What makes it “horror”?

I’ve been thinking about genre lately. In different fields and different media, genre means different things. There are literary genres, cinematic genres (and of course a lot of overlap between these), folkloric genres… And whatever else it means, “genre” means, ultimately, expectations. Rightly or wrongly, if something is labeled, sorted, slotted into a certain genre, that can tell you certain things about that thing. Things aren’t just things: they are certain kinds of things. Things!

As both a folklorist and a horror fan, genre has certain valences for me that it may not for others. I’ve written about folkloric genres before. In film and literature and other media, I think of the horror genre as pointing to a pleasant type of dread. (It’s only pleasant, I suppose, if you share my particular interests.) It probably wouldn’t be pleasant, of course, if the kind of thing I associate with it actually happened to me. But it’s somehow pleasant to imagine it.

By way of illustration, imagine a scene: you’re home alone. It can be day or night, sunny or stormy. All that matters is that you’re in a familiar space, and that there are shadows. In my palatial one-bedroom apartment, for instance, there’s a doorway of sorts (with no door) that separates the living room from the bedroom and bathroom. Even with lights on elsewhere in the apartment, and even in the daytime, the little patch of floor on the other side of this door-shaped hole, which houses my vertical washer/dryer and abuts the doors to the bathroom and bedroom, is in shadow. (Unless I turn on the ceiling light. Which I usually don’t.)

So there’s a “natural” dark spot, so to speak. And of course, the bedroom and bathroom are dark when I’m not in them. If I happen to leave either door open, the darkness of the little laundry space and the rooms beyond are of a piece. It’s not an inky darkness. Just a slow fading of the light, as it were. My living room is lit only by a couple of floor lamps and a purple molded Frankenstein’s monster that a friend made. The light from these lamps makes it possible to see into the darkened bathroom or, to a lesser extent, the bedroom, if I leave the door open, but those spaces are still pretty dark.

Why in the world does any of this matter?

Aside from this being the greatest thing you have ever seens.

Well okay. Imagine that you’re looking into one of those darkened doorways. Into the bedroom, say. (In your own house, not mine, you weirdo.) It’s just dark. Not pitch black, just normally dark.

But then imagine that it somehow gets darker. Light is suddenly avoiding the room. The darkness somehow grows, which doesn’t even make much sense, because darkness is not a thing, but an absence of a thing. But it happens anyway. So now you’re sitting in your well-lit living room, or wherever, staring into a now utterly black space And then, over on the left, the darkness slowly extends past the doorjamb. That’s all. The dark somehow moves out of the room that contains it, extending past the doorframe just a bit, just in that one spot. But it’s still moving, creeping along, with fuzzy edges that eat the light.

So it moves along. The light from your lamps should expel it. And of course, darkness can’t move like this; again, it’s just the absence of light. But it moves anyway. It spills out into the room where you are, very, very slowly. And dimly, somehow, in the darkness you make out a greater darkness, a shape, a deeper dark, and it makes you out, it sees you, and it reaches toward you, and the darkness moves again.

This feeling, this bizarre feeling of wrongness, of supernatural dread, of malicious intent from something that should not be capable of intent, is what I really want when I engage with the horror genre. It may be frightening; it may even make you jump. But it isn’t about “jump scares.” It’s not about nuns in heavy makeup with shark teeth, or gimmicks like not being able to talk or having to wear a blindfold. It’s certainly not about extreme violence and gore.

Consider this still from The Woman in Black again. It’s a quiet scene, as horror goes, and it’s pretty mundane. Aside from the ruins, it’s not even an especially memorable landscape. A bit dreary, maybe, but hardly remarkable. But there’s this woman, and she’s all wrong. She’s all in black, her clothing is from a different time, and her body language wrong, and her face

But I’m very likely the odd man out here. It could be that you don’t find that weird woman in her antiquated funeral garb frightening at all. More generally, I know others think of giallo, or slashers, or torture porn, or exploitation, or any number of other things when they hear the word “horror.” Genre is always problematic. There’s no accounting for taste, and I know my own is shaped not only by my cultural context but also my acadmic interests and my own weird personal history.

But that’s what I want in horror: creeping dread. The unsettling feeling of malice from a source that shouldn’t be malicious. The supernatural, and specifically, the malevolent supernatural. I’ve often heard people say that ghosts and monsters aren’t scary, because humans are scary enough. And there’s some truth in this. People certainly are scary. But fear of other people isn’t particularly fun.

