Horror is a Genre of fiction that exploits the Primal Fears of viewers with things ranging from the Uncanny Valley, Body Horror, and Suspense to cause the viewer anxiety, fear, and ultimately thrills. It uses various Horror Tropes to cause these effect; 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 (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.
- 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. If there's a monster, it will appear in brief glimpses and silhouettes, and generally try to leave more to the imagination (which may be a losing bet, consider how Television and Video Games are eroding those).
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.
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.
- Almost anything by Stephen King
- The Taking, and a few other things by Dean Koontz.
- House of Leaves
- Almost anything by HP Lovecraft, except many of his Dreamlands-stories, some which contain little to no horror elements.
- The King in Yellow
- 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."
- 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 Orphanage
- The Last Winter
- The Wicker Man (1973 original), also a Religious Horror film
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- The Blair Witch Project
- The Mothman Prophecies
- Many things by Stephen King
- Evil Dead
- Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead
- Resident Evil 1
- HEAVY emphasis on the 1 there, movie-wise.
- The Thing
- The Fly (Both original and remake. Especially the remake.)
- Troll 2, although it's more enjoyable as a comedy
- Colin , although the protagonist is not actually a survivor
- Silent Hill
- Certain games of the Resident Evil series.
- Fatal Frame
- Parts of BioShock (series); the rest of it is standard Horror.
- Condemned: Criminal Origins
- Dark Fall: The Journal
- Dead Space