Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Misconceptions in Horror

So, there's this.

Now, I'm all for the re-imagining of the classic monsters. They need to be treated with the respect and reverence they deserve, though, even if they no longer scare or terrify as they once did. I'm not bringing up this trailer for the new movie I, Frankenstein, to pass any kind of judgement on it though. I'm just using it as a lead in to my topic for the day, which is common misconceptions of Horror.

One of the ones that irks me the most being; Frankenstein was the doctor's name, and NOT the monster's. In the original movie, it was called Frankenstein's Monster, or creature depending on translations and subtitles. The sewn-together beast is NOT actually Frankenstein, no matter how many lazy movies have decided to just call it that. So just remember that if you're ever on Jeopardy and they ask for the name of Dr. Frankenstein's creation. It'll likely be The Monster.

"Horror means blood, gore, and death."

Sometimes. That is not always the case though. Horror is based on the things we fear, and as far as things the average person is afraid of, torture and death are pretty high up there. The loss of those important to us, as well. There is a lot of psychological Horror out there as well though. Movies such as Fire in the Sky, Poltergeist, and The Mothman Prophesies may have a scene or two of bloody mess, but that's not what scares us about those movies. The messy parts are what makes them Horror. Horror isn't just a genre, it's an emotion; and the best examples can bring that fear kicking and screaming out of us without resorting to throwing ketchup at your TV screen. Just look at a story like The Exorcist, where there is a fear of death, but worse than that, is the fear of innocence stolen. Slasher flicks, torture porn, those are sub-genres within Horror. They don't define what Horror is though.

"People that like/write Horror have something wrong with them."

I've actually heard it said that many Horror fans are actually more well adjusted than those who abhor the genre. We don't try to live pretending everything is always great in the world. We don't live every day trying to suppress and deny the darker parts of ourselves. For example, who hasn't had a boss that they wish would get hit by a train on the way home? Horror fans are more likely to smirk at the thought, maybe chuckle a little bit, and then move on to the next thing to catch their attention. More repressed people might be mortified at the thought and fret over having had it for the next hour. Which one of those scenarios sounds healthier to you?

"Horror stories are just cheap one-trick ponies."

This goes along with comments like "Horror can't be literary" and "Horror stories try to scare you and that's it". Would anyone try to claim Edgar Allen Poe's work wasn't literary? Does anyone really think that Horror stories can't have something to say about society or the human condition? Horror does that all the time. Horror movies put our current fears up on the big screen in allegory all the time. Look at the giant monsters of the fifties and sixties. Those were created due to our new and rising fears of atomic energy and radiation. The second Red Scare was embodied in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. More recently, you have movies like Event Horizon, which showcase the current clash between science and religion. How about a story where an old man is haunted by a handful of ghostly beings in a single night and is eventually tossed, screaming, onto his own grave, all to try and make him see the world in a different light? Sound familiar? Sound like a good horror story? You can thank Charles Dickens for writing A Christmas Carol for that one. So, yes, Horror can have a lot to say about the current state of society and the human condition. It's just a matter of climbing out from behind the couch, stopping the shivers in your spine and paying attention to what some (not all, there are pointless gore-fests out there after all) of these movies are trying to say.

So, there we go. Horror does not mean blood, gore, and death. Horror can be thought-provoking and deep. There is not automatically something wrong with people who like or create Horror stories. That is the truth of the matter. Anything I missed? Leave a comment and we'll discuss it.

Also, Dracula's first name is Vlad. Not Count.

~ Shaun


  1. And now I suppose you're going to tell us that snowman's first name isn't Abominable. Riiiiiiight.

    Seriously, I'm right with you. It has long driven me crazy that Frankenstein isn't really Frankenstein. And until a few months ago, I had some big misconceptions about horror readers and horror authors as well. Now I work for a horror author, and he's one of the most poetic, philosophical people I know. Preconceived notions shattered.

  2. Actually, I think the snowman's name is Aaron. Aaron Abominable.

    I really think it's just a part of human nature to judge those around us, whether we want to or not, and there is always a bit of a stigma towards those who aren't the most positive people. Horror writers and readers, on an initial bases of those facts, seem like some of the most negative people on the planet. Everything is out to kill/enslave/eat you and steal your soooouuuulllll... That car? It wants your soul. The freezer? That too? Not the toaster. Yup, even the toaster.

    1. I knew it. That toaster's been a burr in my saddle for far too long...

  3. "People that like/write Horror have something wrong with them."

    Thank you for this - I get that attitude a lot when I tell people I like horror movies and fiction. I don't think that there's anything wrong with it at all, it's simply a way of expressing and understanding the darker aspects of our psyche, and expoloration of things about us that we need to understand if we're to be well rounded individuals. of course, I don't *limit* myself to horror, but i do bloody love it!

    1. You're welcome. Many people either don't understand, or don't appreciate the outlet that Horror gives us. It externalizes our fears so that we're not holding it all bottled up inside building up pressure. There's also this.