But enough about me. What does horror mean to you? Do you think of the reaching dark? Or of something else? Does it make sense to include supernatural thrillers in the same genre as slashers? And seriously, have you watched Sweet Home yet?

“Sadako vs. Kayako” (2016)

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I’ve mentioned several times that I’m a sucker for crossovers and tie-ins. Even if I’m not particularly interested in the franchises involved, for some reason I become exponentially more interested if you mash them together. It’s a weird, pre-rational response. I didn’t care about Freddy or Jason at the time, but you bet I was excited to see Freddy vs. Jason with my college pals back when that was the mixup du jour. (I never did see the Alien vs. Predator ones, though. Dodged a bullet there, from what I hear.) Approached in the universally tongue-in-cheek spirit of crossovers (and fully aware of the cynical money-grab underlying them all), Sadako vs. Kayako is a lot of fun. It’s stupid and cheesy and funny and very entertaining.

The plot is paper-thin, naturally, little more than a vehicle to whisk us through the mandatory setup before the eponymous ladies duke it out. (My summary here is cobbled together from my viewing of the film in Japanese, which I still don’t speak, and Wikipedia.) On one side we have Yuri and Natsumi, two college friends taking a folklore (!) class who learn about Sadako (from Ringu) from their awesome professor. Of course they end up with the actual cursed video, and because they’re terrible students they skip a step that would have allowed them to escape the curse. They enlist their professor’s help, but even his awesome and sexy folklore knowledge is not enough. Their last hope appears in the form of a psychic named Keizo and his partner, a blind, also psychic child named Tamao. Keizo floats the idea that they pit Sadako against another powerful spirit, and hence we have Exposition Part the First.

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Still looks better than when Samara did it.

Meanwhile, another young psychic named Suzuka has encountered Kayako and her son Toshio, the vengeful spirits from Ju-On/The Grudge. They kill a few children, and then Suzuka’s family, and just when Kayako is about to kill Suzuka, Keizo and company show up to rescue her. Now united, our protagonists set about enacting their elaborate plan to have Sadako and Kayako destroy each other. The idea is that by inflicting two victims, Yuri and Suzuka, with the curses of both ghosts, the ghosts will have no choice but to, I guess, ghost-kill each other?

I’ve skipped a lot of details here, but that’s the gist of it. And as you can probably tell, it’s all just deliciously ridiculous. And it’s very, very much a Shiraishi Koji film, with especially clear echoes of the bizarre horror-spoof Karuto. That film features a powerful psychic who also happens to be an impossibly hip, bleached-haired host kind of guy, who calls himself Neo in reference to The Matrix and who has silly anime-style battles with evil spirits. In Sadako vs. Kayako we have Keizo, a similarly hip, leather trenchcoat-wearing trash-talking psychic cowboy. And like many of Shiraishi’s movies, Sadako vs. Kayako drips with ironic genre satire (to the extent that any potential for scariness pretty much goes out the window).The actual fighting between the ghosts, such as it is, comprises a very small part of the film, but it’s kind of hilarious. The ultimate showdown in the final minutes involves Sadako and Kayako running full tilt at each other and colliding mid-air, which is pretty damned ridiculous. (The results of their collision are even sillier.)

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This also happens!

So in the end, Sadako vs. Kayako is best approached, like so much of Shiraishi’s work, as a horror comedy, a deliberate and highly calculated self-spoof that requires a little bit of familiarity with both of the franchises to fully appreciate. On that level it’s moderately successful, and I’d recommend it for a silly, fun, horror-lite movie night. (Having said that, though, I still do want to see these franchises become scary again. Maybe Rings or the Sam Raimi reboot of the Grudge films will deliver, though I’m not holding my breath.)

What really made the movie for me are the numerous marketing tie-ins and promotional videos surrounding it, which abandoned any pretense of horror and embraced the inherent silliness of the crossover concept. The best part of the whole mess is the single by Japanese heavy metal legends, Seikima-II, awesomely entitled “Noroi no Shananana,” or “Curse of Shananana,” and its accompanying music video. I legitimately love the song, and it’s worth watching the whole video, which is a goofy and super-fun tribute to both franchises and by extension everything great in horror. (There’s also an English version of the song, though I don’t know if it’s an official release or a fan-made thing. Sounds pretty good, though.)

icecream3

On Fear: A Response to Lisa Schwarzbaum

I was clicking around on the BBC’s website when I happened upon an opinion piece by one Lisa Schwarzbaum. The piece, entitled “After The Walking Dead, what is left to scare us?”, is a broad look at the history and future of horror, apparently prompted by the impending Walking Dead season finale.

