Why Horror

There is a lot to be said for horror. As a genre it is one of the only ones that allows you to explore so many diverse concepts. The supernatural is a built in trope, and that leads you into all kinds of fantasy and science fiction. In the old days, they used to think they wouldn’t be able to sell straight sf flicks, so they made sf horror and gave us Alien, The Thing, Predator, The Fly (albeit that was a remake, but a damn good one.) Horror is also a unique genre in that cheap B renditions seem to be preferred. Horror, for many is a starting ground. I was speaking with a friend a few years ago and she had mention writing one of the Halloween books and, with bright eyes and a big wide smile, she said, “Yeah, you only get killed if you have sex.”

I hadn’t really twigged on the moral lessons inherent in horror before that, but sure enough in all those 80’s slasher flicks, teenage sex is resoundingly frowned upon.

My love affair with horror began when I was a child, a scared child. I remember being so paranoid about Jason coming to get me that I once, after school in the latchkey-kid hours before my dad came home, left my house putting my stuffed animal in charge and equipping him with a pet rock that he was instructed to throw at Jason should that SOB’s hockey mask wearing face show up, looking for me.

My brother was an ardent hockey player.

So, superstition played a big part in my romance with horror. Little did I know just how thoroughly horror would claim me. I once made a cheap high school movie about a guy who was claimed by the darkness, and who resisted it, until the end when he embraced it. I guess I was portraying myself.

To me horror is multifaceted. I most enjoy a good Gothic romance set against the backdrop of impending doom, or a well crafted ghost story with lots of atmospheric gloom and apprehension. Blood n’ guts or splatterpunk is one kind of horror, which, when you want it all in your face–a sort of social rebellion–works wonders.

I often hear people say that there is enough horror in the modern world or that they have enough horror in their life so they don’t want to read about it. I understand this, but at the same time, feel it’s terribly misguided, since horror, just like other fiction, is escapism. But it is escapism which seeks to show us how to survive the worst thing. Once you survive the worst thing, let’s just say death, the other problems in life seem rather small by comparison. So it is with horror.

I don’t discount the horror of the modern world, we are, after all, now more than ever, surrounded by it, but my point is that horror as a genre is seeking to help us deal with it. Whether it is effective or not, is up to the reader or viewer and his or her personal experience to decide.

The gross out is one kind of horror, and does work, but is easily overdone.

Horror also seems to like to be dressed up in its Sunday best with lush purple style prose, much like a aged vampire will want to wear a fine suit when he goes out to kill. Horror, has many lessons to teach, but also wants you to learn them on your own, so horror likes to tell us the cautionary tale where the inventor is killed by his or her creation, or the how the best laid, but ill conceived, plans can and do backfire, often in the most terrible of ways.

Horror wants to lure us into its embrace and then scare the shit out of us. You know, that’s not unlike some people I know.