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Action Horror

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Jaws, Aliens, and Predator with a werewolf twist.
Oh, no! Monsters are attacking! The shadows are filled with creatures that want to drink your blood and consume your flesh! The Virus has transformed most of humanity into ravenous creatures! Malicious spirits and demons want to take control of your body and feast on your soul! What do you do in a situation like this? Run for your life? Cower in fear and pray they don't find you?

Hell no. You run to the gun rack and fight back with everything you've got.

Action Horror is a subgenre of Horror that, as the name suggests, adds very strong elements of the Action Genre. The Nightmare Fuel is real, and the monsters are extremely potent and would be absolutely terrifying in a straightforward horror story, but the difference is, instead of the protagonists being ordinary people in way over their heads, they are prepared to fight back. Oftentimes, though not always, they'll be police officers, soldiers, Hunters of Monsters, or others trained in the use of weapons and capable of taking down the monsters in front of them.

This is still horror, however, and so, to keep things scary, the monster threat level will often be adjusted accordingly. Instead of one bad guy, it may be a horde of them that the protagonists, as capable as they are, may be overwhelmed by through sheer numbers. Or, it might be an Eldritch Abomination or a kaiju that the protagonists face, a monster where just guns and explosives probably won't cut it. Oftentimes, the villain will be capable of ending the world, or at least a large portion of it. Either way, expect the bad guys in action horror to be very tough. The gorn, too, will often be spectacular as a way of demonstrating just how dangerous and lethal the villains are. A good guide here would be to compare Alien to Aliens: the Space Marines in the latter film likely could've easily triumphed over the lone xenomorph in the first film, but against an entire hive of xenomorphs, they found themselves struggling to survive.

The combination of horror aesthetics with action scenes and gameplay leads to a lot of overlap with Lovecraft Lite and Dark Fantasy, especially in those stories where the protagonists stand a fighting chance. Often the result of an Actionized Sequel to a horror story. Many Superhero Horror stories overlap with this subgenre in their mix of superhero action with horror tropes, as do many Weird West stories that do the same with Wild West gunslinging.

Compare and contrast with Survival Horror. It's important to note that while some survival horror works include combat, there's rarely an emphasis on action sequences and the protagonist will usually be better off running, hiding and sparing ammunition (in some cases they can't fight back at all). The Survival Horror page has some detailed guidelines on the distinction between that subgenre and this one.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Blood franchise (Blood: The Last Vampire, Blood+ and Blood-C) features an Action Girl named Saya who usually wears a Sailor Fuku and wields a katana that can kill vampires.
  • Digimon Ghost Game: The show is an action series like all previous entries. However, Ghost Game also plays the concept of Digimon attacking humans for horror, with all manners of terrifying imagery and situations.
  • Hellsing: The story deals with the Hellsing Organization and their mission to protect humanity from monsters like vampires and werewolves. There is blood, gore, nightmarish imagery, and gun fights, often courtesy of Alucard, who is literally Count Dracula himself as a '90s Anti-Hero.
  • Highschool of the Dead has a group of high school students and a nurse who are all capable of fighting against zombies. While it looked like a Survival Horror at first, the series leans to more action once the main cast armed themselves with Cool Guns, courtesy of the nurse's friend who is a police officer.
  • The first two parts of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Phantom Blood and Battle Tendency, are Shōnen action stories with strong horror elements as the antagonists are extremely powerful vampires. Thankfully, the heroes use a Supernatural Martial Art which lets them wield The Power of the Sun against their undead foes, but it's made very clear how helpless and outmatched the Innocent Bystanders and Red Shirts are against them. This is topped with a hefty dose of Body Horror, especially when the Pillar Men are involved. Horror elements are much rarer in the later parts, however.
  • Summer Time Rendering starts off as a supernatural thriller with eldritch shapeshifters and Survival Horror elements, but the action ramps up significantly at the halfway mark of the story when the main antagonists become aware of the time loops and start actively hunting down the main cast. Fortunately, by this point the heroes have obtained the means to rally enough allies together and start fighting back.

