Horror…and the baddies and creepies and long-legged beasties of horror…come in many flavours.
These divisions might be incomplete or somewhat meaningless in a way, but hey, I have to approach it somehow…
Reality Bites: Human Creeps, Scary Animals and Nature
-Serial Killers, Jason, Michael Myers, The Strangers, And Then There Were None, JAWS, Cujo, Urban Legends, Let's Not Meet stories
For years now, I've been a fan of the true stories found online, which partly grew out from the “Let's Not Meet” thread on Reddit. They're addictive and paranoia-inducing to the max. These are generally stories about close calls with home invaders, attempted kidnappers, and human traffickers. The individual stories, even if some aren't technically true, are true ENOUGH to raise the anxiety levels! These things can and do happen!
A slightly less “real” version of real life horror was the type I loved as a young teen. The Friday the 13th movies were flicks my parents REALLY didn't want me to watch; that was probably their major appeal at the time. Even a heightened reality can fit into this category.
They were never particularly scary…my brother and I were more often laughing than shivering… but I found them fascinating for some reason. “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie was maybe the original slasher story and is still one of my favourites.
Human killers and the natural world (seen in Jaws and Cujo) have grit and, well, reality to them. Perhaps they're cautionary tales above all else…be respectful of animals, especially ones you don't know! Lock your doors!
-Vampires, Werewolves, Mummies, Frankenstein('s Monster), Zombies, Aliens and Creatures From Black Lagoons, Freddy Krueger
I had a book as a kid, a miniature Encyclopaedia called “Monsters, Ghosts and UFO's”. It was one of my most prized books. I'd read it endlessly. Moreso than the UFO part, I was interested in the ghosts and especially the MONSTERS section. I loved the idea of monsters for some reason. That affection for monsters extends FAR back into my childhood, actually…
Much as I loved them, this subsection might be the least scary to me overall. I still dig the Universal Horror series (bought ‘em all on dvd!), though they’re not really scary. I think this sort of horror can be thrilling to watch when done well, and is pretty much always metaphorical. Vampires and Zombies might represent narcissistic people who DRAIN others of their energy.
Those mythologies are there to warn us to beware of those people - and to beware of BEING those people (we all make mistakes, and all have some immaturity/narcissism to us). Remember, the truly horrific fate in a zombie movie is not dying - it's BECOMING a zombie!
That Haunting, Unchained Melody: Ghosts
-A Haunting (the series), Ghost Story, The Others, The Haunting of Hill House, The Sixth Sense, The Innkeepers
Ah, ghosts. I actually believe they really exist, and believe science will probably explain them at some point. Personally, I've even had a strange encounter or two. But what are they? Some leftover intense emotions that are hanging around? Is there a consciousness to the spirits that some people see…?
My brother believes anyone who has a “ghostly” or “poltergeist” experience has unconsciously created it themselves. That possibility is equally fascinating to think about. It could be nothing but imagination. I really don't know.
In fiction, though, I have to think that ghost stories are compelling and scary because we ALL wonder, or fear, or anticipate what will happen to us after we die. Ghost stories crack open the door to see what life after death might entail…and the stories also REMIND us of our own mortality. Maybe that's what makes them truly scary.
I may propose a Quackcast all about GHOSTS. Like Vampires, it's a big subject.
In The Mouth of Madness
-demonic possession, Lovecraft stories, The Babadook, Pennywise the Clown, the thing in Absentia
Strangely enough, the subsection farthest away from the “Real World” stuff is the OTHER type that scares me the most. This is the most “unreal” type of horror on this list.
It doesn't scare me in a way that makes me lock my doors at night or check the backseat of the car…it's not the kind of fear that appears every day, or even every month. I don't believe in Satan, and I doubt the existence of Demons and evil dimensions that can cross over with this one.
But once in a while…
Once in a while, late at night, or maybe when sick with the flu or something, my mind goes to strange places.
I find myself shivering at the thought that there might be Otherdimensional Beings that would drive me insane if I even SAW them. Things that are so…NOT like us or anything we know. Things that are normally hidden from our perception.
The ideas and creatures in H.P. Lovecraft's stories, if anything like that exists, are safely across space, or in other realms entirely.
But what if there are times, or places, where the walls between our world and OTHER worlds become thin, and something might poke its way through?
These are beings, and places, that are terrifying because of their “Otherness”, I guess. Stephen King's short story “Crouch End” is about a couple finding themselves in such a place. The Babadook, Pennywise from the book “IT”, and the critters from John Carpenter's The Thing, and Absentia are other examples.
The Uber-example is probably Satan himself, whether a literal or mythological belief is in play.
(EDIT: Above, when I typed “I don't believe in Satan”, I actually felt a shiver and found myself repeating the statement in my mind. Maybe to reassure myself? That's the kind of fear we're talking about here; the certainty we have about things starts to melt away. Brrr!)
In my more rational times (99 percent of the time), ideas like that don't even enter my thoughts.
But maybe that's the scariest thing of all: the idea that the truths we are most certain of, the reality we base everything upon - is not even close to the truth.
FINAL THOUGHTS ('final'-? yeep!)
In the past, we've talked about how fiction is a way for people to process and understand emotions. Horror might be the most important genre for this, allowing us to work through our fears and strengthen ourselves in handling them.
I believe these stories that touch on the Unknown can allow us to deal with the feeling that the Universe is unimaginably huge, and that we're nothing but an invisible speck floating inside it.
Cheery thought, hey?
Okay, it's getting late and I'm giving myself the Creeping Damn Willies. Time to sign off.
Thanks for reading all this! What kind of horror does it for you and why? What are your favourite horror stories? Do you disagree with these divisions of mine altogether?
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Banes at 12:00AM, Oct. 19, 2023
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