The Horror-Western Genre

Hollywood Gets Weird With These Scary Cowboy Movies

Horror and Western seem like two genres that would rarely, if ever, mix. But surprisingly enough, cinematic horror-Western hybrids date back to the era of silent film. Here's a not-quite-comprehensive list. 


'Haunted Range' (1926)

The Haunted Range
© Davis Distributing

This silent film tells the story of a cowboy trying to solve the murder of his father at the hands of a ghostly figure known as "The Black Rider." Although the haunting turns out to have human and not supernatural origins, it's still a good introduction to the genre. 

'Haunted Gold' (1932)

Haunted Gold
© Vitagraph Pictures

This early John Wayne feature stars the Duke as a man who inherits an abandoned mine that's rumored to be haunted. The "ghost," however, turns out to be more of the Scooby Doo "I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you darn kids" variety—as was the case in several ghostly westerns of this era, including the aforementioned "Haunted Range," "Speeding Hoofs" (1927), and "Haunted Ranch" (1943).

This dark Western has the feel of a Gothic horror movie. It features Charles Middleton—best known as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon films of the 1930s—as a sadistic land baron who holds a young woman prisoner in order to force her to marry him.

"The Three Mesqueteers," including Ray "Crash" Corrigan, star in this tale of a posse searching for a missing archeologist who ran afoul of an evil Native American cult. Even a mummy makes an appearance. 

An Allosaurus terrorizes a local Mexican cattle-herding community—at least for the final 20 minutes of the movie.

'Curse of the Undead' (1959)

Curse of the Undead
© Universal International
A small-town feud is complicated by the arrival of a Spanish vampire cowboy in this lesser-known entry in Universal's legendary horror legacy.

'The Living Coffin' (1959)

The Living Coffin
© Casanegra

In this Mexican adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Premature Burial"—adapted three years later to greater acclaim by Roger Corman—a cowboy lawman visits a family haunted by ghosts and vampires. This is one of several Mexican horror westerns of the era, including "The Headless Rider" (1957), "Swamp of the Lost Monster" (1957), "Night Riders" (1959), and "Ship of the Monsters" (1960).

'Billy the Kid vs. Dracula' (1966)

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula
© Cheezy Flicks

One of two ridiculous camp horror-Westerns from low-budget "quickie" director William "One Shot" Beaudine, this film places Dracula in the Wild West, plotting to hypnotize and marry a local young lady. However, her fiance is none other than Billy the Kid, who vows to put a stop to the vampire's shenanigans.

'Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter' (1966)

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
© Embassy Pictures

The granddaughter—not daughter!—of Dr. Frankenstein travels to the American Southwest to harness the power of electrical storms. She wants to use that power to help bring the brain of her grandfather's monster to life in the body of Jesse James' dimwitted sidekick.

This popular creature-feature featuring the stop-motion effects of the legendary Ray Harryhausen covers ground similar to that of "The Beast of Hollow Mountain." Here, American circus folk discover a mysterious valley in Mexico that contains dinosaurs, including an Allosaurus (dubbed "Gwangi") that they attempt to turn into a circus attraction. Big mistake.

'Black Noon' (1971)

Black Noon
© CBS
This TV movie combines a period Western with the '70s obsession with Satanism, as a preacher encounters a town controlled by a cult of devil worshippers.

Oddball cult film about a mutant sheep that attacks a small modern-day town whose residents for some reason dress in Wild West gear. 

'Westworld' (1973)

Westworld
© MGM

Novelist Michael Crichton directed this techno-thriller based on his own book, in which cowboy robots at a Western-themed amusement park malfunction, with murderous results. Probably the most famous film of the genre. 

Also known as "Curse of Demon Mountain," this supernatural Western stars Joe Don Baker as a Civil War veteran searching for buried treasure on a supposedly cursed mountain.

This middling sequel to the hit 1986 horror-comedy "House" adopts a Western theme, as a man discovers that his parents were killed by a zombie cowboy.

'Ghost Town' (1988)

Ghost Town (1988)
© New World Pictures

A modern-day policeman tracks a missing woman to a ghost town run by an undead outlaw and his ghostly posse.

'Devil Rider' (1989)

Devil Rider (1989)
© CFP Video
An escapee from Hell returns to his earthly stomping ground and kills people staying on the ranch that was built on his territory.

'Grim Prairie Tales' (1990)

Grim Prairie Tales
© Academy

James Earl Jones and Brad Dourif star in this anthology of Western-themed horror stories told around a campfire.

Mary Stuart Masterson stars in this dramatic tale of a young frontier woman married to a farmer who goes through dramatic changes every full moon.

'Ravenous' (1999)

Ravenous (1999)
© 20th Century Fox

Perhaps the best horror-Western ever, Guy Pearce stars in this darkly comedic tale as a 19th-century soldier stationed in a remote mountain outpost. There, he encounters a stranger, played by Robert Carlyle, whose time in the wilderness has given him a taste for human flesh.