    Comic Books 
  • Hack/Slash: The main premise of the series is about the former Final Girl turned Action Girl Cassie Hack and her partner Vlad going around the country and taking down any and all Slashers that they can find.
  • Justice League Dark: The comic combines typical superhero action with stories of magic, demons, and otherworldly nightmares. The second volume by James Tynion IV especially plays up the horror elements to contrast with the more traditionally superheroic characters like Wonder Woman and Zatanna.
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Blade is a dhampyr who seeks to exterminate vampires. All of the bloody, creepy aspects of vampires are still here, with Blade throwing in swords and gunplay to fight the undead menace.
    • This is what the story becomes whenever Carnage enters the scene. As a nigh-immortal Serial Killer with Lovecraftian Superpowers, Carnage is the horror. And he's more than willing to take on any Action Hero brave enough to try and stop him.
    • Ghost Rider is, in most of his incarnations, a motorcycle stuntman who sold his soul to the devil, resulting in him being fused with a demon (or sometimes a fallen angel) with a flaming skeleton appearance tasked with hunting down the Devil's bounties, including other demons and monsters. The character and his exploits deal heavily with the horrors of Hollywood Satanism, all while fighting evil with chains, guns and Hellfire.
  • Vampirella: The titular character is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire who defends humans from other monsters, similar to Blade. Many if not most stories have a great deal of action in them, with the '90s comics being very big on fight scenes.

    Films - Live-Action 
  • As noted above, Aliens. The increased combat capabilities of the protagonists are met in kind with a lot more xenomorphs to fight. The Alien vs. Predator films did the same.
  • Army of the Dead is about a group of armed mercenaries infiltrating a zombie-infested and walled-off Las Vegas to break into a casino's vault and recover the money inside for its owner, who lost his casino when Vegas was overrun. Their enemies also include Alpha Zombies who are smarter, faster, stronger, and more brutal than the common variety.
  • The Blade Trilogy follows a Dhampyr played by actor/martial artist Wesley Snipes who fights and kills vampires.
  • John Carpenter, a filmmaker known for working in both action and horror, has mixed the two genres in the past.
  • Day Shift follows vampire hunters in the San Fernando Valley tracking down vampires while they sleep in a manner straight out of John Wick (which some of the film's producers previously worked on), complete with wooden bullets and buckshot, silver razor wire, garlic gas grenades, and a minigun along with bounties for each one they kill.
  • Deep Rising has a group of mercenaries board a luxury ocean liner with the intent of robbing the passengers, only to find themselves in a pitched battle against a swarm of giant worm-like creatures (actually the feeding tentacles of a single monster) that have already eaten most of the people on board.
  • Dog Soldiers pits a squad of British soldiers on a training mission against a pack of werewolves.
  • Doomsday (from the same director as Dog Soldiers) is Escape from New York in Scotland, while adding a lot more horror elements like cannibal gangs, a Dark Fantasy motif (albeit more sci-fi/post-apocalyptic) with the ex-scientist turned warlord/king Marcus Kane, and tons of gorn.
  • The Evil Dead series starting with the second film, an Actionized Sequel to and loose remake of the first that combined this trope with Denser and Wackier to turn its protagonist Ash into a snarky, wiseass Action Hero. The third film, Army of Darkness, combined this with medieval fantasy action on top of it.
  • Little Dead Rotting Hood: The movie is about the people of a small town dealing with constant wolf attacks. There's also guns, and an epic battle at the end against the Denmother.
  • Malignant goes from a supernatural horror film to this in the second half once the villain Gabriel's true nature is revealed. A scene set in a police station has Gabriel singlehandedly demolish everybody in the station lockup followed by the entire police force, shot in such a manner that makes it clear that director James Wan was putting his experience making blockbuster action flicks to use even as he returned to the horror genre.
  • Maniac Cop 2 is an Actionized Sequel to the first movie that combines a Slasher Movie plot with numerous action scenes, including car chases and a scene where the titular villain storms the police station Terminator-style.
