|Posted by Shaun Hammel on November 18, 2010 at 8:27 PM||comments (4)|
How often are you scared by words alone? Disembodied threats aren't particularly menacing, unless you believe in ghosts, or suffer severe mental illness. It takes someone in your face, with angry eyes and sick intent, for you to feel the precise nature of a real threat. And then within this broad range of enticed fear there is an arbritary scale, and everyone has different reactions to the same stimulus, complicating matters a bit. Some say they are merely, 'creeped out' but not scared. As if being 'creeped out' is like grime you can take a shower and wash away, but somehow the idea of 'being scared' is more ambiguous and longer lasting. I don't know. Arguing semantics perhaps. And well, some people take horror more seriously than others.
Can any writer's prose truly scare someone, in this classical sense, in a deeply psychological and damaging sense? Does it take a weak and fragile mind to be forever affected or changed by the carefully constructed darkness of some writer's verbal passion? Think of all the bleak and damaged souls that inhabit the fictional worlds of Edgar Allen Poe or Thomas Ligotti-- does any of that really scare the fuck out of you, like maybe 'The Ring' did when Samara crawled out of the television set? Or the scene in the original 1974 'Black Christmas' (one of my personal favorites and a truly disturbing horror film classic), where Billy's frenzied murder of Margot Kidder's character, Barb, with the glass unicorn is counterpointed by the singing of the Christmas carollers? A wonderfully twisted arrangement of disparate moods, lighting, sound. These are the types of blendings that produce geniune scares and not the stupid gimmicks of cats jumping out of closets in a lot of less worthy Horror films. The thrill ride scares. Hey, fun's important in life, but.. You can view this scene in the youtube clip down below; it happens about midway through the longish clip. This is surely at the top of any murder scene afficionado's list. (Ah, a future blog post perhaps: Top Ten Murder Scenes in Film.)
Can your own imagination while reading work the same magic of a movie special effect? Or are other factors involved. Kind of a time-release capsule of fear working more slowly on the brain, but eventually lasting longer. Words have a power to do damage, to cut a psychological wound, weave a tornado path of destruction, perhaps more profoundly than any movie. Surely.
These questions and more I will be exploring in future blog posts on this subject. I'll blather some more on Hollywood horror gimmicks and how they manipulate your fear and shock, and try to distill out the more original and genuine film effects versus these cliched ones. And I will also try to pinpoint how exactly a writer can instill fear. How he must cultivate a sinister atmosphere, or bring out the shadowy, monstrous side of a character, in a very careful manner similar to the craft of tree shaping. The horror writer as brainsick gardener. Yes, good metaphor. Nod to 'Rappaccini's Daughter'.. Maybe it takes a damaged writer himself to really induce fear in a reader. But the fear comes from outside too. Maybe the reader needs to be more sensitive to these stimuli. Is fear as entertainment all a grand experiment in classical conditioning? Or can there be something more lasting and darker here. A more or less unintentional effect, or sickness, created out of a pure obsession with horror. What are we after exactly? Let's try to pinpoint it together, and have some common ground. Let's feel all this shit and succubate together, shall we? Why suffer alone. Am I beginning to 'creep' you out yet?
The main thrust is this: does a book have a greater potential to instill a lasting more 'satisfying' fear? A movie has the advantage of immediately attacking your senses, but words can perhaps dig deeper, be infinitely more subtle and malignant in their ability to create cancerous menace. This is the question I will try to answer for myself. And also, why I am so attracted to all this darkness, all this violence, destruction, mayhem, supernatural wonderment, evil, failure and melancholy... I cannot get horror out of my mind, and most times, I like it there. Does it make me a bad person? What do I get for all my trouble?
Anyway-- this is just a basic framework for now of what I want in the future to explore more deeply, and with better precision.
Also, I want to thank again all the other bloggers participating here. I truly appreciate your involvement and really think this could turn out to be an interesting and varied collection of blog posts. I hope we attract a good audience and get some good comments going as well.