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"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door."
— "Knock"

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:

  • Action Horror: Horror combined with action. Terrifying monsters are confronted by tough, eager, well-prepared heroes who the audience knows are capable of fighting back.
  • Cosmic Horror: Paints a picture of human insignificance dwarfed by a cold, uncaring universe which will never even notice how casually it destroys us.
  • Dark Fantasy: Horror meets Fantasy; it depends on the story which parent genre it belongs to more. With Dark Fantasy, the horror elements are an aesthetic first and foremost. Roughly speaking, dark fantasy has all the elements of horror, but uses them to create an adventure rather than emphasize threat.
  • Explorer Horror: Horror meets Adventure Game; minimalist storytelling that largely relies on atmosphere and surrealism.
  • Found Footage: Horror taken with an In-Universe Camera.
    • Analog Horror: A more recent Web Original subgenre of Found Footage, most often in the form of TV broadcasts and VHS tapes.
  • Gothic Horror: The oldest subgenre. Derives its horror from the fear of transgression against the natural or divine order of things and of the alienation suffered by both the transgressor and their innocent victims as a result.
  • Horror Comedy: Can refer to Comedy stories which parody horror tropes for laughs (often in a very morbid manner) or Horror stories which use comedic scenes.
  • Horrorcore: Horror-themed Hip-Hop.
  • Mascot Horror: A video-game only variant that involves a horror story marketed by a seemingly child-friendly mascot, often with themes of Subverted Kids' Show. Related to but distinct from other cases of horror media with mascots (i.e. slasher films, creepypastas).
  • 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.
    • Folk Horror: Subtrope of Religious Horror where the horror comes from the folkloric aspects of the religion.
  • 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.
  • Surreal Horror: Horror that relies on strange or bizarre imagery in order to unsettle viewers. Essentially, it's what you would expect from an actual nightmare.
  • 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.
  • Workplace Horror: Horror can take place in the mundane setting of a job. There's often an expectation to keep performing your job regardless of what monsters, stalkers, or conspiracies are lurking around the shelves and office cubicles, despite your own survival instincts telling you to get out of there.

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 because 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:

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. Note that Tropes Are Not Bad. The films Psycho, Se7en, and the original Saw, for instance, mix Splatter and Psychological Horror to great effect, and the drama of the live action version of The Walking Dead (2010) is only enhanced by the tension of knowing that Anyone Can Die a gruesome, visceral death at any moment.

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 and camp 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.

Posters 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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    Cosmic Horror 
Anime & Manga



Video Games

    Gothic Horror 


Live Action Film

Live Action TV

  • A favourite genre for Doctor Who, especially associated with Tom Baker's early-to-mid tenure (see "The Brain of Morbius", "Pyramids of Mars", "Horror of Fang Rock" and "Image of the Fendahl" for just the more obvious ones), though some show up earlier and later than that - see the Second Doctor's "The Evil of the Daleks" and the late Fourth Doctor "State of Decay".

    Splatter Horror 




Video Games


Live-Action TV

  • The Doctor Who stories "The Edge of Destruction", "The Tenth Planet", and "Cold War". In fact, most serials that come under the subgenre "Base Under Siege" (like "The Ice Warriors" and "Fury From the Deep" for just a couple of examples).

Video Games

  • Deadnaut uses this type of horror on the player's end, cramming them into a small operating booth with nothing to occupy their ears other than muffled gunfire and the occasional distant scream.

Web Original

    Survival Horror 

Anime and Manga



Live-Action TV


Video Games (See Horror Video Games for more examples)

    Workplace Horror