  • Overlord (2018): During World War II, a group of Allied paratroopers infiltrate enemy lines on the night before D-Day. What follows is a standard war movie until it is revealed that the Nazis have developed a serum to produce undead super soldiers. The film balances the gunfire and explosions with both sci-fi Body Horror and the very real horror of Nazi occupation and experimentation.
  • Pitch Black, at first glance, is a simple Alien riff, but with one key difference: the protagonist Richard B. Riddick, a Proud Warrior Race Guy with superhuman night vision played by Vin Diesel at the height of his early '00s Action Hero fame. The sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) was a full-blown Space Opera, though the subsequent film, titled simply Riddick, returned to this one's action-horror roots.
  • In the Predator series, the titular aliens are a Proud Hunter Race who specifically target humanity's elite warriors to fight. The result: mercenaries in Central America in the first film, LAPD cops and gangsters in the second, a motley crew of soldiers and criminals in the third, the US military in the fourth, and a group of Comanche warriors in the fifth all thrust into a Hunting the Most Dangerous Game scenario against aliens who hunt like Slasher Movie killers, saving the laser blasters for emergencies in favor of blades that make the fight more fair and interesting.
  • The Purge entered this with its sequels. While the first film was contained to a single house and played out like a conventional home invasion movie, later films and the TV series more fully explored the premise of there being one night a year where all crime was legal, and focused on people fighting to survive amidst the urban anarchy and mayhem that characterized the titular holiday.
  • Renfield (2023) is an action / horror / comedy that follows Dracula’s servant as he fights cops and criminals in the modern day while trying to find a way out of his toxic relationship with his master.
  • The Resident Evil Film Series veered heavily in this direction. The protagonists in the first film are commandos hired by the Umbrella Corporation to put down a T-Virus outbreak in their lab, along with an amnesiac woman named Alice who turns out to have been a badass Action Girl. In the sequels, Alice is made explicitly superhuman while the threat is turned up to apocalyptic levels.
  • The Seventh Curse, a Hong Kong film based on the Wisely and Dr. Yuen series of pulp novels, have the hero, Wisely, uncovering an evil cult whose High Priest practices Human Sacrifice and regularly has hundreds of children ground alive in rituals to maintain his power. There's plenty of shootouts and action sequences (including an Indy Escape in a cavern), but also plenty of supernatural elements, jump scares, zombies, and a final battle against a powerful flying demon.
  • Snakes on a Plane, the entire marketing hook for which was Samuel L. Jackson in full BAMF mode fighting a horde of venomous snakes aboard a passenger jet.
  • The Terminator was a Slasher Movie in which the killer was a robot who used guns as his weapons of choice. The sequels, however, were straightforward action films.
  • Tremors is a Genre Throwback to '50s monster movies whose main standout feature is its recurring supporting character Burt Gummer, a Properly Paranoid Crazy Survivalist who, over the course of the series, slaughters scores of Graboids with his massive assortment of weapons to the point that he becomes an expert on them.
  • The Underworld films took the Urban Fantasy genre in this direction, using the supernatural powers attributed to vampires and werewolves in folklore to stage superhuman fight scenes between them.
  • Universal Horror:
  • VFW, which can be described as Assault on Precinct 13 IN A VFW POST! A young woman, seeking revenge on the gang leader who killed her sister, steals a massive shipment of drugs from his safe and flees into a VFW post where a group of aging Vietnam veterans (and one Korea vet) are celebrating the birthday of one of their own. The gang leader responds by commanding an army of junkies to besiege the post with the promise of drugs in return, forcing the veterans to once more fight for their lives against The Horde.
  • We Have a Ghost is largely a Horror Comedy. However, the second half adds elements of gunplay and chases as government agents and the ghost’s killers become involved.
  • The film adaptation of World War Z used this to showcase the global scale of the Zombie Apocalypse, with scenes of zombies overrunning Philadelphia, Newark, Manhattan, the DMZ in South Korea, Jerusalem, and an airliner fleeing Jerusalem. The original ending was supposed to revolve around a Big Badass Battle Sequence where the Russian military retook Moscow from the zombie hordes that had overrun the city, but this was removed from the final edit in favor of a smaller-scale, more horror-focused third act at a lab in Cardiff.
