Monday, April 29, 2013
12:13 AM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
We all know that conflict is what makes a story interesting; without conflict, books and movies would be no more captivating than our everyday lives... who cares about a story where everyone gets along and everything is just business as usual? I'm bored just thinking about it. Conflict—whether it is implied or explicitly stated—is what drives a story and gives it a beginning, middle, and end. We all know that, and I'm not going to ramble on about why conflict is important. In fiction and reality alike, the physical manifestation of conflict is violence. Actions speak louder than words. If we had never developed audio technology to accompany motion pictures, the natural progression for silent films would have been increased violence because violence is enthralling by nature. Throughout human history, we know for a fact that spectators have stood by to cheer on public executions (guillotines, gallows, crucifixions) as well as fights to the death. I'll spare you the complete lesson, but human history up this point has been bloody to say the least.
|What could go wrong?|
Gore and violence—which are most everyone's greatest fears, really—are part of what makes a horror film a moving and emotional experience.
When we pair this last thought with the observation that seeing (or even talking about) blood and guts is an inherent fear that all human beings share, it becomes easier to understand the role of gore in horror. If violence is representative of conflict, gore represents the aftermath; it adds drama/ tension and often helps to carry the story. If we broadly define the horror genre as, "an exaggeration of conflict intended to produce tension," it makes sense why horror stories go to such extremes to trigger emotional reactions in the audience.
Some people say that gore is not art. Gore alone may not be an art form, it's the context and execution that makes gore in horror artistic (even with context aside, there are no shortage of movies and books which feature gory scenes that many do, in fact, consider to be of artistic value). In his essay entitled "The Attractions of Violent Entertainment," Jeffrey Goldstein of University of Utrecht writes:
Both the context of violent images themselves and the circumstances in which they are experienced play a crucial role in their appeal... Bloody images lose their appeal when there are few cues to their unreality. If the violent imagery does not itself reveal its unreality, the physical environment may do so. We are aware of holding a book, of sitting in a movie theater or a sports stadium, of manipulating a joystick or remote control. Without background music, awareness of the camera, exaggerated special effects, or film editing, images of violence are unattractive to both males and females...
To once again re-hash the previous lesson on "The Appeal of Horror," the fictional, controlled environment is what makes horror enjoyable. Some people insist that gore is uncreative, but that's a topic to be addressed another day.
So I'm a cat person; I have two cats, and I know that they will always be bloodthirsty animals no matter how much I "domesticate" them. They love raw meat. They love pretending to hunt and kill mice. They have loud, epic fights every day just because they're bored. If I were to drop dead in my home, I know those cute little bastards aren't going to wait very long before they start eating me. Every day I think about how ludicrous it is to willingly share the same apartment with carnivorous beasts... I know better than that!
As a society, we are not terribly different from cats. Several thousand years ago, early humans had to hunt for their food daily, and now we've reached the point where we've established infrastructure and basically domesticated ourselves. We work in offices, we buy packaged foods at grocery stores using coupons and credit cards, we use indoor toilets that relocate our excrement to who-knows-where, we watch one of a hundred TV shows about singing and call in to vote for our favorite each week... yet we still have traces of that killer instinct from 10,000 years ago, and we need nondestructive ways to release it. One minute my cats might look fat and bored, but when I give them a toy mouse, they eviscerate it and stare at me like, "who's next?" For humans, horror movies are the equivalent to the toy mouse.
My best guess is that the idea of being bound & tortured is another one of those universal fears we've picked up from years of watching spy movies and news broadcasts, therefore it is a fear that horror fans would like to face in a controlled, fictional environment. When a character in any other sort of horror film struggles for their life—like a victim in a slasher movie, for example—the audience tends to told its breath until they are given the cue that the character is dead. Once an audience member knows that the victim is dead, they resume their breathing as they become filled with a sense of hopelessness. In movies like, "Scream," where characters run from the villain for a few minutes before he wrestles them down and kills them, those fighting scenes which cause moviegoers to hold their breaths are rarely longer than 30 seconds. Alternatively, when the lights come up on a defenseless victim tied to a chair, the audience has no clue whether the scene will last a few seconds or several minutes, and that thought alone induces anxiety. From a strictly theatrical standpoint, depictions of torture are incredibly unnerving to watch because they force the audience to "hold their breath" longer, simultaneously playing off their fears of bodily harm, suffering, and the unknown. As for the people who enjoy watching torture scenes in horror films, I would say the appeal is a combination of that primal bloodlust that our species still hasn't let go of, and a sincere appreciation for special effects & makeup. Admittedly, I do enjoy a good torture scene, but even still, I almost always cringe in repulsion.
