Horror is a Genre of fiction that exploits the Primal Fears
of viewers with things ranging from the Uncanny Valley
, Body Horror
, and Dramatic Irony AKA Suspense
to cause the viewer anxiety, fear, and ultimately thrills. It uses various Horror Tropes
to cause these effects; however, partly due to the rise in complexity of Special Effects
, overuse, and viewer desensitization
, several of these are now cliché
This is a very broad genre, it can go from tasteful and timeless tales of psychological suspense
(a trademark of people like Alfred Hitchcock
) to gross out horror (which tends to become campy). It often employs the supernatural
, but "normal" people
are more than sufficient to scare audiences when used properly.
Subgenres of horror include:
- Cosmic Horror: Paints a picture of human insignificance dwarfed by a cold, uncaring universe which will never even notice how casually it destroys us.
- Gothic Horror: Is the oldest subgenre of horror.
- Psychological Horror: Uses in-depth explorations of human mental anguish to horrify.
- Religious Horror: Uses the unknowns and symbolism of organized religion, including tales of the apocalypse, Satan, The Antichrist, and cults, to scare viewers, and desecrates what is considered comforting and holy in order to shock them.
- Sci Fi Horror: The purpose of this genre is to use horror to show how scientific knowledge can be used for evil ends, how cutting edge research can go horribly wrong, how crippling a lack of knowledge can be, or if you want to be campy how people get the bejeezus scared out of them in the future.
- Splatter Horror: Horror that uses the fragility of the human body to scare. Currently The Scrappy of the horror genre, due to its association with Gorn, Torture Porn, and carbon-copy Slasher Movies in recent decades.
- Survival Horror: Plays on fears of nature, re-casting its human protagonists as prey and victim of creatures or forces more numerous and powerful than they are. The central focus is on stripping away the protections of the modern, "civilized" world, leaving the protagonists at the mercy of some natural or pseudo-natural force like disease, the undead, barbarian hordes, inbred hillbillies, aliens, wild animals, etc.
Horror and Speculative Fiction
also overlap very well. The latter provides the Willing Suspension of Disbelief
, and the former the creepy crawlie to terrorize the hapless astronauts. Mystery fiction meshes nicely as well, with cerebral brain teasers and ontological mysteries
to captivate and terrify the audience.
Works of horror will sometimes include An Aesop
or morality play, especially if it includes a Karmic Twist Ending
, or is a Slasher Movie
. In these cases, a few characters will usually survive
, especially if they catch on quickly.
Other times, it will go for a Mind Screw
and throw calamity after tragedy onto the hero with a Downer Ending
or Cruel Twist Ending
Suspense, though not technically horror, tends to get lumped with horror beacuse they both want the same thing: to scare the viewer. However; both go about it different ways. Suspense relies on themes, tight plot, and subtlety over brute force. It uses camerawork with lots of shadows, and tends to either evoke claustrophobia, or isolating vastness. Lots of silence punctuated with creaking doors, or ambient sounds hinting at approaching danger. If there's a monster, it will appear in brief glimpses and silhouettes, and generally try to leave more to the imagination.
Splatter horror goes to the other extreme. Excess rather than restraint. Shock treatment
instead of slow, ambient build-up. Visceral rather than cerebral. This is not to say it's not effective, which it can be, but that it can very easily get out of hand and leave so little to the imagination that the viewer quite quickly goes from afraid, to surprised, to the concession stand for more popcorn. This subgenera has produced its own share of respected masterpieces, however
when in the hands of a skilled writer or director. The films Psycho
, and the original Saw
, for instance, mix Splatter and Psychological Horror to great effect.
As mentioned earlier, horror movies do not age too well. Generally, those films with the least reliance on special effects will seem less dated. Those with excessive visuals of monsters, gore, and other creepy things tend to drift into Narm
after a decade or two, once people become desensitized to them. Monster and supernatural horror movies in general are under more pressure to survive, but quite a few have become cult classics
for horror movies will usually be red and/or black, with lots of blood and pain. Other times, gray and mysterious. See also the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror
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Live Action TV
- Several Doctor Who serials during Tom Baker's early-to-mid tenure, with "The Brain of Morbius", "Pyramids of Mars", "Horror of Fang Rock", "Image of the Fendahl" and "State of Decay" being conscious takes on the genre.
- The short story Jerry's Kids Meet Wormboy by David J. Schow in the book Zombies: Encounters With The Hungry Dead. The intro to the story even calls it the "literary equivalent of Peter Jackson's Dead Alive."
- Various Works by Edward Lee.
- The Doctor Who stories "The Edge of Destruction", "The Tenth Planet", and "Cold War". In fact, most serials that come under the subgenre Fan Nicknamed "Base Under Siege" (like "The Ice Warriors" and "Fury From the Deep" for just a couple of examples).