What Are the Different Horror Genres?

G. Wiesen

There are quite a few horror genres that can be found in literature, film, television, poetry, and other forms of entertainment or media. Many of these genres overlap in certain ways, often dealing with similar themes or using similar elements to deal with different horrific concepts. Some of the most common types of horror are monster or supernatural stories, gothic horror, and psychological horror. Other common horror genres include body horror, gore or splatter horror, and extraterrestrial horror.

Horror genres commonly include supernatural elements.
Horror genres commonly include supernatural elements.

Since horror itself is a genre of literature or storytelling, many horror genres can be seen as sub-genres or different aspects of the overall genre of horror itself. In general, horror stories are meant to incite a feeling of dread, disgust, fear, or anxiety in the audience. This is usually achieved by confronting the viewer or reader with scenes, characters, and ideas that most people find disturbing or representative of subjects and concepts that people typically do not want to confront or consider. Many horror genres are ultimately ways in which the unknown is used to induce fear or panic in the audience.

Extraterrestrial horror is a popular genre.
Extraterrestrial horror is a popular genre.

One of the most common horror genres is a monster or supernatural story. These stories often use supernatural or impossible creatures such as vampires, werewolves, ghouls, zombies, and other beings from folklore or legend to incite fear in the audience. Gothic horror is a form of horror storytelling in which the environment and setting is an important feature within the story, often using the setting to create an overall sense of dread or foreboding. Psychological horror is a type of horror in which the action or concepts that are unpleasant within the story are largely psychological in nature, often dealing with insanity and common fears among people.

Horror genres are ultimately ways in which the unknown is used to induce fear or panic in the audience.
Horror genres are ultimately ways in which the unknown is used to induce fear or panic in the audience.

There are also some horror genres that are much more physiological in nature. Body horror is a genre in which the human body itself is used as the primary device by which the audience is confronted with the horrific. These stories can include transformation or mutilation to the body as a way to reflect an innate fear of death or loss of control. Gore or splatter horror is somewhat similar, though it often focuses on gruesome details that many people find revolting or discomforting.

Paranormal fiction deals with ghosts and other spirits.
Paranormal fiction deals with ghosts and other spirits.

In contrast to these, extraterrestrial horror typically uses elements from far outside humanity to introduce horrific concepts, often reflecting humanity’s insignificant role within the larger cosmos. Survival horror is a relatively new form of horror, or at least the name for it is fairly new. In this type of horror, the struggle to survive against a harsh environment is often the backdrop against which the line between human and inhuman action is drawn, using disastrous situations to reflect on the nature of the human race and what people are capable of doing to survive.

Many horror genres are named after or associated with popular authors who wrote or created stories of that particular type. Clive Barker, for example, often uses body or splatter horror with supernatural elements to make a reader confront the horrific; many people would describe similar works by comparing them to Barker. Edgar Allen Poe is well-known as a master of gothic horror, often with supernatural themes as well, and a story with similar subject matter could be described by comparing it to Poe. “Lovecraftian” horror, modeled on the works of H.P. Lovecraft, often deals with the supernatural and extraterrestrial, using these elements to tell psychological stories in which people often lose their sanity once confronted with unfathomable and unknowable beings from beyond our reality.

Psychological horror stories may be set in a mental hospital.
Psychological horror stories may be set in a mental hospital.

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Discussion Comments


I don't know. I could never get enough of horror films. I have my favorites from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but I always welcome the new ones.

I love the good, unique ones like "The Strangers" and the overly cliched ones. They all have the basic and simple concept, but I just love that whole idea and how the movie unfolds. I love getting scared. I guess it's because I don't have enough excitement in my life?


@Euroxati - In my opinion, the best horror movies are the ones that use the element of surprise to catch you off guard. In other words, the directors pull your strings, and just when you think you've solved everything, you're having second thoughts. Have you ever seen a movie called The Sixth Sense? If you haven't, I won't spoil anything, but let's just that you're in for a surprise twist at the ending. Looking back, it's actually a lot more obvious than it seems, but not on a first viewing.


@Euroxati - Actually, I'm the exact opposite of you, ha ha. I'm not a big fan of horror themed things, at all. Whether it's poetry, movies, TV shows, you name it. Also, unless someone has become used to horror movies, I don't understand the appeal of hiding under a blanket and being scared out of your wits as a creature jumps out at you.


I've always been a fan of horror movies, but even I'll admit that I'm starting to get tired of them. In every movie, its the same thing, and there are so many cliches. Does anyone else feel the same way?

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