What I Learned From The Horror Genre
It's almost Halloween and horror movies are everywhere. "It" is number one at the box office. Even my local library has books in this genre prominently displayed at the end of each aisle.
A particular Anne Rice display caught my eye and got the wheels turning in my head*. Why have I always been drawn to this category? Curiosity? The uncertainty of what will happen next?
I think I've been drawn here because there's a certain level of bravery in it. If you ask someone what they think of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Tim Burton or Alfred Hitchcock the answer normally is "creepy" or "weird". But all four writers/directors are well known with a plethora of bestsellers, blockbuster movies and awards. They embraced their weird.
The two aspects I admire most are their raw creativity and exploration of deep emotions.
This genre is a place of limitless expression as seen through cinematic illustrations mixed with an articulate use of vocabulary.
Think about the creepiest movies you've seen. It's through the use of innovative camera angles, makeup, illustrations and backdrops that set the tone.
The artists run wild with their ideas and don't look at what anyone else has created. They simply go inside their own minds to find inspiration.
Deep Emotion Exploration
When horror is truly terrifying it has tapped into our own deepest emotions and at the core of that is fear.
Fear of losing control, fear of death and fear of pain.
It's all there in it's rawest forms. In fact if these topics aren't addressed the movie or book isn't horror at all, it's simply fiction. (nonfiction has horror in it because it involves real life)
For a society hell bent on avoiding emotion it's interesting that horror banked a little less than $480 million at the box office last year.
Is it because these writers and directors know us? In their weirdness they take us to places we wouldn't feel comfortable going alone?
In the dark spaces they create for us we feel a sense of belonging. In the protagonist's struggle we see ourselves. In the antagonist we see our pain, our loneliness.
In seeing the main character battle their emotions, fears, ("the monster") we see them become a stronger person. The wish we have for ourselves.
As Anne Rice so eloquently states "it's an awful truth that suffering can deepen us, give a greater luster to our colors, a richer resonance to our words."
And, just as in real life, the unknown is the scariest place of all.
*I'm talking about well written and directed horror. There are plenty of subpar books and movies that live in this genre as well. Let's leave those behind for this discussion.