  • Yakuza Apocalypse: The film is about a Yakuza group whos leader is a vampire, and passes his Vampirism on to his most loyal enforcer upon his death. There's a lot of martial arts and fighting in the movie.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffyverse:
  • While the first season of Stranger Things is closer to straightforward Sci-Fi Horror, the show's genre-blending being more with the coming-of-age films of The '80s, its Big Budget Beef-Up in subsequent seasons saw it turn increasingly action-heavy, with growing numbers of shootouts and monster battles. Among other things, season two had a secret government lab being overrun by monsters in scenes straight out of Aliens, season three introduced the KGB as villains and climaxed with a battle against a giant monster in a shopping mall, and season four has a character escaping a Siberian gulag in a scene filled with explosions, shootouts, and a getaway on a snowmobile.
  • Supernatural: The protagonists Sam and Dean Winchester are monster hunters who came into the business as a family tradition, criss-crossing the country battling monsters out of Urban Legends, cryptozoology, and mythology both classical and Abrahamic.
  • Wynonna Earp was adapted from a comic book that mixes supernatural horror with Western action. The titular character is a descendant of Wyatt Earp and must defend the modern-day town of Purgatory from the revenants of bad men Wyatt killed in the past. She also discovers other, more powerful horrors that are focused on destroying her and her town.

    Video Games 
  • Around the Clock at Bikini Bottom is standard Survival Horror at most parts, but shifts regularly into comedic and action elements. The game has boss fights, and there's a few other select sections where the game deviates from pure horror. There's even an entire level about fighting Jellien Plankton, armed with the Mayo-Minigun.
  • Back 4 Blood, a Spiritual Successor to the below-mentioned Left 4 Dead. Like the game that inspired it, the game has four players gunning their way through a Zombie Apocalypse, though the zombies in this game are Parasite Zombies instead of Plague Zombies, and the cast can be more than just the same four people.
  • The BioShock games feature this as part of their formula.
    • BioShock 1 leans more towards horror, especially in the early levels. The protagonist is the survivor of a plane crash who found shelter in an underwater city whose inhabitants have been turned into mad, grotesque monsters thanks to overuse of gene splicing run amok. Greater action elements come in as the protagonist starts using those gene mods himself to gain superhuman powers, as well as acquiring a greater arsenal of weapons.
    • BioShock 2 leans more towards action due to the Player Character this time being a specified type of Big Daddy, a superhuman protector of the Little Sisters who harvest ADAM from the city's corpses. The enemies you face, meanwhile, have grown increasingly mutated and powerful over the years.
    • BioShock Infinite is the most action-heavy game in the series, with most of the horror being of the real-world sort in the story's focus on the villains' bigotry.
  • Bloodborne opens up in Yharnam, a Victorian-styled city overrun by the "Beast Scourge", transforming its inhabitants into mindless, vicious monsters. Just by regularly exploring, you're constantly outnumbered by bloodthirsty hunters, werewolves, mutant animals, and various other Gothic Horror staples. While the game is oriented around combat, your resources are limited and a single mistake can cost your whole life bar. This is all before the Great Ones show up too, by the way.
  • Call of Duty: Zombies, which takes the First-Person Shooter gameplay of the Call of Duty series and adapts it into a zombie horror game.
  • Control has a secret government agency set up in an Eldritch Location that gets invaded by what's best described as a sapient extradimensional frequency which converts most everyone into its minions. (Plus numerous other dangers like parasitic mold, a mirror dimension housing an evil doppelganger, and a refrigerator possessed by a giant tentacle monster.) Opposing them is Jesse, an Action Girl wielding telekinetic powers and a shapeshifting gun with infinite ammo. Her allies include an entity that's set up shop inside her brain, a giant inverted pyramid, and a creepy custodian who's not entirely human. It's equal parts unsettling, darkly comedic, and badass.
