As a major horror film fan, I love to see the horror genre being explored in roleplay. Here’s a guide that contains definitions of various types and subgenres of horror that can be explored in a roleplay setting.
- Atmospheric horror relies not on gore and violence but building a subtle atmosphere of fear. These films can be almost any type of horror film, but are usually haunted house or thriller movies. The mood has to be set to creepy. Occasionally, jump scares may be thrown in for effect, but the main focus is on the setting. Examples include: The Woman in Black, Stephen King’s IT, The Others
- A humorous form of horror, crossing over with black or dark comedy. It’s basically any type of horror genre except with hilarious antics tacked on or gallows humor included. Examples include: This Is the End, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland
- This can be any kind of horror or generally dark story that takes place in a fantasy setting. It is also used to refer to works of fiction that generally have a sense of horror or dread. Examples include: MirrorMask, Pan’s Labyrinth, Coraline
- The romantic setting of a gothic story, only with a twist of horror. Stories of mysterious and haunted castles, evil from the past or hereditary curses, or insanity and murder. Sometimes combinations of all of the above. Examples include: Sleepy Hollow, The Works of Edgar Allen Poe, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Haunted House Horror
- This is the classic type of ghost film, and is an umbrella term used for many different types of ghost films. The ghosts usually haunt a specific building, and when someone or a family arrives, the ghosts may attempt to drive them out. Often times there are good or harmless ghosts and a mysterious malevolent entity that stands out. Paranormal investigators, a medium or a priest may be called in an attempt to resolve the situation. Examples include: Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror, Insidious
- This type of horror subgenre focuses on demons, a supernatural creature of religious myth and legend. The story may deal with someone being possessed and an exorcism taking place. There is a lot of religion in a demonic horror movie, and the focus is usually on the Christian-Catholic religion. Aside from possessing someone, a demon may inhabit a building and seek to torture or terrify the humans that dwell within. Examples include: The Exorcist, The Evil Dead
- Science fiction with a horror twist, focusing on invasions of deadly aliens or experiments gone horribly wrong. Examples include: Dead Space, Alien, Event Horizon
- An extreme type of horror, usually focusing on the shock value of blood, guts, and gore. It may include other things such as rape for shock value as well. It’s also called torture porn, and doesn’t shy away from graphic scenes with plenty of violence. Examples include: A Serbian Film, Cannibal Holocaust, Saw
- Typically doesn’t involve any supernatural aspects, and may deal with psychotic serial killers, mysteries, paranoia and other fears that don’t have anything to do with otherwordly activity. It draws from a realistic basing and seeks to scare with things that are real, making it more plausible for one of these things to happen to the viewer. Examples include: Misery, Se7en, The Silence of the Lambs
- Usually having to do with an experiment gone wrong or an infection of some terrible disease, works zombie fiction feature zombies of course and are usually focused around surviving a zombie apocalypse. There are also a few supernatural works of zombie fiction, in which voodoo or magic may be used to bring the dead back to life. Examples include: Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil
There’s many other subgenres and cross-genres of horror, but this covers some of the most well-known ones, although if there’s anything you think I’ve left off the list that should be defined and included, let me know and I’ll add it.