Simply put, torture is an extremely effective device to use in horror because it elicits a profound negative response (which, of course, is the point); some horror fans like the concept because torture scenes are a unique combination of action and suspense which raise the audience's level of terror.
Labels: appeal, blood, books, conflict, critical, essay, gore, history, horror, hostel, lecture, literature, movies, saw, slasher, splatter, torture, torture porn, violence | 0 comments
Monday, April 1, 2013
3:49 PM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
Okay class, settle down. Take your seats.
Today we're going to be talking about an extremely touchy subject, but we are all in an educational setting— Bobby! Put your phone away! You think I can't tell you're texting?!
...Anyway, we are in an educational setting so I ask you all to approach the subject as horror academics.
At the beginning of the course, we went over the appeal of horror, and we concluded that we enjoy horror because it allows us to experience our greatest fears in a controlled, fictional environment. Under this premise, horror can [and has] include virtually anything that induces fear: monsters, spiders, death, torture, disease, darkness, isolation, children, serial killers, the devil, confinement, and so on. There is one atrocity, however, that is still debated even among fans as being acceptable in horror: rape.
Despite the deep-seated terror and fear associated with the act which make it an ideal subject for a work of horror, many people are extremely uncomfortable with rape scenes in movies, and many horror publications specifically state that they will not accept submissions which describe rape in detail. When it comes to dramas, most people are willing to accept that some stories will involve rape, but even many die-hard fans of the horror genre find it in very poor taste to include it in a film.
Why is that?
We've all seen and read about all kinds of disturbing and depraved acts in horror before, like infanticide—
BOBBY! If I see that phone one more time, it's going in my desk along with your fat little fingers!
...Where was I? Oh yeah; we've seen infanticide, necrophelia, and every kind of murder and torture imaginable, but we consider rape to be crossing the line. Arguably, it's distasteful to depict a rape when victims of the crime may be watching the film, but we've paid for and sat through movies based on actual murders a million times before... we weren't complaining, even though we knew the victim's families wouldn't appreciate the movie. That's horror! We use fictionalization to deal with dark, unsettling emotions that we sometimes have difficulty processing.
In an article titled "Beyond the Comfort Zone: Rape in Horror Films," one blogger wrote:
Many men have stated they find themselves angered by rape on screen. That is a desired effect of films that attempt to shock. So that film is then doing what it set out to do.
Most of the negative comments from women that I have come across seem to spring from a feminist viewpoint. They are pissed to see women portrayed in a weak fashion. However being the victim of rape does not make you weak. It makes you a victim. There is no shame in that.
|The Last House on the Left (1972)|
Perhaps the question is tasteful portrayal; can rape be portrayed "tastefully?" Maybe the concern is that a film containing graphic rape scenes could be viewed as "rape porn" and encourage sadistic members of the audience to go out and harm someone. Understandable theory, but if access to [regular, non-violent] pornography only reduces the rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, rape, and divorce, then it seems unlikely that a rape scene in a movie would have much more clout than an individual's own psychological factors. In Psychology Today, Michael Castleman wrote:
Why would social ills decline as porn becomes more widely available? No one knows. But the one thing porn really causes is masturbation. Internet porn keeps men at home one-handing it. As a result, they're not out in the world acting irresponsibly-or criminally.
When you keep your hands busy, you stay out of trouble; Idle hands are the devil's playground. One could theorize that if a film was, in fact, created with the intent to be distributed as "rape porn," we might even see a decline in actual rape as a result.
Obviously I do not endorse rape (I really shouldn't even need to say that at this point in the lecture), I don't think writers should include it in their horror movies if it doesn't add to the story, I'm just saying that it's very interesting that nearly anything is fair game within the horror genre except for one topic. As horror scholars, it's something I would like us all to contemplate.
That's all for today; class dismissed.
Bobby, for the next session I'd like you to bring a 4-page essay about why my horror lectures are a more valuable use of your time than tweeting skanks in bikini tops. That's right, I've seen your Twitter account.