Schwarzbaum asks,

Has the zombie genre become routine? And if so, are we now in need of the Next Great Scare? What is out there to frighten us silly? Because whatever scares us as a form of entertainment is never just the thing itself – the vampire, the axe murderer, the mutant lizard, extraterrestrial or stalker in the house with the unsuspecting nubile nanny – but also a manifestation of zeitgeist anxiety, a clue inside our society’s deepest fears at a particular moment.

Pictured: I don't know, probably, like, a metaphor for Obamacare.

Pictured: I don’t know, probably, like, a metaphor for Obamacare.

For Schwarzbaum, the fear that cinema elicits is entirely a function of larger, often unspoken, perhaps even unconscious anxieties, outgrowths of historical trends and events which are translated, literally or metaphorically, onto the screen. She goes on to discuss films like 2001 and more contemporary fare like Her which she sees as portraying societal fears of uncontrollably expanding, all-permeating technology.

While some of the macro-scale interpretations that Schwarzbaum offers are undoubtedly accurate, as far as they go, several aspects of her consideration of fear in film sound a slightly discordant note with me. The thing that stands out most, by its absence, is the entire horror genre.

Now, this isn’t about nitpicking generic definitions. I’m the last person to care about that kind of thing, with only a few very minor exceptions. Nevertheless, her list happens not to include any films that are conventionally counted as horror, aside from throwaway mentions of Rosemary’s Baby and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This seems like an oversight in a piece that purports to be about films and television shows that inspire fear.

The real issue here is not about genre at all, but about the assumption that only certain kinds of themes can inspire fear. We’re afraid of zombies because they represent mindless consumerism (or, conversely, Communism), the story goes. But personally, if I met a zombie, the last thing that would occur to me would be the metaphorical parallels between this shambling corpse and the hordes of people surging into Wal-Mart on Black Friday. The events on-screen have a literal diegetic existence first. By this I mean that, regardless of interpretations after the fact, in this movie there is a pack of werewolves disemboweling a guy, or whatever. On that level, I think the fears that horror evokes and invokes are quite different from the sociopolitical woes that Schwarzbaum identifies. It is possible to have a fear of flesh-eating ghouls that relates less to political orientation or social norms than to the more practical fear of having one’s flesh, um, eaten.

"We are here to call into question your reliance on pharmaceutical companies and the superficial nature of your social network-based relationships!"  "Your friends are judging your stupid hair!"  "Your favorite sports team eats babies!"

“We are here to call into question your reliance on pharmaceutical companies and the superficial nature of your social network-based relationships!” “Also your friends are judging your stupid hair!” “Also your favorite sports team eats babies probably!”

Ultimately the question is, who gets to speak for me? Who is this we who are supposedly more concerned with political-economic models than with flesh-eating ghouls? It’s possible to confuse authorial intent with audience reception, and some of that seems to be going on here. Not every scenario is intended to be read metaphorically, and not every audience member will interpret cinema conventions in the same way.

I have no doubt that Schwarzbaum is correct in asserting that contemporary events and pervasive social and political anxieties have influenced the films she cites in the ways she describes. I could add numerous others to the list, as could anyone who’s seen a movie in their lifetime. But in this quest to identify pressing social concerns, I think the smaller, experience-nearer fears (to borrow a venerable term from anthropologist Clifford Geertz) sometimes get lost. This is most evident, again, in the fact that Schwarzbaum’s list barely touches on the horror genre as it’s generally understood.

Sure, the piece is ostensibly about The Walking Dead. But that very fact begs the question: do any viewers actually find The Walking Dead scary? I certainly don’t, and I’d honestly be surprised if anyone said that they did. I can’t speak for the show’s producers, and I haven’t read the comics, but I doubt that it’s intended to be frightening in the way self-consciously horror-y stories generally are. Having a visceral reaction to a bloody dismemberment scene isn’t the same as leaping out of your chair when the phone rings after your first viewing of The Ring.

