When most people think of horror, they think of packed cinemas, lights out, tense music, and the occasional jump scare. Some immediately think of possessed dolls or haunted houses, while others think of fast-moving zombies or an alien invasion.
The horror genre is one of the most widespread and can be further segmented into subgenres that have their own dedicated audiences. But what about when we remove the films and look to other media that fit into the genre? Does horror work when it’s not a movie?
Many may dismiss horror-themed books due to the idea that ‘books can’t be scary.’ Most horror aficionados would tell these naysayers that horror genre books are scarier than most movies. The books last longer, have the tension drawn out, and through the narrative devices allow you to truly get into the shoes of the characters, feeling a personal connection to the tension.
Master of horror, Stephen King, helped popularize the genre for literary audiences. Through his expansive storytelling, it’s hard not to feel a personal pull once you get into some of King’s more macabre works, such as It. You can’t hide from a book and it becomes a solo experience that follows you into the dead of night. While a movie may be explained away by props and VFX, a book takes place in your imagination.
Games have also taken the theme of horror and successfully given frights to their audiences. In a similar way to movies, games can use jump scares and sound cues to elicit fear, while thrusting you into the role of the main character. The Resident Evil game series is one of the best examples of a video game that utilizes the format of a horror film to deliver scares to an audience.
Elsewhere in entertainment, the horror theme is being taken and molded to fit the gameplay of various other industries. As the range of horror-themed slots games shows, the online casino industry has harnessed the theme of horror to add to its tense gameplay. Titles such as Vampire: Princess of Darkness and The X-Files combine the horror elements of their source content with the tension from the slot game. The horror genre is based around creating this tension and ramping up the adrenaline, so it makes for perfect content for a slot game.
While film and TV may seem the same when it comes to horror, they are two hugely different entities. While film relies on a runtime of around two hours to tell a story wrapped around something scary, TV has far more screen time and may be broken up with commercials. It’s hard to maintain tension for a full season of TV, so the way horror is told on TV is different.
Take American Horror Story as a prime example of how an overarching theme (witches, a freak show, a haunted hotel, the apocalypse, or a summer camp) is used to then tell smaller stories that wrap up earlier. Many of the scares come from personal trauma to the characters and gory moments rather than standard jump scares. But knowing the characters for longer means we can connect with them better.
Horror may have come into its own on the big screen, but there are many other ways that the genre has been repurposed and altered to appeal to different audiences. The genre has done well across books, gaming entertainment, and the smaller screen of a TV. The success of each separate part of horror helps the whole to gain traction and continue to provide the scary content we enjoy.