Labels: appeal, books, essay, horror, lecture, literature, porn, rape, sadistic, sexual, taboo | 0 comments
Monday, March 25, 2013
3:57 AM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
A Bloodscape Original Short Story
Any job, regardless of how much you like it, leaves you drained and irritable at the end of the day. Life, under the most ideal circumstances, is stressful. Up until about three years ago, my weeknight dinners consisted of painkillers, muscle relaxers, and/or anti-anxiety pills. Even if my job wasn't a contributor to my stress, my back would still be stiff. My shoulders would still arch upward, incapable of relaxing. Since sophomore year of high school, a single desire has driven me to chew my nails down to the fingertips. When the other boys in my high school class hit puberty, their hormones drove them to hump anything that wasn't nailed down (hell, I've seen plenty of adolescent boys hump things that were nailed down too. Nothing is safe). Other kids my age were looking for warm bodies, but my thoughts were of the opposite. For whatever reason, my hormones didn't fill me with the wild sexual urges everyone else got. Must be some kind of a genetic defect. Instead, something in the deepest recesses of my body nags me to engage in an activity that society has always taught me was "wrong." It beckons to me, like a craving. Goosebumps cover every inch of my skin, and sensations of heat cause tiny droplets to bead on my forehead. Cold sweat trickles down the back of my neck. Sometimes my salivary glands go into overdrive. My heart beats with such intensity and ferocity that it feels like it's trying to break through my ribcage. Waking up in the morning, the thought is at the forefront of my mind. Throughout the day, the urge continues to badger me until I feel lightheaded.
If I sit down to build a model airplane, my mind won't be fixated on strangling my lab partner. If I fold a couple dozen cranes out of tie-dyed origami paper, I won't daydream about eviscerating my guidance counselor. Idle hands are the devil's playground.
Hobbies and other distractions helped for a while, but the urge only grew more intense over the years. In college, as many of my peers fooled around with drugs, I experimented with chemicals to either reduce the urges or drown them out completely. While the craving never really went away, marijuana helped to distract me from it. Certain strains would sedate me enough to keep me locked on my sofa at home, but occasionally there would be varieties which somewhat exacerbated the problem. Learning the differences between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica made me confident that two or three doobies a day would keep the dark thoughts at bay. Give me a bottle of medical grade Purple Kush, some Zig Zags, a couch, and a bag of Cheetos, then you may rest assured that this handsome fellow will not be out cruising for a victim tonight. When my college internship at Steele Financial segued into a full-time accounting position, the pressures of maintaining my composure in a professional work setting began to stir the dormant beast inside of me. With the help of some college buddies who were pharmacists (of sorts), mood-management solutions in the form of Oxycontin and Xanax became a part of my nightly ritual. On more than one occasion, my friends and I took the two-hour drive to the Mexican border and walked into Tijuana to stock up on pastillas from la farmacias. It’s fantastic; you just walk into one of the many pharmacies, ask for la Xanax or la Oxycontin, then hand over 20 American dollars and collect your prize. After each enjoying three of the best tacos you will ever eat for $1 and knocking back a bucket of Coronas, we walk back into the States with our pockets full of Mexican pharmaceuticals.
“Do you have anything to declare?”
“Nope.” And they believe it. Young people come to Tijuana to drink, not to shop.
Three years back, I was promoted to manager at Steele. Being a respected financial institution, the promotion was contingent on a drug test, so I had no choice but to stop smoking and popping pills. For weeks, I sat at my workstation and awaited the day my boss would set a plastic cup on my desk for me to take a piss in. Maybe a white armored truck would pull up in front of the building, and a fleet of armed nurses in gas masks would run in and handcuff my hands behind my back as I try to squeeze out a drop of urine. After the promotion, another two months passed without any mention of a drug screening. Had they forgotten? Was the drug test policy something I made up in my head? It wasn't clear whether or not it was safe to continue using, so I made the decision to stay clean. An occasional beer or scotch is OK to take the edge off, but no more weed or chemicals for me.
The urges returned, and going out for a jog wasn't doing anything to quell the cravings. Headaches were more painful than ever; my brain was an expanding balloon pressing against the walls of my skull. Clinical strength antiperspirants did absolutely nothing to prevent my underarms from gushing water like broken pipes. On top of my everyday stresses— and now, drug withdrawal— the hidden infatuation resonated deep within me and frayed my spine like a rope that was bearing too much weight. The sensations kept me debilitated, in an ongoing state of pain. Racing thoughts led to sleepless nights; my dry, bloodshot eyes could barely focus on anything the next day. Skin on my back and shoulders felt more rigid and leathery than ever. Enough was enough: ten years after it first began, I decided to give in to the urge. Only one time.