  • The start of Dead Rising leans more into Survival Horror with the protagonist Frank West outmatched by the hundreds of zombies around him, but the moment he starts to level up, the zombies become about as dangerous as the individual mooks in a Dynasty Warriors game. The sequels, which provide players access to increasingly powerful combo weapons, are basically Hack-and-Slashes with a Zombie Apocalypse theme. That said, while zombies in this series exist to get splattered in increasingly outlandish ways, the human enemies are far more dangerous, and the human survivors you escort are not nearly as capable of kicking zombie ass as the games' protagonists.
  • Dead Space: The first game in the series focused more on horror, albeit with some action shooter touches like upgradable weapons and a more fluid, over-the-shoulder combat system. The second game, however, featured a greater mix of action and horror sequences, while the third game was almost a straight-up action game.
  • Devil May Cry: The games star a Human-Demon Hybrid named Dante who slays demons in the most stylish ways possible, and some of the games have a more horror-focused feel and aesthetic.
    • The first game was a Divorced Installment of the Resident Evil series that was made into its own game series because the developers thought it was too action-heavy to be a mainline RE title, and it takes place in a dark, Haunted Castle that at times feels claustrophobic, with the looming presence of Mundus felt in every hallway and area.
    • Devil May Cry 5 gives the demons a more photorealistic, grotesque and disturbing appearance, similar to the monsters from the RE games that utilize Capcom's RE Engine.
  • The Diablo series (at least the early installments) leaned heavily into gory horror aesthetically, but their gameplay has always concerned slaughtering monsters by the dozen, then killing the devil himself. To put it differently: the world of Diablo is a horror fest... for everyone except the Player Characters.
  • Doom³. While the Doom series had always borne many horror elements, its two main influences Alien and Evil Dead both being prime examples of the genre, this entry swung far more heavily towards horror than the more action-packed games before and after it, with most of the action set in dark passageways with little illumination where monsters and demons hid around every corner.
  • DUSK has a dark, occult theme with plenty of creepy or scary encounters. It is also styled heavily after Quake, and gives the player a wide variety of weapons to blast through these creepy enemies.
  • The Endless Nightmare series, while the first game is a Survival Horror through and through, the sequels starts adding in a wide range of firearms, boss battles, and plenty of zombie and monsters to kill.
  • Evil Dead: Regeneration starts from the premise that, instead of travelling back in time at the end of Evil Dead 2, Ash was instead apprehended by the police for killing all his friends, and committed to an insane asylum when he tried telling them about the Deadites and the Necronomicon Ex Mortis. While he's there, Dr. Reinhardt reads from the Necronomicon and ends up unleashing another horde of Deadites that Ash has to kill with naught but his chainsaw and boomstick, while receiving assistance in the form of a half-Deadite named Sam.
  • GTFO has up to four players being sent down into the ruins of some as-of-yet unknown facility by an unseen being known as "The Warden" to complete various tasks. While doing this, the players are armed to the teeth for the purpose of defending themselves against hordes of Sleepers, which appear to be humans who were mutated by some kind of infection into monsters with giant Vagina Dentata-style mouths on their bodies.
  • The Half-Life games in those segments where you aren't battling human or alien soldiers.
    • Half-Life: The opening segments of the game especially pit you, an underequipped scientist with little experience in combat, against hordes of alien monsters that have overrun the Black Mesa research facility after an experiment Gone Horribly Wrong. Later portions of the game shift more towards action, though, especially after the Cavalry Betrayal.
    • Half-Life 2 has this once you leave the confines of City 17. The Ravenholm level in particular is straight-up Survival Horror.
    • Half-Life: Alyx revolves around the titular protagonist Alyx Vance trying to get inside the quarantine zone within City 17 to rescue her father Eli, all while trying to survive against dangerous foes that prevent her from reaching him.
  • The first three Halo games shift from standard Military Science Fiction to horror whenever the Flood shows up, as you find yourself heading through darkened passageways (often filled with murky clouds of gas) battling wave after wave of tentacled zombies, many of which also have guns (or worse, RPGs). The horror elements are taken up a notch in Halo 3, where you get to see victims infected and transformed right in front of you.
