A to Z of Modern Horror

A. American Horror Story

In October 2011, Glee creator Ryan Murphy debuted his unconventional horror anthology series on FX, and to everyone’s slight surprise, it wasn’t half bad. AHS, now in its third season, can lay claim to both rabid fans and serious detractors who are put off by the over-the-top, messy, and sometimes even exploitative nature of the storytelling. Still, the show attracts massive talent. And for Coven, the illustrious third chapter about a coven of young witches that reads like Glee’s demented cousin, the show has added Douglas Petrie to the writing staff. Petrie and fellow AHS writer Tim Minear are familiar veterans of Joss Whedon shows, and they help elevate the material to the next level.

B. Barker, Clive

If your knowledge of Clive Barker stops at Hellraiser’s Pinhead, you may be pleasantly surprised by his fascinating body of work. The Liverpool-born Barker is a prolific author, once proclaimed by Stephen King to be “the future of horror.” He rose to fame with his wildly original horror story anthologies in the 1980s, including The Hellbound Heart, on which the first Hellraiser film was based. One of his early works, a play entitled History of the Devil, is a gruesome and funny recounting of Satan’s court appeal to get back into heaven. Barker also exhibits his macabre paintings and illustrates his own work, and has been authoring and collaborating on comic books since the 1990s.

C. Cabin in the Woods

D. Dracula (2013)

Can network television really do horror? Actually, NBC might not be half bad at it, and we’re not just talking about Jeff Zucker (that’s a joke for all you Conan O’Brien fans). The new Dracula finds Prince Vlad arriving in 19th century London. Jonathan Rhys Meyers has spent his career playing guys who are sexy and disturbing at the same time, so the first and arguably best literary vampire seems a perfect fit for him. Here’s hoping it doesn’t suck.

E. Evil Dead

From the original 1981 film to the 2013 reboot, the Evil Dead franchise has included comic books, video games and even Evil Dead: The Musical. It has also cemented Sam Raimi as one of the most notable modern horror masters.

F. Fangoria

In 1979, Ed Naha and Ric Meyers launched Fangoria, which is now the most famous horror magazine in the world and a leading authority on the industry. Their website, fangoria.com is particularly cool. They regularly feature book, movie, game, toy and comic reviews, as well as their own radio drama series, Dreadtime Stories, hosted by Malcolm McDowell. While they took a stab at expanding to film production in 1990 with Fangoria Films, they now deal mostly in distribution, releasing their Frightfest titles with the famous Fangoria logo across the DVD cover.

G. Ghost Hunters

The “docu-soap” involving The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and their investigations of haunted locations has spawned two spinoff shows and become the Syfy Channel’s longest-running unscripted series.

H. Hemlock Grove

Eli Roth’s horror drama has been the most polarizing of Netflix’s original series, with many critics downright hating it. But the show, based on Brian McGreevy’s novel of the same name, has a lot to recommend. The story of two teenage boys in a small Pennsylvania town – one, a vampiric heir, and the other a trailer-trash Gypsy werewolf – is kind of like Twilight in hell. Lyrical, ridiculous and occasionally quite gory, it features what many have called the best werewolf transformation scene of all time. Also, Bill Skarsgard will make you forget Robert Pattinson was ever a thing. Season 2 airs in 2014.

I. Insidious 2

Though the 2011 film was far from perfect, it was certainly impressive. With the 2013 sequel, writer Leigh Wannell and director James Wan have put even more meat on the bones of their astral projection tale of terror.

J. Japanese Horror

K. King, Stephen

The master of modern horror famously threw an early draft of his first novel, Carrie, in the trash. Now, 40 years after the book was published, the remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz has been released in theaters. King is at least as relevant now as he’s ever been. In 2013, he published a sequel to The Shining entitled Doctor Sleep. What does it mean for America that one of the most celebrated living authors is known for revolutionizing the horror genre? From Under the Dome to the possibility of a new It remake (please), his stories and his style have become a part of the culture that inspired them.

L. The Loved Ones (2009)

M. Meta-Horror

The Cabin in the Woods wasn’t the first wittily self-referential horror film ever made, though it could easily be called the best. Way back in 1994, Wes Craven features himself in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, where the original Nightmare on Elm Street cast played themselves. And of course, the Scream movies ushered in an age of meta-horror by using characters who understand horror movie rules and conventions. But possibly the craziest example of meta-horror comes from French director Dupieux, who made the 2010 Rubber – the story of a telepathic and murderous car tire. Dupieux’s paved the way for things to get much weirder.

