The Horror genre is a vast sprawling landscape, populated by numerous sub-genres and hybridized genre mutants, like the Horror-Comedy, Sci-Fi Horror, and even the Horror Musical. Some would argue that it is impossible to devise a definition of Horror that encapsulates them all. What is the difference between a Horror film and a Thriller? Or a Horror film and a Suspense film? Does a movie require a monster, or a supernatural element to qualify as Horror?
Dictionary.com defines Horror as “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting.”
The Horror genre seeks to elicit this negative emotional reaction from viewers. Stock elements, such as ghosts, vampires, serial killers, and so forth, may populate the Horror genre, but they do not define it. Movies about the supernatural, and movies with monsters, are not necessarily always horrific. I believe that the Horror genre is best defined by it’s intent to terrorize the audience.
Although many sequences in non-Horror films are frightening, they do so to advance narrative agendas that have something other than fear at their cores. Non-Horror films may frighten the audience to tell their stories, but Horror films tell stories to frighten the audience. In the former, fear is a side effect; in the latter, it is the object of the exercise.