Horror: What’s the Big Deal?
by Michele Lee
Has there ever been a genre more dismissed and disrespected than horror? Perhaps romance, but even that one has been accepted into the mainstream, if only in part.
But horror, even we can’t decide exactly what it is. Is it Stephen King and Dean Koontz? Or Wrath James White and Brian Keene? Is it the drop of your stomach when you hear a sound from outside which definitely should not be there? Or the beauty of a splash of blood on a black and white photo of a happy couple? Or is it the classic moment, when the killer peels the last bit of skin from their sexy young victim then slips his own mutilated body inside?
Even authors shy away from admitting they’re a little bit horror. Amazing isn’t it, all the outrage and offense over a little sex and gore?
But while the religious and secular alike herald horror as one of the worst influences on the human mind they’re also embracing it. Bemusing to fans, we see the same people who refuse to acknowledge us as members of the literocracy embrace A Christmas Carol at Christmas time. Or they rave about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which any horror fan will recognize as a post-apocalyptic road trip book spiced with cannibals. They even worship with an eye for horror, celebrating what could be seen as the horrific torture and slow execution of a pure, good man. Not to mention the beheadings, the plagues and religious wars that continue to this day…
But perhaps it’s better to steer clear of that particular kind of horror.
So then, why is it such a big deal? That one’s easy–Horror threatens us. That’s the point, to make us jump at shadows that were innocent the night before. To make us look twice at a person we’d ignore under normal circumstances. To wonder what if. What if things went really, really wrong?
The core of horror is fear. The point, even with the most incredulous scenarios, is to bridge the chasm of the fantastic and make the viewer jump and squeal and turn away but have to look back. It challenges our perceptions of safety and health, of normalcy and sanity. It brings the beasties from the darkest recesses of our mind triumphantly into the light.
But the most important factor in the love of horror is–it’s fiction. We can turn it off, unlike the horrors in our real lives. We can put the book down, leave the theater, change the channel or pause the movie. We can explore all the things that terrify us, yet we retain control of the situation, which makes it safe.
So what’s the big deal about horror? Horror offers us a safe place to explore our limits. A safe playground for the wicked little child in our mind who’s just begging to come out and play.
Michele Lee is the author of “Rot” from Skullvines Press. http://skullvines.com/?page_id=626