Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART V

This is part V in the categorical explanation for THE SUB-GENRES OF HORROR.

For an introduction, and PART I of this series, please begin here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-I
PART II is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-II
PART III is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-III
PART IV is here: The Sub-Genres of Horror - Part-IV

Part V is below!


Psychic Abilities

The use of Psychic Abilities (also known as extrasensory perception or sixth sense) are familiar storylines in horror fiction. Such abilities include: Telepathy (mind reading), Precognition or Postcognition (seeing events in the future or the past), Mind Control (forcing someone to act against their will), Telekinesis (ability to move objects by willpower), or any other power credited to the brain which is generally not considered possible in humans. Elements of witchery or paranormal may also share in this category.

These powers are not always portrayed with the intent to cause fright, but frequently are used by the protagonist to overcome a seemingly undefeatable opponent. Naturally the element of “evil” in psychic abilities is also abundant, and often multiple characters may have powers which they use to battle each other. Often, children are seen as the wielders of strange faculties. Psychic abilities may be explained by genetics, learned behavior, sorcery, or technological/medical experimentation (including comic-favorite ‘side-effects of radiation’).

Book Examples:

Firestarter by Stephen King
False Memory by Dean Koontz
Darkest Powers (series of books) by Kelley Armstrong

Psychological Horror

Psychological Horror is best characterized by the fears that come from within our psyche, rather than from external sources such as monsters or serial killers. It’s a form of narrative that
builds tension through the character’s perception of events, causing them (and the reader) terror or mental/ emotional instability. Often this subgenre is considered successful by what isn’t revealed rather than by what is told, and is generally considered to be more complex than those forms of horror which rely on violence or gore. Affects of the human psyche include such undesirable elements as: mental conflict, doubt, guilt, phobia, insanity, suspicion, distrust, etc.

Book Examples:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
The Unloved by John Saul

Religious Horror (including: Demons and Possession)

One of the oldest themes of horror draws upon the fears, consequences
, and manifestations of evil found in religion. Although organized religion may be a focal point in the story, any belief system can be utilized such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Tribal Worship, or rites, mythology, or doctrine of any of the other countless world denominations. Most commonly, these tales will portray a variation of Satan as the ultimate evil/ villainous antagonist which corrupts or outright attacks an unsuspecting innocent. Other unsettling considerations include demon possession and exorcism, spirit worship, witchcraft, or any communion with evil spirits, including agreements, willing habitation, or general relationship. Even stories revolving around fictional religion (i.e. invented strictly for purposes of the plot) may also fall into this category. The worship of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is an example of this.

Book Examples:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Rosemary's Baby
by Ira Levin
The Omen by David Seltzer


Some of the most compelling stories are those dealing with well-deserved retribution. The vengeance may be as righteous as bloodletting of a supernatural deity (demons, monsters, aliens) or as mundane as rallying against a corrupt financial institution. Revenge can haunt some people and it can heal others, but either way it is cause for vigorous emotion. After all, ‘Getting even’ is one of man’s most basic desires. Most people do not regularly act on it, especially in grand scale, but the satisfaction of relating to someone who does is often a thrilling, if not guilty, pleasure. Whether blood-spattered torture, psychological trauma, financial ruin, or simple dismissal, tales of revenge is a notion that every reader can empathize with in some form.

Book Examples:

Carrie by Stephen King
Red by Jack Ketchum
Death Wish by Brian Garfield


MORE TO COME IN MY NEXT BLOG POST! Stay tuned soon for The Sub-Genres of HORROR – PART VI

Part I Describes: Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic Horror, Bizarro Fiction, Body Horror (Biological Horror)

Part II describes: Dark Fantasy (AKA:Fantasy Horror), Environmental Horror, Erotic Horror, Fairy Tales and Dark Fables

Part III describes: Gothic Horror, Historical Horror, Humor (AKA: Horror Comedy), and Killer Animals

Part IV describes: Lovecraftian Horror (Cthulhu Mythos), Media Tie-In, Monster Horror, and Paranormal

Part V describes: Psychic Abilities, Psychological Horror, Religious Horror(including: Demons and Possession), and Revenge


Thanks to notes on this topic accumulated from the following websites:


Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


Eric J. Guignard
writes dark and speculative fiction from the outskirts of Los Angeles. Assorted stories and articles that bear his byline may be found in the disreputable publications reserved for back alley bazaars. As an editor, Eric’s published the anthologies, Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and After Death…, the latter of which won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award®. Read his novella, Baggage of Eternal Night (a finalist for the 2014 International Thriller Writers Award), and watch for many more forthcoming books, including Chestnut ’Bo (TBP 2016). Visit Eric at:, his blog:, or Twitter: @ericjguignard.



  1. Really interesting series of article. This is one of the few detailled work about building a classification of the various subgenres. Most of them make perfect sense...maybe only Lovecraftian is discutable because it opens the door to too many subgenres (King's, etc.)
    I am working on something very similar but for horror cinema only. I already built quite a detailled classification. Here is the link:
    Maybe that will be of interest to you and your readers :)

  2. Thanks for the note, Raoul. I checked out your own classification, and it's really well done! Great use of diagram to lay it all out.


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