On Horror

This may be blasphemy to the Horror genre, but I hate what it is anymore.  The classical horror of the Victorian era let the imagination of the reader fill in the blanks allowing for more “horror” than bombarding people with gore.  Yes, I know, death is a part of the genre, but in recent decades, death and gore isn’t a consequence, but the point of the story instead.  In fact, story takes a back seat to gore and death for much of horror.  I would like to challenge people to see the beauty in classical horror.

The setting is a rarely traveled part of the world, perhaps the woods, and there is either a killer or monster lurking.  Unfortunately, a group of stupid college students go in that region and get picked off one by one in terrible and gruesome ways.  This is the sort of thing that passes as horror anymore, with few exceptions.  I enjoy tales of werewolves, in fact my upcoming book will include them, but gaining inspiration was pretty challenging because there are very few quality werewolf stories out there.

I enjoy stories that are based around suspense and unknown with supernatural elements. This is what horror used to be.  It isn’t just horror that has changed, fantasy has grown darker and grittier.  Dark and gritty isn’t inherently, bad but both modern fantasy and horror have grown incredibly cynical in their messages.

In horror most of the time everyone dies brutally, life is cheap, and it seems fantasy is adopting that approach as well.  Why is that?  Storytelling tends to follow cultural trends, have some genre fiction stories gotten darker, horror much earlier than others, due to an increasingly cynical outlook on life?  Is it due to changing tastes that accompany an evolving culture?  What if storytellers focused on plot and character development over pushing boundaries instead?  At this point it is hard to imagine any boundary that hasn’t been pushed anyway, perhaps all of us who craft stories need to examine why we write them and what is their purpose.

4 thoughts on “On Horror

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  1. I’m inclined to agree with your description of this trend. I think one problem is that the 80’s mainstream culture introduced the likes of Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, killers who despite having something of a backstory, we’re more focus on the wanton death of everyone around them.

    This became such a popular style within the genre and generate so much revenue, that writers and studios began to “cash in” on this trend. Modern pictures are now simply trying to hard to push the envelope to see how far they can shock the viewer/reader.

    We’ve fallen a long way from the likes of “The Raven”, that much is true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, and pushing the envelope results in less plot generally. Also, I feel gratuitous violence for the sake of violence breaks the cardinal rule of storytelling: “show don’t tell.” I don’t need to see every detail to get the picture.

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  2. I agree too. Gore for gore’s sake is lazy storytelling. There is no film I despise more than Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So utterly pointless.

    I have written two horror novellas – one is a horror-comedy, the other more like a thriller with zombies and I was determined to avoid gore for the sake of it.

    I’m also writing a psychological horror set (sorry) in a forest. Not with stupid teenagers, but with Roman gladiators. I’m about halfway through writing it and there has been no blood or guts and I don’t intend to include any either. The only torture in it is psychological. So yeah, I’m trying to remain faithful to proper horror 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s the type of horror I can get onboard with. I have a proclivity to classical horror, “Dracula” may not be dropping bodies left and right, but it is atmospheric. The tension in the story is palpable.

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