Characteristics of the Horror Genre

The horror genre is one of the most uncomplicated forms of entertainment. The number one goal of the horror genre is produce fear in the audience. Whether the antagonist is a monster, a ghost or a feral animal, the basic concept is the same: the hero must fight against horrific forces for his life-and often his soul.

The Framework Of Horror
Unlike drama, where the goal is to get the audience to experience a range of emotions, horror has a much simpler goal. The goal is to get the audience to experience fear. An expert in the horror genre will have a number of tools at her disposal to create fear. Among the most common are:

  • A chill in the air. Practitioners of the horror genre use atmosphere to establish a supernatural world, where fear is the common currency. Gloomy weather, shadowy locations and strange noises in the distance are just a few ways to establish that something wicked this way comes. Often, the amount of time and detail devoted to the atmosphere of a work of horror allows the environment to become a leading character in the work.
  • Not for the timid. Works of horror often use graphic violence, strong language and sexual situations to evoke fear, anger and tension, respectively. While any or all of these devices may be implied, they are often explicit in today's horror.
  • He can't be stopped! Most works in the horror genre feature an antagonist that is supernatural or has supernatural abilities. While monsters were popular in the past, human (or human seeming) villains are more common in current work.
  • "The End," or is it? Typically, the endings of horror works are left unresolved. Although cynics may claim that this device is used to create room for sequels, the traditional open-ended conclusion also gives the audience a sense that the threat still waits just around the corner.
  • Watch out for that cat! Unexpected events (sometimes called "pop-outs") are used to keep the audience guessing and the level of tension high. Falling objects, darting animals and sudden loud noises are examples of this technique.
  • No problem telling the bad guy. Antagonists in the horror genre tend to have exaggerated personalities-their evil tends to come with a capital "E." Horror villains are often cold, unreasoning and unreasonably cruel.
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