Horror is Essential:
Horror, as a genre of entertainment, is one of those things that if it hadn't already been thought of you wouldn't make it up yourself.
I'm talking about real horror here, the proper stuff that leaves you a trembling whining fetal ball, drenched in cold-sweat, afraid to close your eyes for fear of what you might find upon opening them. Not some eerie pish about zombies you can see fifty feet away in broad daylight going 'ABOOGA-BOOGA-BOOGA!' Fuck that. That's not horror, that's a fairground ride that cost fifteen million dollars.
|(Even after you close your browser, I'll still be watching)|
Horror is an incongruous concept that verges on the masochistic; the idea that people get a kick out of psychological flagellation and willingly inflict stress, anxiety and discomfort upon themselves. Why? Are we just addicts chasing a fresh hit of adrenaline? Perverts intoxicated by that sick juxtaposition of fear and sexual arousal? Or is it something less trite and Freudian and more sophisticated? The ancient Greeks had no place for it in their binary division of trope and convention; they were happy to pigeonhole drama as comedy or tragedy and leave it as such. In fact it's only when the novel began to flourish as a medium that horror was given a place in literary canon outside of fairy tales and folk legends.
|(Aw man, Melty-Skull-Flying-Fetus; who invited you?)|
Yet it's continually dismissed as lurid adolescent nonsense by snobs, critics and intellectuals. But there's nothing truly intellectual or cerebral about it. There's no elitism. You don't need a degree or a doctorate to be afraid of something. It's a primal emotion; inextricably linked to basic Darwinian survival. The only benefit an analysis of scary stuff gives you is that you end up more frightened. Horror grants us a level of immersion other genres can only dream of, introspection and doubt lingering long after the credits roll or the book closed shut.
In my short and ignominious career as a short-fiction writer I've found that most of my stories constitute as mostly horror. I mean, they're mostly horrible but that's besides the point. In person I'm quite a friendly wee chap, eager to make people laugh and put others at ease. Yet for the past few years, in my writing my first instinct as an artist has been not to amuse or humor my audience, but to shock and disturb. My mother finds it especially bizarre; why aren't I playing to my strengths and writing comedy?
|(An excuse for Christopher Lee? Gee thanks!)|
Comedy does come naturally to me, and recently I've been embracing comedy writing, because it's more fun to write and ultimately just easier for me to do.
But again and again I find myself turning to the dark, twisted, morbid and strange. I can't help but read up on cold cases, haunted houses and stare at pictures of ventriloquist dummies. It's weird because I can't quite define what it is about all this creepy stuff that I find attractive. For me an evening spent flinching away from shadows and lying awake till dawn while my bowels turn to frozen numb slurry is quite an exhilarating prospect ... in a not-actually-very-fun-at-all kind of way.
I think my real interest is that horror forces us to confront uncomfortable truths, and if this blog's taught you anything it's that I love me my uncomfortable truths. Horror preys upon our own sense of powerlessness, the dreadful threats of mortality, disability and sickness, the callous indifference of the universe to the conditions of mankind. Thus, deep thematic issues can be expressed the most simple and direct way: via fear. Fear bypasses all prejudices and distractions and forces us to pay attention to the subject matter.
|(Happy thoughts, happy thoughts ...)|
Blood, guts and gore are not intrinsically scary concepts; but visions of people hacked into flesh and meat are grotesque because it expresses humanity in existential terms. Reduced to base plasma and sinew and nothing more. Stripped of all pretension and laid stark as mere anatomy.
Similarly Dracula is more terrifying as a rape parable that takes a delicious advantage of Victorian insecurities. The story of the sinister predatory monster hiding behind the facade of the enlightened Slavic gentleman. Dr Frankenstein becomes far more disturbing, far more human, and far more monstrous if seen as an irresponsible father rejecting a deformed child, an egotistical fanatic intoxicated by the juicy creation of life (Sexual intercourse) and repulsed by the awakening and autonomy or what he has created (childbirth). The Cthulhu Mythos underscores a whole host of social phobias and racist sensibilities: the disgust and loathing of a Providence gentleman for the perceived threat of outside alien influences. Likewise the Alien franchise reflects a fear of rape, The Thing underpins paranoia, A Nightmare on Elm Street insomnia, narcolepsy and the demented surrealism of nightmares.
|(He's scary cuz he's got like tentacles and shit yo)|
In the age of rational empiricism, more and more we need the uncanny to remind ourselves that we aren't in control, that science and enlightenment have only taken us so far. Horror takes great pleasure in reminding us that we're not in control of our lives, and it doesn't lie to us about it either. It reflects the indiscriminate cruelty of reality in a way that other fiction is content to ignore. That's something I find somewhat comforting in times of misery; to not be patronized or mollycoddled. I don't want to know about how Nice Guys Always Get The Girl, or why Evil Cannot Understand Good, or how They All Lived Happily Ever After.
No. Sometimes dreadful, unfair things happen to perfectly nice people for no reason and that's it. No hugging or learning or growing, just viciousness and pain.
Horror is essential because it takes the control out of ours hands. It transforms adults into children. Adults drift through their lives, totally assured of their ability to subvert obstacles and exert control over the chaos that surrounds them. Children are helpless and frightened, the world is vast and unfamiliar and follows an idiotic set of conventions that adults seem to invent on a whim. Adults know they have vaccinations and paramedics and air conditioning and electric light and a whole smorgasbord of fantastic inventions that we take for granted, keeping us alive moment-by-moment.
The possibility that any of these miracles could fail to save them is unthinkable. Children are confident that there is nothing between them and a violent, painful death. Horror might deal with adult themes, but its audience are always children in the end.
Anyway, that's how I feel about it, but what do you think? I realize that a lot of these posts are me just yakking on about whatever shit interests me that particular night, but this is perhaps a more subjective post. Do you think horror is relevant? What do you guys make of the state of the genre today? And if you don't appreciate it, why not? Leave some comments, because honestly, peoples reactions to something so divisive is something I always find intriguing. And as always, thanks for stopping by.
(This week I've been reading 'The Necronomicon' - a collection of spooky stories by a spooky writer of spooky stories which inspired me to write a post about spooky stories. If you're sensing a pattern here, well done, you officially have at least one functioning brain cell. Don't keep that little guy too busy now!)
|(Racist, AND he looks like a horse-faced pedo.)|