It’s a sad truth of being a horror fan that not everyone we know is into the genre. In fact, most people we know aren’t. That’s what makes the horror community so tight-knit and respectable to begin with. We’ve all experienced some degree of ridicule for liking the things we like. Even our friends, in good fun, will always make fun of us for the things we watch.
The truth is, as horror is the widest genre, they have so much ammo with which to take down our interests, too. A horror movie can be any one thing to any one person, so it’s impossible to argue against someone when they say “this is what horror is” and list everything wrong with a genre they’ve never taken the time to familiarize themselves with.
For most people, horror is sick and mean-spirited, or a collection of stupid tropes and clichés. The easiest way to introduce people to the genre, I think, is to give them things that immediately tear down these notions. Once their misconceptions about horror have been at least challenged, it will be easier for anyone to take the next step.
Shaun of the Dead
One of the best ways to introduce new people to horror is through comedy. It’s really simple. People love to laugh, they love to have a good time, and that’s what Shaun of the Dead offers. But at the same time, it gives you everything you want from a zombie movie. Not just the gore and the carnage, but the raw emotion as well. Many people have already seen this one, but those that haven’t are in for a treat.
Scream is absolutely a must. It was an introduction into horror for so many of us when we were younger. The best thing about Scream is that not only does it address the tropes and clichés while managing to still be a really engaging slasher, it also gives you a shopping list of further titles to check out. Scream name drops several classic horror films, all the way through.
The Monster Squad
For many of us, The Monster Squad is a nostalgic thing. We saw it as a kid and it had a huge impact. But many fans discovered it later on, too. The thing about Monster Squad is even if you don’t have that connection, it’s still a campy, solid, funny kid’s horror movie. It’s almost impossible not to have fun with. Plus, I think Shane Black’s name is enough to at least get many newcomers interested.
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
For so many people, Friday the 13th (or the cliché of Friday the 13th) is still how they see the genre. Guy in a mask hacking up teenagers and that’s it. This is exactly the kind of title you’re expecting to show them when you say “I want to show you a good horror movie.” This is your Trojan Horse, because it both is and isn’t everything they’re expecting. Yes, it’s Jason rising from the grave, but it’s really fun. It’s so funny. And that funniness, partnered with the lack of nudity and overly explicit gore, will really help to engage someone new.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
It’s a little more advanced than Scream in terms of explicit references and anecdotes, but I still think this one will really work for a lot of people. It takes those clichés and tropes and dials the meta commentary up to 11. More than that, even aside from all of the horror references that define it, it’s a great mockumentary about a guy who will do anything to achieve his dream. His dream happens to be to murder a bunch of teenagers, and there’s such a great third act shift when the stakes of that become clear.
The Cabin in the Woods
If they want to see a horror movie, show them every horror movie at once. Show them everything plus the kitchen sink. Cabin in the Woods unravels in a really interesting way. It’s never exactly what you think it is, but at the same time, it is. That weird juxtaposition is the very thing that I think made it so popular in the first place.
People have so many pre-conceived notions about the genre that, other than comedy, one of the best ways around that is to show them something that’s so imaginative that they can’t possibly pin it down as one thing. This is a dark, realistic family drama that happens to be full of amazing, ghastly creatures. Admittedly, it’s for your non-horror-loving friends who still like gore. The Tarantino aficionados, for instance.
For better or worse, this is the movie I personally tend to show people who are new to the genre. It’s got all you want from a horror comedy, but it also crafts genuinely realistic characters. It’s got so much heart. It has just the right element of campy ‘80s charm while at the same time showing a kind of shocking amount of depth for its central characters.