What Is Horror? Horror is a genre of literature, film, and television that is meant to scare, startle, shock, and even repulse audiences for the purpose of entertainment. Horror stories prey on everyone's biggest fears and worst nightmares, leaving them with a sense of dread and a rush of adrenaline through frightening images, themes, and situations. All Horror doesn’t look the same—in fact, there are many types of horror, from psychological (Psycho) to gore (Saw), monster (Frankenstein) to possession (Excorcist). Horror overlaps with many other genres: the thriller genre, which aims to feel suspenseful and exciting (Cape Fear); and the sci-fi or fantasy genres, which often feature strange creatures or the unknown (The Fly or Alien).
Many horror stories capitalize on the fear of the unknown by featuring frightening monsters from science fiction and dark fantasy. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens, and creatures are all antagonists in the Monster sub-genre.
Campy or Comedy Horror are the kinds of films that are absurd, exaggerated, overly stylized, and—if done right—as funny as they can be scary. They can be full-on comedies poking fun at genre conventions (like The Cabin in the Woods) or gory horror movies with just a healthy dose of camp sprinkled in (like The Evil Dead). Often, they become unforgettable cult classics.
Psychological horror is not about what we see on the screen but how it makes us feel. It relies on mental and emotional fear, rather than violence or monsters, focusing on the characters’ states of mind throughout the story. This genre plays tricks on the viewer's mind by creating paranoia. A viewer’s emotional state is heavily influenced by psychological horror.
Paranormal or Supernatural horror focuses on the monsters we can’t touch—supernatural entities like ghosts, spirits, and demons. Paranormal stories often feature haunted houses, possession, exorcism, or occult worship.
Slasher movies focus on villains who are human. Slasher villains are usually serial killers and typically have a high body count by the end of the movie. Gore, also known as the splatter genre, is all about the portrayal of graphic violence.