Horror- An overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting.
Horror Fiction- Genres of literature in which are intended to, or have the capacity to frighten, scare, or startle their readers.
Horror Films- Film genre seeking to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience’s primal fears.
So why in the world to we horror fans LOVE horror????
I can give you a little background into why I love horror so much. When I was growing up, movie-watching was a big thing in my family. My dad is an avid movie-goer. I can remember our entertainment center being filled with VHS tapes that my dad used to record movies on from the VCR. Why did he love movies so much? I have no idea. But being around him so much made me love films just the same.
Horror is one of his favorite genres and as a kid, I grew up watching all of the popular slasher movies at that time, which were Freddy and Jason and Michael Myers. Sure I was afraid of them, being that I was a young kid, but I guess the positive reaction that it gave my dad sort of rubbed off on me.
Needless to say, as I got older it became harder and harder for a scary movie to actually…scare me. I suppose I became immune. With the exception of Friday the 13th (my Kryptonite) there hasn’t been many films that make me worried about closing my eyes that night.
As the definition of horror films states, they are intended to play on our primal fears. I guess the scariest kind of horror films to me are the Paranormal Activity kinds, where things are happening around you that you just cannot see. The thought of not being able to physically see something that is intending to harm you is bone-chilling to me. It’s completely out of your control, and can catch you at your most vulnerable moments. Those movies make me turn on all the lights in my house!
Now, let’s step into horror literature. I have read some scary books before. Dean Koontz has a few that I enjoyed. Mary Willis Walker writes excellent mysteries, but some of her novels were actually frightening to me. And if you have ever read The Shining, then you KNOW what it’s like to read a novel and almost pee your pants with terror.
This is where I feel there is a debate at hand. Horror films and horror fiction both have the same purpose and strive to give the same results…scare crap out of the audience. But here is a question-
What is more satisfying for a fan of the horror genre-horror films or horror literature?
I suppose this is where we dip into the functions of the brain…Are you a person who responds more to visual images or reading descriptions?
When we watch horror, watch our fears come to life right in front of us, really we are limited to what the movie is showing us. In addition, we are watching the horror happening to someone else. Sure, what makes us frightened is the fact that we imagine it were us in those scenes where someone is getting tortured, chased, or killed. But if you are like me, you soon remember that it is happening to someone else and not you. When I am truly scared of a horror movies, however, it’s because I leave the theater thinking oh my gosh…that could really happen.
And essentially, it could all really happen. The reason why I can’t stand Jason is because I feel like he could be real. I know, I know, a human can only die once, whereas Jason has “died” over a series of multiple films. But I feel like anyone can grab a machete and throw on a hockey mask and terrorize young, horny teens out camping in the middle of the woods at any time.
Horror fiction could be horrifying as well. While reading a horror novel, I believe the reader is able to open his or her mind further. There are no scenes on a TV. There is no CGI or visual effects of blood spattering all over the place when a knife is being plunged into someone’s body. We as the readers have to allow our minds to step into that deep, dark place we like to forget all about. And if the author is really good, they will describe things in a such a way as to enable us some leg room to let our imagination roam free. And let’s face it…our minds are very, very powerful.
As a newbie to writing in the horror genre, I have tried my best to shock the readers of Turning Grace more so than actually scaring them. I wanted to bring in the gross factor and have them imagine bloody, gory scenes in certain moments of the novel. Would that frightened someone? Maybe. I actually have a review from a reader that stated she was truly terrified.
As a fan of the horror genre, I believe I am on the fence between what is scarier- horror films or horror fiction. If they are done well, I believe they both have the potential of causing me to lose sleep.
Which leads me to another question…
Whether you are a horror film fan, horror fiction fan, or both, what do you look for in horror? Are great horrors bloody, mysteries, thrilling, or maybe all of the above?