I am not a fan of Nietzsche (shocker, I know) but this is a quote of his that I absolutely respect and abide by.
In this perusal of horror that I have been doing as I prepare for my contribution to the DD Anthology, the existential horror that goes far beyond any Lovecraftian chaos god began to loom and fascinate me.
For what can be more horrific than waking up one day and realizing that you have become exactly what you hate?
This path to perdition filled with good intentions is perhaps the most visceral type of horror one can explore. One of the films I absolutely recommend for exactly this kind of terrible spiral into the abyss is Mephisto.
Nietzsche is right- when you look at the abyss long enough, it always looks back.
But what is it?
Is it possible for something you abhor to saturate you so deeply that you become it?
Unfortunately, yes. Tennets such as “fight fire with fire” and “by any means necessary” are the thoughts that come to your mind when the abyss begins to look back. Christopher Dawson said it perfectly:
The abyss is the temptation, in your lowest of lows, to retaliate in the exact same manner that you have been attacked. To become the monster that made you a victim. To lose control, and too soon after, to also lose yourself.
If you choose this sort of horror for your character, then the changes must be subtle- it's the opposite hero's journey: our MC begins pure, determined, devoted- and remains devoted, and determined, but slowly that purity is chipped away, eroded as he/she makes small choice upon small choice, compromise upon compromise, crosses line after line, “for the cause”… until they are determined, but no longer who they were. They are who they were going up against.
The abyss looks back when you are starting to be part of it.
And that happens when you are not aware. Sometimes, you may never realise that you have become the monster you are hunting. Others, you might wake up, look at yourself and your choices, and have the reality come crashing down that you have become a killer, a serial killer, a slanderer, a stalker, a racist, a totalitarian, a dictatorial absolutist- and even worse, adding insult to injury, in the name of the very thing that stands against all that and which you have championed.
What bigger horror is there, than this kafka-esque doom?
It might be a slow burn as it unravels, but it burns unbearably hot.
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kawaiidaigakusei at 11:04PM, Aug. 16, 2020
This idea was demonstrated in the 2004 film “The Garden State” and they demonstrated just how fun it is to scream into the infinite abyss. 🙂🙃🙂
hushicho at 7:18PM, Aug. 15, 2020
I'm glad you linked to "Rhinoceros". It's also extremely relevant right now, as the spread of fascism renewed, censorship, and totalitarianism are chilling. I do hope that more people look into it and think deeply about not only the glimpse into the abyss, but the effects it can have on one and the people around one.
Ironscarf at 8:25AM, Aug. 15, 2020
I'd say hard drive failure, but this is probably more horrific even than that.
Banes at 6:40AM, Aug. 15, 2020
Fascinating! And one of the deepest and scariest kinds of horror for sure.
Andreas_Helixfinger at 5:52AM, Aug. 15, 2020
The human soul consist of as much darkness as it does light. It is a delicate balance that can only be preserved as long as we can see and acknowledge the full spectrum of ourselves. And if a hero/heroine fall on the path of projecting his/her darkness upon their antagonist, the darkness takes over, because they have now blindsided themselves from their own dark side and now think himself/herself justified to use any means, fair or foul, to annihilate their "chosen devil". It is a storytelling message that I think cannot be stated enough, especially in these days where a lot of influence is given to those lost souls who seemingly can't help to project their own evil on to others, shaming, condeming and cancelling everyone, so that they can keep lying to themselves that they are the purest of the pure, without proof and without room for questioning. It is an aspect of horror that is not only horrific, but horrifically relevant👍
bravo1102 at 4:48AM, Aug. 15, 2020
Or maybe you always were like that and the goody-goody stuff was an optimistic self-deception.