Horror fiction is, broadly, fiction in any medium intended to scare, unsettle, or horrify the audience. Historically, the cause of the "horror" experience has often been the intrusion of a supernatural element into everyday human experience. Since the 1960s, any work of fiction with a morbid, gruesome, surreal, or exceptionally suspenseful or frightening theme has come to be called "horror". Horror fiction often overlaps science fiction or fantasy, all three of which categories are sometimes placed under the umbrella classification speculative fiction.
Modern horror fiction found its roots in the gothic novels that exploded into popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Later gothic horror descendants included seminal late 19th century works such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. Early horror works used mood and subtlety to deliver an eerie and otherworldly flavor, but usually eschewed extensive explicit violence.
Other early exponents of the horror form number such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft. Edgar Allan Poe helped define both the science fiction and the horror genres. Among the writers of classic English ghost stories, M. R. James is often cited as the finest. Algernon Blackwood's "The Willows" and Oliver Onions's "The Beckoning Fair One" have been called the best horror stories. Lovecraft and Sheridan le Fanu called some of their writing weird fiction.
Horror fiction reached a wider audience in the 1920s and 1930s with the rise of the American pulp magazine. The premier horror pulp was Weird Tales, which printed many of Lovecraft's stories as well as fiction by other writers such as Clark Ashton Smith. A different style was the weird menace or "shudder pulps" such as Dime Mystery and Horror Stories, which offered a more visceral form of horror.
Today horror is one of the most popular categories of film.