  • The House of the Dead is a series of Light Gun Games that are all about blowing away zombies and various other hostile monsters with an endless supply of bullets.
  • Left 4 Dead, a Co-Op Multiplayer shooter in which four players fight their way through a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • The Metro games from Metro: Last Light onward emphasize gunplay and action against human and mutant enemies as well as horror in the form of supernatural threats lurking in the Metro tunnels and on the post-apocalyptic surface.
  • Midnight Ghost Hunt: The game is a Competitive Multiplayer Horror Game about a team of four ghosts hunters who need to get rid of a team of four ghosts, who themselves need to hide from them until midnight, when they get a power boost and can really fight back.
  • NanoBreaker is a Hack and Slash actioner set in the aftermath of a viral infestation, only instead of zombies, you're dealing with nanomachines that forcefully convert humans into half-mechanical, mindless abominations. Body Horror and Gorn galore.
  • Perilous Warp, a retraux 3D game based on Half-Life and Doom, where you're a space marine trapped in an intergalactic mining outpost infested by monsters.
  • Redfall is an upcoming first person survival horror game about four survivors attempting to escape a town under siege from vampires.
  • The Resident Evil games in the '00s and early '10s veered in this direction. Resident Evil 4 started the trend by having Leon Kennedy graduate from an outgunned rookie cop in games where Ammunition Conservation is paramount to survival to a Secret Service agent using More Dakka, then RE5 and RE6 put players in the role of soldiers, mercenaries, and government agents in combat zones where assorted zombies and mutants are running loose, all while moving to an over-the-shoulder camera and aiming system that proved hugely influential on the Third-Person Shooter genre. Starting with Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, however, the series started to back away from the genre and return to the Survival Horror of the earlier entries.
  • The Resistance series of Military Science Fiction FPS games took a more horror-focused approach than comparable titles like Halo, Gears of War, and Killzone, between its '40s/'50s Diesel Punk setting and an Alien Invasion that was filled with a lot more Body Horror than the Covenant. While the second game toned it down in favor of a focus on action and spectacle, the third game went even harder in this direction with its post-apocalyptic setting.
  • Shadows of the Damned is a Third-Person Shooter game starring Garcia Hotspur, a demon hunter who journeys to the underworld in order to rescue his girlfriend.
  • Silver Falls: Ghoul Busters is a Platform Hell about a couple of '90s elementary school kids having to escape a forest teeming with Lovecraftian monsters. Aside from sub weapons, all they have are a hockey stick, slingshot, and a Tamagotchi.
  • Splatterhouse took the gameplay of a side scrolling arcade Beat 'em Up and combined it with an '80s horror movie aesthetic, including a protagonist who wears a mask that makes him resemble Jason Voorhees.
  • The Suffering runs on this trope. The game's designer Richard Rouse III explicitly described it as this trope in order to distinguish it from survival horror games like Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Fatal Frame.
    • The protagonist Torque begins the game as a death row inmate who's just arrived at Abbott State Penitentiary, a maximum security facility on Carnate Island off the coast of Maryland for monsters like him. It turns out that the other murderers and violent criminals are the least of Torque's problems, as an earthquake causes hundreds of strange, violent creatures called Malefactors based on various historical execution methods to descend on the island, slaughtering the convicts and guards alike. Sound like a Survival Horror game? Nope. Torque starts the game with nothing but a prison shiv and spends the game using revolvers, tommy guns, and even an improvised flamethrower to send the misbegotten creatures back to hell. Oh, and that bit about Torque being a monster? It's literal. He fills up a meter when he attacks, and when it's full, he can turn on his Superpowered Evil Side to rip enemies apart with his bare hands.
    • The sequel The Suffering: Ties That Bind takes the action to the streets of Baltimore as they are overrun by Malefactors, which now include some new ones drawing on the city's sordid history of crime and urban decay.

  • Unsounded: There are lots of horror elements—including a monster made of ghosts, bad memories, thorny twisting silver and the cancerous flesh of its victims—yet anytime there is something horrifying trying to kill or do worse to people there are those who fight it in often spectacular fashion.