N. Netflix

Netflix streaming is a virtual treasure trove of undiscovered horror films, from the deeply terrible to the surprisingly awesome. For every offering that seems like torture-porn-lite filmed in a Van Nuys basement, there’s an unexpected foreign or obscure title you’ll end up loving.

O. The Orphanage (2007)

P. Poltergeist

Last month, Sam Rockwell confirmed he was in-talks to star in a remake of the 1982 horror classic, which would feature new characters and a different story. The original Poltergeist trilogy, while beloved for its terrifying tales of dead souls on the other side of the television, is also mainly remembered for the so-called Poltergeist curse. Dominique Dunne, who played the elder daughter in the first film, was strangled by her boyfriend the same year the film was released. And little Heather O’Rourke, the trilogy’s Carol Anne, was hospitalized with the flu after completing the third film and died from medical complications. Supposedly, many of the other actors experienced strange phenomena during the shooting. The cast of the remake, which also includes Jared Harris and Rosemarie DeWitt, is so far not worried.

Q. Queer Horror

From lesbian vampire novels like The Gilda Stories to slasher films about gay men like Hellbent, LGBT themes in horror fiction are becoming more prominent than ever.

R. Road Trips

The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are a couple classic names, but the first decade of the 21st century was rife with road trip horror movies. Jeepers Creepers, Wrong Turn and Joyride aren’t quality cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re fun guilty pleasures and memorable predecessors to the sub-genre’s more quality offerings like Wind Chill (2007).

S. Scream

When Wes Craven’s Scream premiered in 1996, nobody had seen anything quite like it, and ever since, audiences have been clamoring for more. Though Scream 4 in 2011 was a decent enough film, it underperformed at the box office, leaving the possibility of another sequel up in the air. But the franchise has a massive, devoted following and Craven is currently developing a pilot based on the films for MTV. And Scream 5’s biggest advocate turns out to be Harvey Weinstein himself. According to horror website Bloody Disgusting, Weinstein has been urging his brother, Bob, who heads Dimension Films, to give the series a big finale.

T. True Blood

Now that HBO’s sex and blood-filled Southern vampire series is coming to an end, where does Alan Ball’s True Blood fall in the modern horror lexicon? Based on Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries book series, the seventh and final season is set to premiere next summer. Longtime fans of the show won’t deny the fact that Sookie Stackhouse’s adventures in the supernatural world of Bon Temps, Louisiana have turned into something of a hot mess. But True Blood boasts a long list of iconic moments of inspired storytelling, many of which involve Alexander Skarsgard as Eric Northman. When you consider that Northman may be one of modern fiction’s most memorable vampires, it’s no wonder Skarsgard became so famous from playing him.

U. Urban Legends

The 1998 film series is slightly less cool than actual urban legends.

V. The Vampire Chronicles

Long after Dracula but long before Eric Northman, there was the vampire Lestat. Anne Rice wrote Interview with a Vampire in 1976, and she followed it up with nine other books concerning the principle and secondary characters in her vampire world, with the 10th and supposedly last being Blood Canticle in 2003. She might be a bit kooky, but Rice is an eloquent and talented writer, and her New Orleans-centered tales have reshaped the vampire genre for a new generation.

W. The Walking Dead

They’re at the farm. They’re still at the farm. Now they’re at the prison. They’re still at the prison. What is up with this show? AMC’s The Walking Dead is in its fourth season, but the Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore-created comic books of the same name are also still going strong.

X. Xenomorphs

Y. Young Adult Horror

Z. Zombies

You’ll hear all kinds of theories about the popularity of zombies in a recession age, but the fact remains, the undead are everywhere. They might be funny like in Zombieland or Warm Bodies, lightning fast like in 28 Days Later or World War Z, or simply rotting and hungry like in every zombie film since Night of the Living Dead. It’s the age of zombie apocalypse jokes. People are eating faces in Florida. Someone tried to bite Michael Bay on the Transformers 4 set in Hong Kong. It’s a fun time.