So, it’s Halloween. I’m actually kind of excited that I ended up with the Halloween post because it’s right up my alley. And I was looking forward to the leaves changing and the crisp chill in the air as laughter and screams fill the otherwise silent night.
But I’ve got a more important topic to talk about. Specifically, college football.
Actually no. We’ll stick with blood, guts, and gore.
I’m not going to lie, I love horror. But not the crap that’s filling our cineplexes nowadays. My favorite kind of horror doesn’t jump out and say BOO! It’s the sneaking, creeping blackness that twists your insides and makes you feel the fear.
My favorite horror movie of all time isn’t a slasher. It’s a little independent film called Session 9. Check it out, it has that redheaded guy from CSI.
The movie starts with a simple premise: A waste removal team goes into an abandoned mental asylum to clean the asbestos out of the building to render it safe for some government office or something. There’s nothing that jumps out at the characters, there’s no creepy little girl ready to eat your face. No, it’s a pure psychotic meltdown in the best kind of horror. As the team works diligently to meet their deadlines and put supper on their family’s tables, they uncover some of the patient’s files. And what happens after is the best education in true horror.
Are monsters scary? Sure. I still sleep with the covers over my head every night because I’m afraid Freddy’s coming to get me in my dreams. Don’t blame me, blame the babysitter. Who lets a 9 year old watch Nightmare on Elm Street anyway!?
What do Session 9 and Nightmare on Elm Street have in common? And what are they doing on a writing blog?
In Session 9, we have a prime example of horror, the CHARACTER.
In Nightmare on Elm Street, we have a prime example of horror, the ACTOR.
But wait, don’t actors play characters? Yeah. Sorta. Anything more would be an elementary lesson in literature. And I don’t have the patience to teach. 🙂
Freddy Krueger terrorizes children in their dreams, slitting their throats, chasing them around, throwing them in furnaces…It’s gratuitous. Do I have a problem with it? Absolutely not. I’m human. Heck, our whole race’s history is mostly based on sex and violence.
Here, the horror of the story isn’t the character of the fear, it’s the actor of the horror. If that makes sense, then you’ve been eating just as much candy as me.
The Elm Street movies rely on the slash/bang shock and awe of what sort of violence is going to befall the next victim. Movies and books like this are a dime a dozen.
In Session 9, we have the creeping characterization of pure horror as the cleaning crew learns what sort of pseudo-science went on behind closed doors. The influence the asylum has on its new occupants is characterized by the shifting tone as the actors interact and go on their own individual story arcs.
It’s a more satisfying horror that sounds boring on paper. But big on screen.
Which is easier to write? Neither. Which is more satisfying to write? Both.
The issue is everyone that reads your book has a completely different concept of what frightens them. You can’t win every battle. And you can’t save everyone. As long as you don’t trip over the corpse sticking out from under your bed though, you just might be okay.
Providing it doesn’t get you first.
Since many of my short stories are horror, I have to chime in on this. I honestly can’t stand gratuitous blood and guts horror. Not to say my stories don’t have blood and guts in them, but there must be a purpose driving the story, characters interacting in interesting ways, and all the other elements that make a story progress.
My “Night of the Beetle” story published in Women Writing the Weird focuses on horror progression. When I’m able to put a story like that together, one that has people leaning forward, getting more and more engrossed as they read, then I feel I’ve accomplished something magical. Yes, the blood splatters, but only in the amount it’s necessary for the story. That’s the kind of horror I enjoy–suspense horror.
Many of the recent movies (last twenty or so years) have fallen away from that, turning into slash-and-gash gore fests. I can’t stand to watch them. I think J.J. Abrams has brought a lot of that suspense-type horror back, though. His stories are still gruesome, but gruesome with a purpose. I loved “Super 8.” It brought me back to the old sci-fi flicks I watched when I was a kid, but done with modern cinematography. And “Fringe”, though not for my little kids, is a family favorite. “Haven” is another one that is done well, in my humble opinion. I could go one, but I think I’ve rambled enough.
Oh boy – do pointless slasher flicks leave me cold. But horror of the creeping, insidious variety that keeps you thinking “what if” – that I can fully get behind. I can’t write it but I do enjoy it. I’ll have to check out this Session 9 movie.
I’m really going to have to check out Super 8.
When I write something, I try to build suspense like a layer cake. It’s delicious…and sometimes bloody – err, I mean ripe with Strawberry preserves!
Fringe was great, but sadly I haven’t watched an episode of theirs since the whole alternate world character inside real world story arc came to be. It made my head hurt, and I was only a casual watcher at the time, so I think I missed the subtle nuances that they were working into the story.
I loved their viral marketing campaign though…those radio ads were AWESOME!
Never really considered Fringe horror though, I always thought it walked the SpecFic SF line.