(Certainly The Ring references contemporary fears about pervasive technology; but rather than being the ultimate source of fear, I’d argue that technology, in The Ring, is simply a convenient vehicle for a supernatural evil. That the film has the power to undermine the seeming incompatibility between modernity and scary supernatural belief just underscores the frightful power of the latter. Sadako/Samara is the source of the fear. She just happens to know how to use a phone. And a VCR.)

Schwarzbaum ends her piece with a set of predictions about emerging fears that she believes will appear on screen.

But rather than that being a sign of Hollywood running out of ideas, our recurring zeitgeist fears reveal the immense capacity of the human race to repeat itself. Indeed, I predict many more horror movie and television plots based on technological anxieties – regarding fears of surveillance, control and conformity, and biological disruptions that result in mutant monsters.

I’m just not convinced by this. Not because it’s wrong, but because it’s too broad, too obvious, and simultaneously too limiting. Too broad because “surveillance, control and conformity, and biological disruptions” are simply gigantic categories which have always been explored by filmmakers. You’ve got your spy/conspiracy thrillers (your Bonds and your Bournes and your X-Files); your cyberpunk/dystopian future whatsits (The Matrix, Equilibrium, V for Vendetta); and literally every conceivable monster movie/body horror/scifi creature feature ever, respectively. Naming these categories is akin to proclaiming, “People are likely to keep making the same movies that they have always made, as long as people continue paying to view them.” And you don’t need a degree or a column to make that observation.

These predictions are too obvious because of course popular culture is influenced by (and has tremendous influence on) technological developments. This is true, perhaps, of all fiction genres. Twenty years ago, Mulder and Scully were chasing aliens with the help of giant ’90s cell phones with those flimsy little pull-out antennae, and waiting to access encrypted databases of crazy world-shattering alien secrets to the merry sounds of dialup modems and dot-matrix printers. iPhone-like technology existed only in the form of Federation tricorders, and honestly I doubt those things had Angry Birds. Historical contexts change, and those changes are often reflected in fiction. “Predicting” more films and television shows that capitalize on changing social contexts and new technologies is like “predicting” that this summer will be warmer than last winter. Not 100% certain, but still a pretty safe assumption.

And they’re too limiting because they arbitrarily assign a set of values to the horror genre (despite not having discussed any of the many ways in which that genre is understood by popular audiences, or even really being about horror at all). The idea that the only scary film is a film which explicitly addresses real-life current events and social anxieties is problematic because it ignores the realm of fantasy, those new, untested scenarios that fiction is capable of generating (though to be sure it does not always do so successfully). More simply, it ignores frightening films and television that simply don’t do that, or at least not for all audiences. It’s possible, for instance, to read (or view) The Exorcist as a commentary on the decline of religious values in the US in the late 20th century; but there is also a core narrative here about a little girl who is literally possessed by an evil spirit. The fact of the real narrative underpinning the fictional events of Blatty’s novel (regardless of one’s stance on supernatural belief) hammers home the notion that there is more at stake here than superficial, ephemeral cultural criticism.

Schwarzbaum’s piece is useful for reminding us of the very real influence that changing technologies and social anxieties can exert over popular media. It would have benefitted from a more nuanced exploration of the various causes and meanings of fear. And it would have been nice to work some real horror in there somewhere.


Works Cited

Schwarzbaum, Lisa. “After The Walking Dead, What Is Left to Scare Us?” BBC Culture. Accessed March 29, 2014. http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140327-what-is-left-to-scare-us.

How I Fell In Love With Horror

Jeff has asked me to yet again grace you all with my presence, in an effort to increase the quality, if not the quantity, of the writing on this blog.  For those again who don’t know me, I am Greg, and I write Open Letters to My Enemies.  After Jeff told me I couldn’t write an analysis of why Freddie Prinze Jr’s performance in I Know What You Did Last Summer was actually a continuation of his character in Summer Catch, I decided to write about how I fell in love with the horror genre.

Oddly enough, I was brought into both horror movies and horror books by my mother.  The woman who wouldn’t let me watch The Simpsons because it was crass, and who can’t even remember why I wasn’t allowed to watch the Goonies unwittingly opened the door to years of murder and mayhem entertainment.  It’s only fitting that it all started on a day when I was very truly sick.

While at the drug store picking up the cure for whatever monkey-born virus I had picked up that week, my mother decided to grab me a book to read.  Most likely, she felt that if I wasn’t at school, I may as well be reading something.   The book was Watchers by Dean Koontz, and I am fairly certain it was finished by the next day.  My next sick day she bought Koontz’s Tick Tock which remains one of my favorite books to this day.  I’ve read all of his books, and have a Kindle and bookshelves full of Jonathan Maberry, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Gary Braunbeck, and many more.  That’s the short story.  The movies, that’s more involved, and slightly less boring.

