For me, horror has been a point of orbit as long as I can remember. As a child, some of my most vivid memories involve early episodes of The X-Files, The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror, The Twilight Zone. I watched a lot of TV as a kid. I remember seeing films like Aliens, expecting cool action and getting a brutally frightening antagonist for my subsequent nightmares, ignorant of the impact its predecessor would have on my developing mind when I saw it years later. I remember seeing Night of the Living Dead on TV in the late nineties, just before the 2002 zombie film resurgence, and awakening contact memories of the nightmares which spawned from the zombie sequence in The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror III: Dial Z for Zombie. That experience sent me on a decade-long dig into the most unusual zombie movies I could find. My personal favorites remain to be The Return of the Living Dead (Dial Z for Zombie expertly references the brain-craving zombie founded in this film), Children Should Not Play With Dead Things, Undead, and, my personal favorite, Burial Grounds: Night of Terror.
I've been thinking lately more dynamically about what horror does for us, what it gives the world. It remains controversially unrecognized. Like all things, its audience is bigger than ever, but it remains that historically horror (film, in particular) is separated and unsublimated with few exception. This, of course, doesn't bespeak any specific quality. The bourgeois of film criticism are always going to pretense the shit out of the things they like, and mostly horror's pretense is other horror. It's a niche that services and diminishes the standing of horror. In my experience, horror fans want it to be niche, attempting to maintain its sublime quality from dissolution. It's for that reason that there's a natural backlash against the most popular horror films. Even films like The Witch that is a pure example of powerful, brutal, beautiful horror have a somewhat expected, if minor (and vocal), contingent of naysayers. Even if I find it pretentious and more than a little self-defeating, I understand this impulse completely.
Let me be clear: every person I know who loves horror also badly wants to share this love with the people in their lives. I am speaking from speculation out of how certain individuals act on the internet and other spaces. It's not dissimilar from comics bros or misogynistic video game communities: almost nobody actually believes women or ethnic minorities should be kept from loving games or comics, but most people don't have the wherewithal to combat the industrial racism and sexism that keeps those groups at arm's length. But I digress.
Horror has a few extraordinarily powerful tools. We ordinarily think of horror as a genre: something with specific restrictions and material elements that push the narrative into a specific structure. Genres typically have some material on-screen element that define them. Science fiction has technology, extraterrestrials, and temporal or geographically inaccessible settings. Detective stories and noir have grizzled crime-solving failures, the femme fatale, and moral ambiguity. Fantasy has swords, magic, and veiled racism. Horror has no specific material ornaments. Any element you can think of normally associated with horror, including seemingly necessary items like bodily harm or terrified women are defiable to the point of ridicule. Horror's only central element is the invocation of fear. This, to me, is the sublime nature of horror: where comedy has contradiction and tragedy has suffering, horror has terror.
This consequently positions horror as having a unique ability to process the most unsettling experiences we regularly suffer. tragedy purports to cover the unrelenting suffering we carry every day, but horror accounts for the trauma to which that suffering refers. This unrelenting persistence of blood flow from brain to heart and below, that sinking feeling of imminent death so exploited and toyed with by the most sublime examples, is a notion which must be explored intimately, and clearly offers a platform which is unique in its power. So much so that it consumes lives as much or more than any other type of fiction. It is this specific quality that enables horror to process some of the worst individual acts of the human experience in a preparatory or therapeutic way.
The standard criticisms the category draws are consequently, ironically reversed. By allowing for a space where hyperbolic trauma can be processed and absorbed by fiction, we are effectively legitimizing the experiences of individuals who have lived this trauma. Any position which describes this as exploitative is failing to acknowledge that this same exploitation is the basis of tragedy and comedy.
Tragedy and horror handle extremely similar experiences, they're more temporally removed from one another. Tragedy is the fallout of events which were unavoidable, horror is the depiction of those events. The same can be said of tragedy and comedy. Comedy is concerned with why the contradiction which is born out of pain is absurd, and therefore laughable. It's not unfair to say that fiction primarily acknowledges that life is pain and takes some view of the source of that pain. The most immediately jarring and unpleasant of that experience is horror.
Once past a certain depth, it's hard to be frustrated that horror isn't as widely recognized, and that only extremely particular examples are accepted by different cliques of broader audiences. The beauty of loving horror is that it's enigmatic: most people don't know exactly why they love horror, but do so unapologetically. Which is the warming feeling of the interest, that someone, somewhere, understands what you're doing implicitly. For people who aren't used to being understood, that's pretty important.
Below is a gallery of recommendations.