I think there are two brands of horror fiction.
One kind is what I call regular, or normal, horror. It’s the kind of horror that we frequently see on TV or in the movies with the deranged psychopaths who like their shiny metal tools and trap unsuspecting – but beautiful – young adults and torture them for hours. It’s the kind of thing we read about in our newspapers, where people kill (or attempt to kill) others just so they can steal their babies. Or the stories we hear about that could easily be the realizations of our own worst fears. These are the everyday horrors that we hope never come to visit us.
But then there is the kind of horror that can only, and will only, ever take place in our imaginations, the horrors that happen in the future or that have some element of fantasy, magic, or the supernatural. These are the kinds of horrors that frighten us, disturb us, creep us out, but the ones that we ultimately know will _never_ come to visit because they simply cannot happen. These are the _”safe”_ horrors, what I call speculative horror.
I heard it said recently that regular horror is far better because it is far creepier. I have to both agree and disagree with that notion. I think that it _can_ be far creepier and horrific because we know that these sorts of things _could_ happen to us or to someone we love. We recognize that fact, and it unsettles us deeply. On the other hand, though, speculative horror can be easily translated into things that _could_ happen. Our minds modify them and make them real, especially if we find ourselves feeling empathy for character undergoing the horror. Our imaginations take flight, and suddenly those things that go bump in the night might not be just bumps anymore. So I do think that speculative horror can be every bit as frightening as regular horror if the writer crafts the story properly.