My mother found a VHS copy, sometime around when I was in the sixth grade, of Night of the Living Dead at a yard sale.  This was an automatic purchase at $0.50, and we watched it that night.  So, again, Goonies was no good, but I could watch a little girl eat her mother. This was justified by the fact that my great uncle and aunt were in the movie, playing zombies. They had contributed money, and were allowed to be in the movie.  Uncle Jack was prominently featured, as a zombie that comes into the house and is hit in the face by protagonist Ben, then later he climbs through the window again during the final assault on the house.  So, family pride overrode any caution.

NotLD1 NotLD2 NotLD3

Needless to say, the movie wet my whistle.  I started seeking out other horror movies on the television, like a fat kid looking for his next Snickers bar.  I quickly found out that every time the calendar hit Friday the 13th, USA network would have a marathon of Jason movies hosted by Rhonda Shear.  There were countless reasons why this was an awesome thing, and I made sure to look ahead to find out whenever the 13th fell on a Friday so I could be ready.  Around the same time I found Monstervision on TNT.  Joe Bob Briggs and his gleeful abandon at hosting schlocky and great horror movies lent no small part into my enjoyment of the horror genre.  I’ll save myself time writing, and just link you to a post from my site about that here:  http://openletterstomyenemies.blogspot.com/2012/11/dear-tnt-network.html

The final lynchpin in horror engulfing my middle school life was, of course, as a way of bonding with a girl.  We had a new girl come to school, and she saw that I had a copy of the book The Exorcist in my bookbag.  She loved the movie, and we started turning each other on to scary books and movies, then talking about them during homeroom.  It didn’t hurt that I thought she was cute, and wanted to impress her.  What did hurt was that, now, years later, she’s kind of a nut bar and scares me.  So, sometimes when a thirteen year old girl is borderline obsessed with The Exorcist, that might be an indicator to run away.

So, I open it to you, loyal readers of The Tiffed Learner, how did you get involved with the horror genre?

The Floor is Open

As bloggers, I think we all like the sound of our own proverbial voices. To a certain extent, we write because we think what we’re saying is worthwhile, and would like for somebody other than ourselves to have an opportunity to engage with our ideas. Of course there’s also the joy of expression for its own sake, etc., but I think most of us wouldn’t do it in this medium if it was just about getting our ideas down on paper (so to speak). We want to talk with people, not just at people. And it goes both ways, I think. If you’re reading this, presumably it’s because there’s something on this blog that interests you–which, of course, was what I was aiming for.

But, strange to say, I’m getting sick of hearing myself talk. Or, I guess, seeing myself type. Whatever. The point is, I want to open things up a little, generate some discussion, and hear from some people with differing opinions. As bloggers we all get to claim a certain kind of authority; as “specialty” bloggers, perhaps, we claim even more (e.g., I’m a horror blogger, ergo a self-styled expert on horror [totally not true at all, but I think that’s the impression readers naturally get]). And they’re our blogs, after all. We run them, we moderate the comments. In that sense, we’re authorities.

But this kind of sucks. Blogging isn’t fun if it just contributes noise to the already-deafening Internet maelstrom. I think it should be a conversation. So I’d really like to encourage you, dear readers, to comment, suggest post topics, or submit guest content, if you’re so inclined. In the coming weeks I’ll be searching for new ways to drive this kind of engagement, but in the meantime I’m open to any suggestions you may have.

“Severed” (2011-2012)

Another short one to keep things moving along. Also a refreshing change of pace: this is my first comic review. Mazel tov.

Severed caught my eye on an ill-advised trip to Barnes and Noble yesterday. Intrigued by the glowing cover blurbs (alas!), I bought the hardback compilation. My hopes for the book were increased when I read the foreword by Jeff Lemire, which praised Severed for its deep characters and emotional impact.

But I would do well to remember that the folks chosen to write forewords and cover blurbs are the ones who have already expressed their like of the material at hand (and of course, there’s probably money involved). The people who read a work and immediately yell “This is shit!” before climbing up the side of a building and disappearing into the night generally don’t get asked to provide blurbs.

Severed is not bad. It’s fine. It’s perfectly adequate. But it is not subtle, not deep, and not scary.

