One of the great things about the horror genre is that it is never-ending. Just do a quick Google search for ‘horror movies and TV shows’ and you will find a huge wealth of material that you’ve probably never seen (maybe never even heard of).

From the early days of cinema through to today, the horror genre has continued to create new and exciting stories which capture the imagination and terrify the senses. But how do you keep track of the films and learn about the genre at the same time?

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Well, one of the best ways to learn about horror is to check out some of the horror documentaries that offer a greater insight into these macabre movies. There are many great documentaries out there, you just need to know what to look for.

Documentaries range from real-life horrors, such as Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003) and Beware the Slenderman (2016), to docs about key horror movies such as Halloween: The Inside Story (2010) and The Making of the Frighteners (1998). But what are the docs I recommend you check out?

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Below I’ve highlighted three must-watch documentaries, along with a list of additional key documentaries, which every budding horror buff should delve into. These docu-films/docu-series will give you a greater appreciation of the genre and will fill you in on some significant milestones (as well as one cult oddity).

Let’s get started…

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (2010)

Image: ©BBC

First up is the excellent, A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss.

Split into three parts, this BBC documentary series (which can usual be found on YouTube) covers the entire history of horror, from the early days of the genre in ‘Part 1: Frankenstein Goes to Hollywood’, through to the Hammer years in ‘Part 2: Home Counties Horror’ and beyond. The final chapter – ‘Part 3: The American Scream’ – focuses on all the major icons of horror.

For those new to the genre, this docu-series is a horror bible. Plus, host Mark Gatiss is a huge fan of horror and that really helps to bring the stories to life.

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Best Worst Movie (2009)

What is the worst movie ever made? Well, I’m pretty sure most people will have their own suggestions, but the general consensus on the internet is that Troll 2 (1990) is the worst of the worst.

If you’ve never seen Troll 2, don’t worry, all you need to know is the film is truly terrible! However, it has provided the inspiration for Best Worst Movie – a documentary exploring the popularity of this appalling horror film.

This documentary follows a key cast member, and his journey through the highs, lows, highs… and more lows of being in an awful horror film. Troll 2 has a cult following, and this documentary shines a spotlight on this corner of fandom and why it has risen in popularity since its release.

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Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

And now on to my final ‘top pick’ – and it’s a corker!

One of the most popular horror series of all-time is the Nightmare on Elm Street series, which originally ran from 1984 to 1994. Think you know all there is to know about the films? Well check out Never Sleep Again to double check your knowledge.

Running over 4-hours in length, Never Sleep Again is an extensive documentary, which is truly entertaining. The doc covers all the films made with Robert Englund and includes input from all the major cast and crew.

Whether you know everything about the Nightmare films, or you are a complete novice, this documentary is unmissable.

Go further

Should you want more horror documentaries, then after you have watched:

  • A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (2010)
  • Best Worst Movie (2009)
  • Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

Check out:

  • The American Nightmare (2000)
  • Birth of the Living Dead (2012)
  • Cropsey (2009)
  • Nightmares in Red, White & Blue (2009)
  • My Amityville Horror (2012)
  • Room 237 (2012)
  • Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)
  • Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014)
  • Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema – Horror (2018)
  • Eli Roth’s History of Horror (2018)
  • Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (2019)
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Watching these documentaries is a great way to learn a significant amount about horror. I hope the information proves useful… and not too horrifying.

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