Stephen King once wrote in an essay entitled "Why We Crave Horror Movies": The mythic horror movie, like the sick joke, has a dirty job to do. It deliberately appeals to all that is worst in us. It is morbidity unchained, our most base instincts let free, our nastiest fantasies realized... and it all happens, fittingly enough, in the dark... I like to see the most aggressive of them... as lifting a trap door in the civilized forebrain and throwing a basket of raw meat to the hungry alligators swimming around in that subterranean river beneath. Why bother? Because it keeps them from getting out, man.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated with things that scare me. Even as a small child I was drawn to all things dark and creepy. When I was about five or six, my parents got me a small part in a local theatre production called The Woman in Black. My job was to provide the voice over for the ghost of a child who drowned in the moors. I had to giggle, cry and scream into a microphone. Now, I really had no idea what I was doing, I was just playing around. And I didn't think much of it until my parents took me to see the show (my payment for my services had been comps for myself and my family). I don't know who thought it was a good idea to bring a child to see that show, because it deliberately intends to frighten its audience. And I had nightmares for weeks.
But at the same time I was utterly fascinated. For as much as I imagined that terrifying woman shrouded in a veil with her dark, sunken in eyes hovering above my bed in the dark, I wanted to see it again. I'm not sure why. Maybe I wanted to face my fears head on. Perhaps I wanted to look for the things that confirmed for me that it wasn't real. I'm not sure, but her image lingered in my mind for a long time, almost forgotten...
... until BBC released a made-for-TV movie version of The Woman in Black about a year later. Silly me, I watched it and spent the next few weeks crying to my parents before going to bed, hiding under the covers and leaving the lights on to scare that terrible woman away.
Flash forward to my college years and the invention of a wonderful tool called ebay. For whatever reason, I found a DVD copy of The Woman in Black, the same one that had terrified me as a child, so I bought it and it was shipped within days. I put it in and watched it with my then-girlfriend, who had politely humoured my fascination with horror on numerous occasions.
There was one particular scene that I knew was coming (and those of you who have seen this film know of the scene that I am referring to). In the minutes leading up to that scene, I could feel my heart begin to race, my hands go clammy and my breath come in quick gasps. My girlfriend looked at me like I was nuts. But when the scene arrived and scared the crap out of us, I had finally faced a demon that had been haunting me for over a dozen years.
And it made me want more.
Why do we love horror? Stephen King's essay does make a lot of great points and I agree with the notion of "feeding the gators." But I think there's something more. In examining my own feelings and experiences, I don't particularly feel like I'm fending off starving gators for fear they may be unleashed upon the world. Not consciously, at least. I do, however, find a fascination with things we can't explain.
To make sense of the world, humans have always tried to provide explanations. This is why we have the Bible and the vast array of different religions that populate the world.
"How did we all get here?" "Well, God breathed us into existence in six days." "Oh, well that explains it."
But no matter how hard we try to fit the physical world we live, breathe and see every day into our own little boxes, there are still things that occur in it that we simply cannot comprehend.
Like lights in the sky that cannot possibly be any man-made aircraft.
Like strange occurrences in creepy old houses.
Like large, frightening beasts living in mountains or lakes that elude our modern tracking technology.
Like how one man can inspire a nation to murder over a million Jewish people.
Like how a person can believe in and defend their beliefs so much they fly a plane into a building.
Like how people who are supposed to serve and protect us overseas end up defiling and torturing their prisoners.
These are just a few things the majority of us who are just trying to get through the day can't always comprehend and truly evoke fear in us - for ourselves and for the state of the world. And what this blog will explore through interviews, experiences, reflections and the reviewing of films, books, articles, video games etc. in the horror genre is the idea that by creating and consuming horror as entertainment, we as individuals are trying to make sense of the things in the world that don't make sense.
Whether it be Jack Nicholson chopping down a bathroom door or Linda Blair levitating and spewing pea soup, this genre depicts and represents the things in this life that are unfathomable to us. The horror genre not only offers possibilities as to why these things occur, but also challenges us to accept that these things happen in real life whether we like it or not, and makes us ask ourselves how we can better ourselves so we don't end up like one of Michael Myers' victims - or Michael Myers himself.
And it's all done within the safe confines of a screen or a page in a book. You can stop it at any time, take a breather, or walk away from it entirely. You're in control. You're in the drivers seat. That's the appealing part. Because sometimes in life, you don't get to be the driver.
And that's where the real scary stuff begins.