The story, set in 1916, centers on a young boy named Jack, who has recently learned that he was adopted. He runs away from home in pursuit of his musician father. On the road he is nearly raped by train-car hobos, befriends another runaway named Sam, and meets a creepy traveling  salesman who, it turns out, is less Arthur Miller and more Steve Niles.

[Minor spoilers] The fear here, if it can be called that, comes from the usual genre schlock: depraved sexuality; sinister ulterior motives; and, most of all, cannibalism. The antagonist is a shark-toothed old man who eats children and carves symbols representing his victims all over his flabby old body. He talks–god, does he talk–and that lessens any frightful effect his character could have generated.

I’m not bothered by the content per se. I’m bothered by the billing of it as revolutionary, when it’s just the same old mediocre swill genre fans have been gargling since time immemorial. For the millionth time, novelty isn’t necessary for something to be good. But I hate the pretense of novelty when it masks boring, repetitive, been-done-a-million-times banality.

[More minor spoilers] One positive note is struck by authors Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft’s decision to downplay the gore, revealing it through the occasional sidelong camera angle or, in one particular instance, a dark, shadowy full-frame shot that is more gothic than gory. But the tradeoff is that the writers seem unaware of some of the side effects of extreme violence. When one character–just a kid, no less–loses an arm to the cannibalistic bad guy, he seems to suffer almost no ill effects whatsoever–no blood loss, no shock, no crippling pain–aside from the obvious fact of having one less appendage with which to stab his would-be devourer.

In light of the fact that this is a graphic novel, I’ve decided to give it two separate scores: one for the writing, one for the art. This is the only way to be fair, I think–especially in this case, because Severed‘s one redeeming feature is the artwork. Attila Futaki is a new name to me–I’m far less informed about comics than I’d like to be–but I’ll remember it. His style is perfect for horror, and I’d like to see him do more in the genre.

Severed is pretty, but like so much that’s pretty, it’s paper-thin. Story: 75/100. Art: 90/100.

It’s scary in the way that John Steinbeck is scary. You know, fedoras and suspenders and economic collapse. (ComicsBulletin)

“Inhumanoids” (1986)

Not a full review, but holy hell, they do not make cartoons like they did in the ’80s.  If you never saw Inhumanoids as a child, it’s entirely possible that, viewed now, it won’t leave the same mark on you that it left on me. If you did see it when you were young, though, I’m willing to bet that, like me, you were impressed by its sophisticated dialogue (for a kids’ show), confused by its complex narrative, and traumatized by its scary, scary monsters.

Not to mention its catchy, ridiculous theme song.

This is another of those glorious ’80s cartoons that was produced by Hasbro and animated by Toei. Predictably, several of the great voice actors from such shows as Transformers (my other passion) and G.I. Joe were also involved in Inhumanoids. In fact, there are so many similarities between all three series that it’s not hard to imagine them taking place in the same universe.

The premise of the show was simple enough: in grand Lovecraftian fashion, an ancient race of giant monsters, the Inhumanoids, is discovered and inadvertently awakened in present-day California. It turns out that these monsters have lived under the earth’s surface since before humanity appeared. Earth Corps, a group of scientists-cum-superheroes, are the only people with the knowledge and tech skills to fight back. The Inhumanoids consist of three monsters: Metlar, the leader; Tendril, the vegetable muscle (who looks kind of like Cthulhu); and my personal favorite, D’Compose. The Earth Corps scientists are aided in their fight against these monsters by another group of ancient creatures, the Mutores, who have fought against the Inhumanoids for ages.

Was Inhumanoids horror? That depends on your definition.

Does this fit?

Let me be clear: I love this show. The Wiki article, linked above, does not fail to note the unusual violence and dark tone of the show; and these are the reasons why Inhumanoids merits inclusion here. This shit is dark and freaking scary. The idea that the earth itself is concealing the most horrible, threatening, evil creatures humanity has ever faced was a pretty scary thing for a kid in the ’80s. There are interesting implications about notions of hell as a subterranean realm, too: D’Compose and his undead minions are one obvious reference to a supernatural Otherworld under the earth’s surface. Metlar, who looks an awful lot like conventional images of Satan, is another.

Sure, the show suffered from some of the spotty coloring, crappy frame rates, and other gripes that plagued syndicated cartoons of the time. But the memories will live forever.

Pictured: Memories.