Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Horror?

I've just come off a busy weekend with two great events, both horror related. We don't do a lot of those, because the horror writer population seems to be smaller than, say, YA or mystery or romance or any number of other genres, all seemingly more fleshed out than that of horror writers, at least here in Colorado Springs. Perhaps my fellow horror writers are just underground? Who knows?

On Friday, we showed Cabin in the Woods, with commentary by Stephen Graham Jones. In fact, you can read his intro and outro HERE. Cabin in the Woods has become one of my favorite movies. I've watched it over and over, yet I still get that gleeful thrill when the elevators ding. I remember an MTV Movie Awards I watched one year where they gave an award out for the best tool used to scare. I don't remember the exact terminology of it, but it was things like the cat that jumps out at the guy roaming through the haunted house, or the phone that lets out a shrill ring and makes the girl scream. In my opinion, the ding of the elevators wins, hands down. The first time I heard that ding, a huge grin spread across my face. I knew something good was coming.

But why the grin? Why the thrill? Why is it that horror is something I react to in that way? I'm not the only one, so why do people want that scare? I definitely want the scare. If I don't give away a cheap jump, I'm disappointed. If I crawl into bed that night and don't have that moment where I consider leaving the lights on, I feel let down. And I think people who don't feel the same misunderstand. They think I'm not afraid of the movies or the books, when I AM. I WANT to be scared. I want to spend the rest of the night running through the possible scenarios in my head, looking behind my chair as I sit alone in the dark.

It's an escape, certainly. For me, I think that when I'm most drawn to horror is when I have something I need to get away from. The real horrors in this world aren't bogey monsters, werewolves, zombies, angry molesting trees (my favorite on "the board..." what's yours?). The real horrors are sickness, violence against others, war, death, heart ache. These horrors become too much, but a safe scare pushes them into the dusty corners for just a little while. A good horror movie makes those real horrors hide in shame, shove their faces down into shadows.

A horror movie/book scare has no real consequences. My heart pounds, my breathing quickens, and for that moment I feel alive, more alive than I was while sitting at my computer, while grocery shopping, while running errands. It makes me feel happy to be alive, happy to be living in my [mostly] safe little world.

And that's why I enjoy scaring other people so much, giving them a glimpse into the twisted maze that is my mind. I write horror, because I want others to feel the pleasure of the scare if, in fact, they like it as much as I do. Even a portion as much as I do. I want them to feel as alive and energized as I do when I've gotten a good scare. I want them to get goosebumps, feel their scalps shrink up in terror. When I write a story in the middle of the night that has me backing up against a wall with my laptop just to keep going and to kill my spine's urge to crawl up into my brain, I can hope at least one other person feels the same way when they read it.

I guess that's why horror...

What's your favorite moment in Cabin in the Woods? Your favorite monster from the movie (see the board above)? What's your favorite monster ever? Do you like to be scared? Why or why not?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Love to be scared! Love to scare others - with my words, my stories - or, at least, creep them out a bit. I prefer creepy and chilling suspense, etc more than blood and guts, although there's a place for gore, too. Just not too much. :)

  2. I agree about the elevator ding - I grinned as well! I knew all hell was about to break loose. I've always liked horror but it's so easy to get it wrong.

  3. I haven't seen it, yet, so hush!

    I don't mind the scare; I just don't like all the gore that is so common in horror. That's not scary, just gross.

    My favorite monster, at the moment, is the Man with No Eyes.

  4. The original The SHining was the best. I get so excited and laugh at the really demented parts. Jack Nicolson was great in that movie.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. I didn't realize you were a horror write! YEAH! My favorite horror writer is King.. though I personally don't think all his books are horror even though they are labeled that way.

  6. There is something about the suspense when you know something is going to happen. The smile is because you are proved right when it does.

    I never expected to write horror. If I had been asked ten years ago I would of scoffs at the thought. And then a kernel was born and the result is one of my personal hot sellers and a serial to boot.

  7. I actually wasn't a fan of The Cabin In The Woods and neither was my mom. We watched it all the way through one night when I rented it because I heard how scary it was. I just wasn't very impressed by it. The Woman In Black made me scream in the theater though and I absolutely refuse to watch The Unborn because it gave me nightmares for weeks.

  8. I had some trouble with Cabin in the Woods. I guess I didn't know what it was trying to say? I did, however, LOVE the Japanese schoolgirl sequences. Love.

    For me horror is not about escape at all. I think fear is the most salient emotion in any human circumstance, and horror aims to explore that emotion. I see it as a rehearsal for all the bad stuff that might happen to me.

    I wrote about all this a little more over here, in connection with Lucky McKee's film The Woman.

  9. Very few movies scare me or draw me into their atmosphere, but I still love Horror cinema. I revere [REC] and 28 Days Later and Rear Window and The Descent. When I reflect, it's not that they elicit much fear from me. Sometimes they get anxiety; more often, anxiety for a character, and most often, appreciation for the tension of a scene. But what really does it for me is that the masterful movies entice the weirder parts of my personality, which would never cause me to harm anyone in life, but that do enjoy some messed up material in fiction. It's a safe playground for the mind.

    If you liked Cabin in the Woods, I highly recommend seeing Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It's more focused on Slasher movies, but is an incredible piece of metafiction. Essentially a serial killer hires a camera crew to film his attempt to become the next Jason or Freddy.

  10. I'm not a huge 'horror' fan, but I really liked Cabin in the Woods.

    It stepped outside the box for the genre and took a chance....something I can appreciate as a moviegoer.

  11. I love to be scared, though I tend to regret it when I'm trying to go to bed. My favorite part of Cabin in the Woods is the end,


    When Marty and Dana share a joint and prepare for the end. So chilling.

  12. Now I MUST watch Cabin in the woods.

  13. I can't do it. Seriously.
    Ever never, I do not watch horror. And I never read horror - my imagination is too vivid.
    As a child I remember thinking, if I could only write down the nightmares and horrible, horrific actually, places my mind can go...I'd be rich! But I'll never do it. Nope.

  14. Ah Horror... As reading the article I almost started to believe that I never was much for horror. Then I remember some of my favorite movies were Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Saw... and I realized I really like a lot of horror.

    More so I like scary not necessarily gory. It seems Hollywood now believes they are the one and same.

    Saw, Silent Hill, The Ring, and (dun Dun DUN) Cabin in the Woods are among my all-time favorites. After seen Cabin in the Woods I recommended it to everyone! I knew my brothers would like it a lot.

    I just thought the movie was so masterfully crafted, and it was completely different than I expected.

    I'd have to say on the list (from what I could see) Dolls would suck. Dolls freak me the fuck out lol Even worse, though, are the twitchy ghost/dead like in Silent hill or Samara from The Ring or the crap from The Grudge. If any of those were chosen I'd be toast (as if I'd live regardless).


    My favorite part was when everything came undone/loose. Hopefully that is vague enough, but I'm sure you know which part I'm referencing.

    That, or when Hadley's dream finally comes true!

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink