Quick question. Which movie is scarier, The Shining or Mary Poppins?
Have an answer?
Are you sure?
Watch these movie trailers then and come back. You may already seen these.
Horror games are like that.
There is a theory out there on the net (I think I first read it at Krell Laboratories) that if you take the final girl of horror films and turn her into an ass kicking male then you have an action film. The converse is also true. Take an ass kicking hero and depower him, or put him is a situation he can't control then you have the start of horror.
The recent trend in books has been the Modern/Urban Fantasy. You take the tropes of horror and make them into a fantasy story. Vampires are not hideous monsters, they are different now. Same with witches, werewolves and all sorts of beings that just a few of decades ago were creatures of horror. We can't blame the Twilight crowd for this, this dates back to even long before Anne Rice and Lestat. Dracula, was still a monster, but a sexualized one. Movie Dracula even more so.
What does this mean for games?
Nearly any game can be horror.
D&D has always had a strong undercurrent of horror. Fantasy and Horror have always shared a link. So often times you can turn a fantasy game into a horror game with something as subtle as the presentation.
The Ravenloft setting had a great example of this. In D&D you if you go up against a kobold it is described as a sort of reptilian humanoid. In a horror game it is some foul combination of human, reptile and dog the size of a child, but with murder in it's eyes and blood on it's lips.
I think it is this tone that attracts me most to horror. I like the tropes, but take the same tropes and given the hero a lot of guns and well there is the action flick again. "Underworld" is action adventure, "Silence of the Lambs" is horror.
I try to do this in my games as much as possible, but I try not to over do it. Even the scariest horrors become yawn worthy after to many repeated occurrences.
Some of my favorite books that helped me the most as a GM and author are Nightmares of Mine, Chill, Vampire the Masquerade (oWoD, for personal horror), and Call of Cthulhu.