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Superhero Horror

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This WOULD horrify Bruce.
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There's the Weird West for horror meets the Western and there's Sci-Fi Horror for when Horror meets Science Fiction. Superhero Horror is when the Superhero genre meets horror. At its most basic, typical Superhero Tropes are Played for Horror.

Heroes will sometimes have a Lovecraftian Superpower, and the tone is generally Darker and Edgier than the usual superhero comic (not to mention often Bloodier and Gorier too). It often mixes Capepunk with horror tropes (Capepunk being more cynical or deconstructive takes on the superhero genre). There's also frequently a strong overlap with Action Horror.

See also: Beware the Superman.


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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Ghost Rider has always been rooted in horror, but the 2022 series practically lives and breaths this trope, featuring a Lovecraft Lite storyline where the demons of hell have slowly risen up to take over America by corrupting the country from within, underneath most people's notice until their horrifying activities begin taking full effect. The only reason this crisis doesn't quite enter Cosmic Horror Story levels is because the titular anti-hero proves more than capable of fighting back against the otherworldly menace and their nightmarish influence.
  • Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth is a Batman graphic novel written by Grant Morrison set in the titular asylum. Batman arrives during a takeover of the asylum by its inmates and explores a layered, disturbing supernatural/psychological horror tale involving the dark history of the asylum.
  • Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham is an Elseworld story that asks "what if H. P. Lovecraft wrote a Batman story?"
  • Dark Nights: Metal introduces the Dark Multiverse, where worlds are created from every bad decision or choice that someone makes (or more precisely, their fears about such), and said worlds are filled with malformed contents of nightmare and despair, until they're doomed to rot apart. To illustrate, Batman has about eight Evil Counterparts of himself coming from the Dark into the Prime Multiverse, with their backstories ranging from being driven to madness due to losing his entire family to becoming twisted and psychopathic whilst retaining his technological and intellectual prowess after killing the Joker out of pure rage.
  • DCeased is a comic miniseries about a Zombie Apocalypse happening in an alternative DC Universe, similar to Marvel Zombies. The plot kicks off when Cyborg arrives on Earth from Apokolips carrying a corrupted form of the Anti-Life Equation which turns humans into ravenous undead instead of brainwashed slaves. The remaining superheroes now must find a way to stop the chaos before it is too late.
  • Similarly, DC vs. Vampires is about the world getting blindsided by the vampires making an organized effort to take over by converting key superhumans. The heroes are manipulated into suspecting each other so they'll be busy fighting each other until it's too late to stop.
  • Mister Miracle (2017) plays the character of Mister Miracle and the New Gods mythos for Psychological Horror, deconstructing the severity of the war between New Genesis and Apokolips as catastrophically bloody and politically obtuse, and delving into Scott Free's mental health and increasingly unreliable perception of the world as it spirals into both supernatural and mundane existential darkness.
  • Swamp Thing mixes this with Body Horror and supernatural horror, especially stories written by Alan Moore.
  • Irredeemable is about a Superman-like figure named the Plutonian who one day snapped and begins a rampage to destroy humanity. A group composed of the Plutonian's fellow superheroes must find a way to stop him and understand why he became the world's bloodiest mass murderer. The comic deconstructs the nature of superheroism by exploring the assumption that a superhuman must do the right thing automatically without being emotionally prepared for the role. It also shows how horrifying a superhuman's capacity for destruction would be when unleashed.
  • Leaving Megalopolis tells a story about a ragtag group of survivors trying to find a way out of the city while avoiding detection by the bloodthirsty former superheroes.
  • Immortal Hulk deconstructs the nature of Comic Book Death, and explores psychological and even supernatural angles to The Incredible Hulk's powers, all of which have been given a sufficiently horrifying twist befitting of a darker narrative. With the cast of the character's world reimagined, it becomes clear that Hulk's place in the Marvel Universe will never be the same.
  • Marvel Zombies: An alien virus carried into an Elseworlds version of the Marvel Comics universe by a zombified Sentry has transformed the Marvel superheroes and supervillains into cannibalistic zombies who, by the time we're introduced to them, have already consumed every living thing on their own Earth.
  • Terror Inc. is a dark series following an immortal assassin who replaces body parts by tearing them off of other people, also allowing him to copy their abilities — something like a Body Horror version of Rogue.
