What Is the Cosmic Horror Genre in Film and TV? (Definitions and Examples)

cosmic_horror_definition_examples
'Annihilation'Credit: Paramount Pictures
What is cosmic horror, and how is it defined? 

I think we can all agree that horror is one of the most fun genres to write and to experience. Horror takes you on a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. There are lots of different kinds of horror movies and TV shows, and a diverse array of subgenres to examine. There are things that go bump in the night, and things that go bump from outer space. 

Today, we're going to examine the cosmic horror definition and examples of it, as well. We'll dig into all the Lovecraftian monsters, aliens, and spectral forces. We'll also look at how these kinds of tales make it into film and television.  

So get ready for take-off. 

What Is the Cosmic Horror Genre in Film and TV (Definitions and Examples)

There's always something interesting going on inside the horror space. There's so much room to reinvent tropes and to make things current for the times we live in and experience. No matter what you're writing, there's always room to be relevant and current with your themes and ideas. 

What Is the Cosmic Horror Definition?

Cosmic horror, also known as Lovecraftian horror, is a subgenre of horror that emphasizes the terror of the unknowable and incomprehensible. It favors these psychological horrors more than gore or other elements of shock and awe.

What Are Some Cosmic Horror Themes?

The core of all cosmic horror is the protagonist being absolutely terrified of the unknown or the future and what's going to happen to them. These movies and TV shows also usually have phenomena that cannot be explained and sometimes are a singular experience for the main characters.

There should also be a contemplation of the human experience and the humanness of the struggle. Some of these pieces of entertainment also deal with technology or fear of advancement. They usually don't have a lot of blood and gore, and instead thrive on the ideas that are scary. However, there are always some titles that like to blend in traditional horror gore as well, but this often manifests in slime or goo or otherworldly nastiness, not blood and guts. 

What Are Some Cosmic Horror Genre Examples in Film and TV?

This is one of my favorite kinds of horror because it just is so trippy and heady. It really requires thinking. And when it's executed well, it can sustain an entire series or put the audience into an otherworldly scenario. 

Recently, television has been the go-to medium for cosmic horror. Shows like Lovecraft Country take the tropes of the genre and blend them throughout each episode. It's a really smart way to show the expanse and depth of Lovecraftian lore. This is in the long tradition, from The Twilight Zone to The Outer Limits. Cosmic horror has always thrived in TV because it has legs and can drive so many episodes. 

In film, there are too many titles to mention, from Annihilation to Alien to Event Horizon. Cosmic horror covers every level and subgenre of film. We have classics like Solaris to B-movies like Hellraiser. The Myst, Dark City, and Phantoms all are fun titles as well. These movies are visual, ethereal, and fun to imagine. It draws in directors, writers, and scholars who want some deeper themes with their fun and adventures.

'Annihilation' Credit: Paramount Pictures

Wrapping Up the Cosmic Horror Genre in Film and TV 

I hope this lesson helped you understand the genre and gets you on the road to creating your own entrance into this world.  Whether you want to learn how to write a pilot or how to write a feature film screenplay, consider diving into cosmic horror and giving it a try. 

What's your favorite cosmic horror project? Let us know in the comments.      

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