Halloween has just passed us by and no doubt there have been groups of impressionable small people coming round, dressed as all manner of who knows what, asking for sweeties of some description. It used to be that vampires (fangs dripping blood and not a sparkle in sight), zombies and ghosts were the usual fare but over the last who knows how many years, cowboys and princesses have joined the party, all happily declaring ‘Trick or Treat’ to whoever opens the door.
All harmless fun.
But shouldn’t it be just a little bit based around monsters and demons rather than run of the mill stuff? All in all Halloween is just a good reason for kids to get dressed up and get tanked up with sugar but seeing the influx of different costumes did make me think.
Is horror still scary?
I’m a fan of the genre. I can happily say my favourite book of the genre is The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker and my favourite film is Hellraiser, the adaptation of the book, directed by Clive Barker. They both scared seven shades of pink poop out of me, the book even more than the film. The story was understated yet horrific. There was a strong focus on mood rather than simply on fright or blood for the sake of it and it was beautifully effective for it.
But that’s not all.
Freddy Kruger, Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and the Deadites chasing Ash ‘Groovy’ Williams. These are nasty people. Leatherface has issues, clearly, and, looking more up to date, the whatever the hell it is in Paranormal Activity isn’t someone who shows the most obvious compassion but they’re all great fun to watch.
This is just a small showing and I will freely admit that Event Horizon is a wonderful horror film within the sci-fi pot and The Descent is just creepy all round. And that film leads me on to a horror writer I read with both intrigue and nerves, H.P. Lovecraft.
That man had a very deep and dark imagination. Sets up tone and mood without the desperate need to have knives everywhere and screams ringing from every corner. Tales of creatures in paintings, of a shape in the caverns (see The Descent), of the all threatening Cthulhu and a dead man kept animate by the bizarre technique he had discovered are shocking tales and leave a lasting flavour just with the hint of detail. If you haven’t read any of his work, hunt it out.
But is horror still scary?
Why was the new Robocop film not the 18 rated version it could have been? Why have the Aliens v Predator films been lower rated than their ‘parents’? Sparkly vampires? Why do we see prequels which explain fully the backstory of the killers? Having these monsters do what they do without knowing why makes it scarier. As soon as we understand someones motivation, received a detailed breakdown of the whys and wheres, we’ve taken one step to working towards some kind of resolution.
Horror needs to be horrible. The creature coming to get you must be scary. It has to make you feel fear. You should feel on edge when you turn the page, what on earth is on the other side? The darkness and what might be in it is the really scary thing.
I don’t know about anyone else but I like a well done horror film and the books I read are in the similar bracket. Nasty stuff going on that makes you nervous. Horror. It is a genre which is so often overlooked because of the subject matter and maybe even a little snobbery.
As Halloween passes by for another year, everyone hunt out a good horror story and revel in the goings on. The monster under the bed should never be forgotten.