Just as there are an infinite supply of sub-genres in the field of horror, there are just as many perceptions on what the term itself means. Agent Kristin Nelson tries her hand at it here, and I think she raises a couple of nice points in her post.
To my thinking, horror has never been about the zombie hordes, the masked man with the chainsaw or the ghost in the attic. Sure, those are some of the sub-genres (prominent ones) that I mentioned above. And they're entertaining, to be sure.
But when I think of horror, I think of that pesky cough that doesn't go away. I think of the shuttered house at the end of the street and the man that watches the parade of children walking by after school lets out. I think of the quiet kid that gets picked on at school until he or she explodes in a fury of bullets and misplaced passion.
I had a student write an essay once about attending a family reunion. She had recently begun dating an abusive alcoholic. He got trashed at the reunion and blacked her eye right in front of her whole family.
I'm working my way through the After Dark Horrorfest films from last year, and the majority of them are well made stories of the first type of horror I mentioned above--chock full of monsters and ghosts. They're entertaining. But I don't think they do what a story like Sylvia Ozick's "The Shawl" does.
"The Shawl" is a horror story...
You tell me. How do you define horror?