  • Venom, Carnage, and the Symbiotes in general provide a dose of science-fictional Body Horror to the superheroic Marvel Universe, capable of forming tentacles, spines, extra mouths, and other grotesque metamorphoses. Also, the reason that the reason Carnage's suit is red is that it's made up of the Venom symbiote mixed with Cletus Kasady's blood. Absolute Carnage turns Carnage into a cult god resurrecting Knull.
  • Alan Moore describes Miracleman as Superman (or, perhaps more fittingly, Shazam!) retold as a horror story. It contains themes that Moore later developed in Watchmen such as Beware the Superman, the alienation of superbeings, and the horrific effects of superhumans on modern society.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) has the Metal Virus Saga, a Zombie Apocalypse-style story of Doctor Eggman unleashing a techno-organic virus which converts everyone it infects into mindless robots (dubbed "Zombots" by Sonic).
  • Spawn is about a former hitman named Al Simmons who comes back as a demonic '90s Anti-Hero and fights demons, angels and the absolute worst that humanity has to offer, killing them in increasingly gorier ways.
  • Supergod is essentially a superhero version of a Cosmic Horror Story, which Warren Ellis describes as what happens when superhumans are no longer human at all. It describes an arms race between nations to create the most powerful superhuman, culminating the extinction of the human race and the planet overrun with a Festering Fungus.
  • Über deconstructs neo-Golden Age comics which depict World War II being fought with superheroes and mad science as an arena for Rule of Cool adventures. First Nazi Germany, and then other countries, develop superhumans in the final stages of the war. The result is an extremely depressing and sickening intensification of its real-world brutality, with Body Horror and floods of gore aplenty, and Super Weight differences being treated with ruthless Surprisingly Realistic Outcome as something that can't be overcome by abstract "willpower" or "righteousness" — challenge a super more powerful than you are and you will end up as a smear of blood and ash... if you're lucky.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Blade Trilogy, with its Dhampyr protagonist and its secret societies of vampires, is a notable example of this trope, being a hybrid of the superhero genre, the horror genre, and the action movie genre.
  • Brightburn deconstructs the Superman mythos and turns it into something much horrifying, demonstrating just how dangerous and terrifying someone with Superman's powerset could be if they had no morality or humanity.
  • Darkman: Following a gruesome attack in his laboratory that leaves most of his skin burned off, scientist Peyton Westlake develops a synthetic skin that lets him impersonate others for a limited time, and enhanced strength from the constant adrenaline in his system. As Darkman, he takes revenge on his enemies more like a horror movie villain than a superhero.
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is directed by Evil Dead mastermind Sam Raimi. It shows off plenty of Surreal Horror elements, there's the reanimated corpse of a Doctor Strange variant, and the Big Bad, Wanda Maximoff/the Scarlet Witch, has quite a gory body count by the end.
  • Fantastic Four (2015) is a much Darker and Edgier take on the Fantastic Four, attempting to merge the Origin Story of Marvel's First Family with Body Horror. The scenes in the climax involving Dr. Doom stalking through darkened corridors killing anyone in his path particularly give off horror movie vibes.
  • The Flying Man takes a near-Lovecraftian approach to superhero fiction, by showing the titular Flying Man as an entity that just showed up one day and started enforcing its own justice without anyone being able to do anything about it.
  • Glass (2019), a crossover sequel to Unbreakable and Split, utilizes both psychological horror and superhero elements.
  • Hellboy (2004) dabbles in horror, combined with Dark Fantasy and Urban Fantasy (the sequel tones down the horror elements and leans more into fantasy). The titular hero is a benevolent demon who battles undead Nazis, Rasputin and other monsters to protect the world from Eldritch Abominations.
  • Hellboy (2019) leans into horror even more heavily than the 2004 version, ramping up the gore and dark tone (notably, the 2004 movie is PG-13, while this one is a hard R rating). It features Hellboy fighting monsters to try and prevent the resurrection of an evil witch who seeks to destroy the world.
  • Kamen Rider: The First in 2005 and its sequel Kamen Rider: The Next 2 years later are reboots of the original two series made to celebrate the franchise's 35th anniversary that lean more into the subtle horror elements of the show on account of no longer being aimed at a younger audience, with some newer J-Horror elements thrown in.
  • Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue features our hero: the titular Shin gene-spliced with Grasshopper DNA, becoming a grasshopper-monster hybrid himself.
  • The Toxic Avenger might be the first superhero horror film yet (or at least superhero Horror Comedy). A 98-pound weakling named Melvin runs afoul of a local gang of hoodlums and ends up falling out of a second-story window at the gym — straight into a vat of toxic waste. The resulting mutation transforms Melvin into the Toxic Avenger, a deformed creature who proceeds to beat up baddies (and boy, are they bad!) in the goriest ways possible.

