The Wild West isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when I think horror. The potential is certainly there, especially if I think of the Donner Party or how easily my whole party can die when I play “Oregon Trail.” Western horror is largely about a fear of the unknown – being in uncharted territory, and about lawlessness – a land where the villains can rule.
Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman isn’t just about outlaws and the Wild West, it’s about a woman buried alive and how easy it would be for her husband to bury her when she slips into a coma. There’s also some cool paranormal stuff going on. If you’ve only read Bird Box by Malerman, you definitely need to check this one out.
Abandon by Blake Crouch has two timelines, but both take place in the mountain town of Abandon. Now a “ghost town,” a group of hikers plans to go in looking for a stash of gold. What they don’t know is what happened to everyone in the town on Christmas day in 1893…
The Gunslinger by Stephen King involves a fantasy world based around the Wild West and parallel universes. The Dark Tower series isn’t exactly horror, but it is written by Stephen King, so there are a few dark moments.
The Burrowers (2008) features an underground monster that emerges and drags its victims underground to eat them. When families are attacked by these monsters, a posse heads out to hunt the native tribes believed to be at blame, but soon they discover that the natives are the ones who know how to fight the monsters.
Near Dark (1987) takes some of the themes of the Old West and brings them into this century. Plus vampires. Bars and gunfights and horse chases – yeah, this is definitely a western.
Westworld (1973) goes to show that Michael Crichton had a definite fear of futuristic amusement parks. In Westworld, you can play at being in the Wild West, with everyone you encounter being an android, which means you can kill them without any consequences. Not until the androids become sentient and start fighting back. (You could also just watch the new TV series based on this movie).