As discussed previously, horror is meant to frighten, scare, or make the reader feel ill at ease. Horror stories typically explore themes related to demons, spirits, death, and the afterlife. The horror genre in all its forms makes us confront our fears and tries to rattle us in order to make us think. Now let’s look at the horror sub-genres.
Horror doesn’t have as many sub-genres as fantasy or science fiction. It tends to be more difficult to break down into sub-categories. The following is not a comprehensive list, but should give you a better understanding of the more common horror sub-genres out there.
Cosmic Horror pits the insignificance of the human experience against the unknowable elements of nature and the universe.
Gothic Horror tends to be dark stories that focus specifically on death, dread, mystery, and fear. They strive to create a sense of menace and sinister pasts.
Occult Horror focuses on rituals designed to obtain secret knowledge or power. Typically this includes witchcraft, spiritualism, black magic, or secret cults.
Psychological Horror is about mental trauma and agony. It elicits paranoia, self-doubt, and suspicion. It does not need much (or any) physical violence.
Slasher Horror is physically violent and descriptive of that violence. These stories are typically about punishment and revenge.
Supernatural Horror, as the name suggests, focuses on supernatural beings or abilities (ghosts, werewolves, vampires, etc.)
Survival Horror is about a character who is isolated from outside help and has to survive the environment they are in as well as whatever horror is plaguing them.
Those are some of the more common sub-genres of horror out there. Understanding the differences between them can help you focus your story or it can make you want to blur the line between two or more of the sub-genres.
If you have any questions or think I’ve missed any important sub-genres, let me know in the comments.