There are several horror subgenres, but for many people, a horror movie about teenagers is always going to be a good time. The '90s was a great moment for this type of scary movie, and there are countless slashers about a killer threatening a friend group. Characters are often the popular kids at school or the total opposite, sensitive people who have a tough time dealing with the day to day of frustrating high school life.
While fans can think of tons of teen horror movies from the past few decades, there haven't been too many in the past five years or so. When a teen horror movie comes out and is done right, it's definitely something to be celebrated. Is the teen horror genre dead, or has there just been a break in these types of movies being released?
There have been a few great teen horror movies in recent years, including Polaroid (2019) and Unfriended (2014) is a unique, artistic horror film. There was also Octavia Spencer's amazing performance in Ma (2019) and the Sarah Paulson thriller Run (2020). But these films stand out because there aren't that many teen horror movies being made anymore. When horror fans think back on the genre, it definitely feels like teen horror's heyday was in the 1990s and 2000s.
There might be a few reasons for this. There was definitely a huge teen slasher horror movie trend in the '90s thanks to the popularity of Scream, which was released in 1996. There are many slasher horror franchises, but most of them aren't about teenagers. Scream is still a beloved franchise in recent years because the characters endure, and part of that is seeing Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) as a teenager in the first film, as she is handling so many things besides the danger of Ghostface. It's possible that since it's been so long since that first film, and there aren't any new horror franchises focusing on teenagers, there doesn't feel like there is the same appetite for these types of stories.
Another reason is that teen horror movies are, at their core, fairly cheesy, since high schoolers are handling so many big emotions. Everything in high school feels like a massive deal, so if not being invited to the popular crowd's latest party or fighting with a friend feels huge, it's no wonder that running from a killer would, too. '90s and 2000s movies had much cornier tones than movies do today. And it worked well for the time, since audiences can now look back and smile, appreciating the charm of these past decades.
Amazon's recent I Know What You Did Last Summer TV show failed because this horror story worked so much better in the '90s. When the movie came out in 1997, it made sense that some scenes were a bit over-the-top and that Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) would scream "what are you waiting for?" and it wouldn't seem out of place. The TV adaptation features young adult characters who have gone off to college and are now back home dealing with the ghosts of the past, but the show is awkward, features too much slang, and doesn't have characters who viewers even like. The very idea of a teenage group of friends killing someone accidentally with their car and then covering it up and then being stalked by someone who knows what they did is incredibly corny. But the cheesy fun of this '90s horror movie was lost in 2021 TV show.
It's also possible to argue that teen horror movies have been replaced by scary films set on college campuses. These movies continue in the same tradition by featuring main characters handling issues like dating and friendship and classes while fighting off killers or a ghost. Jessica Rothe's horror movie Happy Death Day is a beloved Blumhouse production from 2017 and could easily have a high school setting, but instead, Tree is a college student. The 2018 movie Truth Or Dare, a Blumhouse horror movie that isn't very good, stars Lucy Hale as a college student named Olivia. Other recent horror movies that have gotten buzz, like 2020's Host, feature characters who are part of the large, close friend group found in teen movies but are in fact older and likely in their 20s.
While there are always going to be horror TV shows about teenagers, there haven't been a ton of teen horror movies in recent years. And while that may change, as high school will continue to be a great setting for a scary film, horror fans can at least still enjoy the cheesy yet fun horror films of the '90s and 2000s.