 

'Legend of the Phantom Rider' (2002)

Legend of the Phantom Rider
© MTI

A mysterious, scarred stranger—Jonah Hex—arrives in a small frontier town to exact vengeance on a group of outlaws who rule the territory.

A group of modern-day kids stumbles upon a treasure in an abandoned old mine, unaware that the gold is protected by an undead 19th-century prospector.
A group of travelers at a remote stage coach station fall prey to a deadly Native American curse.

A group of teens is carjacked in the middle of nowhere and end up in a ghost town run by a zombie cowboy and his undead minions.

In this direct-to-video sequel, the origin of the desert town of Perfection is explored, returning to the 19th century, a time when the local silver mine is threatened by large maneating worm-like "graboids."

'Dead Birds' (2005)

Dead BIrds
© Sony

Michael Shannon, Henry Thomas, Isaiah Washington, and Patrick Fugit star as Civil War vets who rob a bank and flee to an abandoned plantation. Unfortunately, their hideout also houses an evil entity. 

This Western-themed zombie movie operates in an alternate reality in which the world is overrun by zombies pursued by cowboy bounty hunters who stalk and kill them for money.

'BloodRayne 2: Deliverance' (2007)

BloodRayne 2: Deliverance
© Vivendi

Much-maligned director Uwe Boll returns for the sequel that nobody wanted. The half-human, half-vampire Rayne travels to America during the 1800s to battle a vampiric Billy the Kid, who's seeking to build an army of cowboy vampires.

A Wild West outlaw makes a deal with the devil to return to Earth in order to gain revenge on a present-day town.

A group of frontier women on the run ends up in a town haunted by the spirit of a murderous cowboy.

This horror-comedy stars Chris Kattan and James Denton from "Desperate Housewives" as petty cowboy criminals fleeing from a zombie posse afflicted by a rapidly spreading Native American curse.

Set in the 19th-century American West, this western-meets-creature-feature finds a group of settlers battling an unknown foe that stalks them from beneath the ground.

'Copperhead' (2008)

Copperhead
© Universal

SyFy Channel flick about an Old West town menaced by killer snakes. Not to be confused with the 2013 Civil War movie of the same name.

'Ghost Town' (2009)

Ghost Town
© Universal

More SyFy fare, this time about a group of students on a field trip who end up stranded in a literal ghost town occupied by the spirits of a cult of evil cowboys.

Hey, it's more from SyFi! This time, insectoid aliens invade an Old West town.

'Jonah Hex' (2010)

Jonah Hex
© Warner Bros.

Based on the popular comic book, a scarred gunslinger with supernatural abilities battles a terrorist seeking to unleash Hell.

'The Dead and the Damned' (2011)

The Dead and the Damned
© CreateSpace

Also known as "Cowboys & Zombies," this movie finds miners during the Gold Rush turning into the walking dead after coming in contact with spores from a meteor. For some reason, a sequel was released in 2014.

'Exit Humanity' (2012)

Exit Humanity (2011)
© Bloody Disgusting Selects

This dramatic and introspective Canadian movie about a Civil War vet making his way through a zombie apocalypse plays like a 19th-century feature film version of "The Walking Dead."

'Gallowwalkers' (2012)

Gallowwalkers
© Lionsgate

Wesley Snipes stars in this long-delayed tale of a cursed cowboy whose victims all return from the dead, seeking revenge.

'Cowboys & Vampires' (2013)

Cowboys & Vampires
© Origin

 It's about cowboys. And vampires. What more do you need to know?

'Dead in Tombstone' (2013)

Dead in Tombstone (2013)
© Universal

Murdered by his own gang, outlaw Danny Trejo makes a deal with Satan, played by Mickey Rourke, to send the backstabbers to Hell in his place.

'Devil's Deal' (2013)

Devil's Deal (2013)
© Lionsgate

Having been promised the souls of residents of a small town years ago, the Devil arrives intending to collect. 

'Revelation Trail' (2013)

Revelation Trail (2013)
© Entertainment One

 A preacher and a lawman team up to survive a zombie uprising.

'Cowboys vs. Zombies' (2014)

Cowboys vs. Zombies
© Phase 4

 The much-anticipated sequel to "Cowboys & Vampires."

'A Vampire's Tale' (2014)

A Vampire's Tale
© Lionsgate

Doug Bradley from "Hellraiser" stars as a family man whose home life is interrupted by a vampire cowboy seeking revenge on his maker.

'Blood Moon' (2015)

Blood Moon
© Uncork'd

A stagecoach full of travelers must deal with not only a pair of bank robbers, but also a bloodthirsty werewolf.

'Bone Tomahawk' (2015)

Bone Tomahawk movie poster
© RLJ Entertainment

Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, and Richard Jenkins form a ragtag posse that sets out to rescue townspeople kidnapped by a tribe of cave-dwelling cannibals.

'The Dark Tower' (2017)

Based on the Stephen King book series, this film combines the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, Western, and horror. Idris Elba stars as a gunslinger roaming an apocalyptic landscape tasked with finding and protecting a mythical structure that is the heart of all reality.