    Literature 
  • In "Attack of the Mutant" from Goosebumps =, the titular supervillain has breached his way into the real world and targets his biggest fan, a regular 12-year-old kid. The "heroes" are shown to be cowardly and powerless, while the Mutant's shapeshifting gives him the edge in getting him closer to his young victim. The book overall shows how terrifying it would really be to meet your favorite comic characters.
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    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Trinity Universe shows a superhero universe that goes From Bad to Worse over the course of two centuries, with an event called "The Aberrant War" turning a significant chunk of the world into a wasteland when the superheroes go completely berserk in The New '10s. Like many White Wolf games, there's more than meets the eye. While many Aberrants went crazy, the War started because a Government Conspiracy named "Project Proteus" was going all CADMUS on them and they fought back.
    • The motive changes in Continuity Reboot Trinity Continuum, where it comes down to two things: one, that many supers never learned to moderate and control their development, and as a result became ever more dangerous to those around them, and two, that the supers discovered humanity had never really trusted them, and designed contingency plans to deal with them.

    Web Original 
  • Worm goes into a lot of detail on the evil that supervillains can do and the damage fighting off regular Kaiju attacks takes on person, property and psyche. Some types of capes, like the mind-controlling Masters and the invisible or perception-altering Strangers, are played for all the fear factor they're worth. Bug-controlling protagonist Taylor is a Horrifying Hero at one point explicitly compared In-Universe to the Slaughterhouse Nine, a band of notorious Serial Killer supervillains, for her brutality and creepiness.

    Web Videos 
  • Truth in Journalism is a mockumentary about Eddie Brock and his unsavory reporting methods; throughout the story, we get disturbing glimpses of his infamous alter ego (including Brock babbling to himself and him attacking two junkies and stringing them up while the film crew is distracted). When he fully transforms into Venom at the end, we get a horrifying first-person taste of what it would feel like to be locked in a room with the symbiote.

    Western Animation 

 
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Video Example(s):

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WandaVision

Set in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) finds herself in an alternate reality in which her lover Vision (Paul Bettany) is inexplicably alive once more. The two are soon Happily Married as they adjust to a new life seemingly devoid of superheroics in the idyllic, sitcom-esque town of Westview, New Jersey... but something's not right. It quickly becomes apparent that things are not as they seem in their Stepford Suburbia, and as new problems arise while S.W.O.R.D. agents attempt to make their way into the neighborhood, the two eventually discover something disturbing at the heart of their new life...

How well does it match the trope?

4.6 (15 votes)

Example of:

Main / SurrealHorror

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