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.
- 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: Comedy stories which parody horror tropes for laughs (often in a very morbid manner).
- 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. Currently The Scrappy of the horror genre, due to its association with Gorn, Torture Porn, and carbon-copy Slasher Movies in recent decades.
- 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.
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 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.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica
- Remina and Uzumaki by Junji Ito.
- Digimon Tamers (Near the end)
- Made in Abyss
- Almost anything by Stephen King
- The Taking, and a few other things by Dean Koontz.
- House of Leaves
- Almost anything by H. P. Lovecraft, except many of his Dreamlands-stories, some which contain little to no horror elements.
- The King in Yellow
- The works of Graham Masterton, especially The Manitou and others, including Death Trance.
- The works of Thomas Ligotti, such as My Work is Not Yet Done.
- Blood Meridian which blends the genre with The Western.
- Virtually Reality by R.R. Hood
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".
- 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 Man In The Corner Room by Asi Hart and to great extent also In The Realm Of Carnal Horror
- Eminem's Horrorcore songs are a cartoony variation, combining excess with shocking Vulgar Humor to raise giggles and gasps (and lectures from your parents).
- 5ive Girls
- The Alphabet Killer combines suspense with conventional horror, as the protagonist is visited by the ghosts of the eponymous killer's victims.
- The Birds
- Carnival of Souls
- The Devil's Backbone
- The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow
- The Healing
- The Orphanage
- The Last Winter
- The Wicker Man (1973), also a Religious Horror film
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Mothman Prophecies
- Many things by Stephen King
- 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).
- 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.
Anime and Manga
- Colin , although the protagonist is not actually a survivor
- Evil Dead
- The Fly (Both original and remake. Especially the remake.)
- Hansel and Gretel (2013)
- Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead (1985)
- Resident Evil (2002)
- The Thing (1982)
- Troll 2, although it's more enjoyable as a comedy
- The Doctor Who episode "Midnight".
- Alien: Isolation
- Parts of BioShock; the rest of it is standard Horror.
- Condemned: Criminal Origins
- Dark Fall
- Dead Space
- A game mod for Don't Starve called "The Screecher."
- Fatal Frame
- Five Nights at Freddy's
- The Forest
- The Last of Us
- Certain games of the Resident Evil series, most recently the seventh installment.
- Silent Hill