was the birth of a genre called monster literature. Monster literature took themes and elements from gothic literature and literally created a monster. The antagonist became a supernatural being bent on terrorizing the protagonist. After World War II, monster literature began to change and tackle difficult questions about the monsters' origins and stories, rejecting supernatural explanations. While some of these stories, such as I Am Legend by Richard Matheson still fall under the realm of supernatural horror, the subgenre, as a whole, continues to terrify with no explanation necessary.

Supernatural Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: Low to moderate. Supernatural horror stories tend to focus more on the action of the characters being terrorized by the arcane beings. Because of the breadth and scope of the supernatural subgenre, characterization is widely varied, though generally, the supernatural entity that is the antagonist is very well characterized.


Level of Plot: Low. Pretty straight forward plots without many twists and turns.The level of plot in supernatural horror is low to moderate as the standard plot of this subgenre involves a protagonist, or group of characters, being terrorized by a supernatural entity and struggling to fight back.


Level of Supernatural: High. Supernatural is in the name. As this is a staple of the subgenre, one can safely expect the level of supernatural to be very high.


Level of Scary: High. Lot of tension and discomfort. The level of scary varies in this subgenre as it is so varied itself. From simple hauntings to demon possessions or psychic vampires, there is no shortage of thrills and chills for every taste.


Level of Violence: Moderate-high. This subgenre can contain graphic violence but the violence does not serve as the focal point. Another variable element in this vast subgenre is the level of violence. However, because the supernatural entity is bent on terrorizing the protagonist, there is generally a moderate to high amount of violence.


Typical Setting: Isolated and remote places such as an old cabin, village, etc. A key element of supernatural horror is that the protagonist is isolated while dealing with the supernatural. For that reason, the typical setting of this subgenre is also isolated. Small towns, haunted houses, and forests are all among the typical settings for supernatural horror.

Related Horror Subgenres

Because the supernatural subgenre is so vast, many related subgenres have sprung up as the creatures in them have appealed to other writers over the years. Examples of this include: vampires, zombies, and Lovecraftian horror. Still, other genres predate supernatural horror, and even the horror genre itself, but still contain elements of the supernatural. These subgenres include: weird tales and haunting horror. Any subgenre where the paranormal menaces the normal can be related to the supernatural subgenre, including but not limited to tales of witches, Satanic bargains, and demonic possession.


Mind-control, Zombies, Werewolves, Vampires, Cthulhu Mythos, and Comedic Horror.

Don't Read Supernatural Horror If You Dislike…

The paranormal. If you need a logical explanation and cannot suspend disbelief enough to be creeped out by monsters, this is not the genre for you. You don't want to read this if you don't like stories where the antagonist isn't a mortal.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- The original monster tale told the story of a creature bent on revenge on his mad scientist creator.


Dracula by Bram Stoker- While this classic monster tale can fall into gothic horror, this first story of vampires was so frightening that it inspired its own subgenre.


The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen- Another forerunner of modern supernatural horror, this novella was published in 1894 and details the exploits of a diabolic woman named Helen Vaughan who corrupts those around her. The devilish twist at the end is what earns this story a spot on this list.


Incarnate by Ramsey Campbell- Something goes horribly wrong when a group of psychic dreamers are gathered for an experiment. They all share a horrifying vision, and eleven years later, disturbing things start to happen that may mean their vision was all too real.


The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty- While leading an archeological did in Iraq, Father Merrin unearths a small statue of a demon that has huge consequences half a world away where a young girl starts displaying signs of being possessed.


It by Stephen King- The town of Derry is plagued by a monster that preys on children and their fears. A ragtag group of misfit kids have seen the monster and survived, and they may be the only ones who can stop It.


At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft- A professor tries to warn a group of explorers away from a region in Antarctica because of the horrors that he knows lurk there. Lovecraft's tales of old monsters and gods have become such a staple of the genre, that he, too, has his own subgenre.


Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin- Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband, Guy, get a lot more than they bargained for when they try to start a family in their new home, an apartment building with a disturbing and gory history.


I Am Legend by Richard Matheson- Part vampire and part zombie, the monsters in this novel were the results of a pandemic spread through biological warfare. Robert Neville, the seemingly sole survivor, documents his efforts to cure the disease in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This story was one of the forerunners of the zombie genre and a monster classic in its own right.


Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons- Simmons reinvents vampires as monsters who can psychically manipulate humans from afar and use these abilities for violent amusements.

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