Cowering Alone in the Dark
I don’t know if it’s a curse afflicting all writers, or if I’m just lucky, but if you show me something horrifying, it is seared into my memory and IT NEVER LEAVES. Think back to the last real horror movie you saw. Do you want the grossest, most terrifying scene staring back at you from the insides of your closed eyelids for the rest of your life? I don’t.
I mean, I realize I’m
psychotic odd. I can watch true crime shows – you know – where real people actually died and be fascinated by how science solved the crime. I can watch medical shows and be completely absorbed regardless of the blood and exposed anatomical bits. But put me in front of a fictional account of monsters ripping through humans and you’re going to have to scrape me off the floor.
I discovered this fact when I went to see An American Werewolf in London with a pair of my friends. I didn’t even get a quarter of the way into the movie. The initial werewolf attack happens and there’s a shot of one of the men. He’s lying dead on the moor, his abdomen ripped out, his meaty, bloody ribs exposed in the light of the moon. Got up, walked out and went next door to watch The Empire Strikes Back for what had to be the twelfth time.
I can’t even tell you why that was so horrifying. It’s not like I don’t do blood. Medical shows and true crime, right? So what’s the problem with fictionalized stuff? No clue, but it’s a thing and I respect that. The last movie I saw that could remotely qualify as horror was Pitch Black. I do like that movie. Alien is, of course, a classic, but I’ve talked about it before. I think Pitch Black works for me (I watched the whole thing without flinching much) because most of the movie focuses on how the survivors are freaking out about Riddick, while the audience kept thinking, “He’s the least of your concerns.”
Once we got to critters ripping people apart, you saw little of it on screen. Some, sure, but just enough to let you know the characters were up a creek without any kind of paddle. The focus of the story wasn’t on the horror or the gore. It was on the people and their bid to escape.
Most of the horror movies that came out when I was a teen (and we won’t talk about how long ago that was) were focused on how inescapable the horror was and they were incredibly misogynistic. Young women died simply because they dared to own their sexuality and express it. Young men died, too, but in far fewer numbers and their bloody corpses didn’t wander into the high school to haunt their surviving sex partners.
Just so many things wrong there. That’s probably another blog topic we should put on our list – the notion that horror is extraordinarily specific to a single society and even then, only to certain slices of that society. (Nightmare on Elm Street only works if you’re never taught that you control the reality of your dreams like most pagan kids are…)
Anywho. My second and real current favorite? A book. The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle.
The end of the world walks right up to the closed gates of Katie’s Amish community. An illness has killed or altered millions of humans, turning them into creatures of unholy evil. When Katie finds an injured man just outside the community’s fence, she’s compelled to bring him secretly in and treat his wounds. But then, it becomes clear that evil has found a way into the village filled with Katie’s family, friends and former fiancé. Did her act of compassion doom them all?
Like Pitch Black, this story concentrates on the characters and a community facing the inexplicable, rather than focusing on gore. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a couple of scenes that aren’t — pretty. But the writing is gorgeous and Katie is courageous. It’s a great combination.
Anyone else a complete wuss when it comes to horror? Or am I cowering all alone over here in the dark?