One Wednesday evening, after about a week of planning and purchasing supplies, I was ready to carry out my secret desire for the first time. The target needed to be a stranger so that police couldn't connect me to the crime (the majority of murders, as you know, are carried out by someone that the victim knows personally). In preparation, I packed a backpack containing:
- A pair of black leather gloves
- A black hooded sweatshirt
- A ski mask from the sporting goods store down the street
- A pair of nylon stockings
- A fistful of zip ties that I stole from the IT department
- A ball gag, from a sleazy sex shop
- A Taser gun I took from my uncle's house
- My favorite kitchen knife (as seen on TV)
A drunk leaving a bar at last call sounded liked an easy target, so the venue was some shithole dive off the 101 with a dimly-lit parking lot. Place was called Los Palla-something. The grungy sign above the door looked as if it had never been washed, and the same could certainly be said about the metal front door which felt greasy to the touch. This particular bar seemed well-suited to my purposes because it wasn’t crowded, but it wasn’t slow enough for me to stand out in. Upon scouting this place out sometime the week before, I identified two scrubby-looking men in trucker hats who sat at the bar until they couldn't walk straight. Judging by their familiarity with the bartender (who knew them both by name) the assumption was made that these gentlemen must be the regulars.
I went inside and ordered a beer, just to make sure that the regulars were there drinking at the bar. They were. Both were clearly drunk, but not quite belligerent yet. With plenty of time to spare before last call, I left the bar to go waste some time. A Tommy Burger down the street made for a satisfying dinner. Kind of a shame though, considering all the ingredients for chili cheeseburgers were in my fridge at home. Following recipes and preparing meals for myself is much more fulfilling than going out for fast food, but sometimes you have to do what's convenient.
As last call approached, I wrapped the Taser in my ski mask and knelt behind a dumpster which one of the drunkards had parked his car next to. Waiting patiently, I held my breath as the two patrons stumbled out of the bar. The men sloppily bid each other a good night and went off in opposite directions. With the mask now concealing my face, I laid still, Taser in hand, as the target approached his rust-ridden El Camino. When he was within reach of the car door, I peeked from behind the dumpster and fired the Taser at his back. His body went rigid, collapsing forward onto his car and sliding down to the dusty asphalt. Crouching as low as possible, I put the gag in his mouth and closed the buckle to secure it to his head. I zip-tied his hands together, and then did the same to his convulsing legs while his shoes involuntarily bounced off the pavement. As I was stretching the stocking over his head, the Taser timed out. Evidently, it takes me longer than 30 seconds to tie up a high-voltage alcoholic. Fortunately, the barbs were still firmly implanted in my victim, so squeezing the trigger again sent another debilitating wave of electricity through his body. After several embarrassing attempts to carry the man, I managed to load him into the trunk of my BMW and remove the Taser bolts from the skin of his back. Suddenly a gym membership seems like a great investment.
Make no mistake, this knife is not good for ANYTHING but killing. It has a thick, flattened diamond cross section, and while it is extremely sharp, the geometry prevents it from cutting well. It's made to do one thing: stab deeply into another human being and rip them wide open. I only had to use it for its intended purpose once, but wow it sure does that well.
Four or five payment periods passed before I made plans to hunt down my next victim. I began taking "excursions" every couple of months. The routine typically went as follows:
- Rent a car
- Drive out to some podunk town in the middle of nowhere
- Pop into a dive bar to get a head count
- Order a drink, if the mood strikes me
- Exit the bar
- Position myself to disarm the last customer who leaves
- Transport the target to a secluded location and slaughter him
In order to prevent getting caught, I established some ground rules:
Rule One: Use different methods to disarm and kill each victim. Avoid repetition.If hunting were that easy, a Taser and a knife would probably be my go-to weapons. The problem is that cops are always checking for patterns among homicide victims, so it would take them longer to find me if they didn't suspect my murders are connected. The only aspects which stayed the same were the use of a stocking to keep damning evidence out of the car, and my use of a ball gag to muffle any screams for help, but those items never stay at the crime scene. If zip ties or ropes were used, I would cut them off and put them in my supply bag before leaving the scene. In adherence to my first rule, some of my victims were subjected to brutal overkill in an attempt to convince the police that those victims were slain by someone they knew personally.
Rule Two: Only kill the drunkest, most lonely patron of the seediest-looking bar in town.It was sometimes tempting to wait around and kill the bartender or hostess, but bar staff is more likely to have friends or family that would report them as missing. The goal was to go after bottomfeeders who would be presumed to be face-down in a storm drain somewhere.
Rule Three: Only drive rental cars, using a different make and model each time.Should there be any eyewitnesses to an abduction, their description of the vehicle won't be connected to me. Even if they were to take a photo of the license plate number, the only information the rental agency would have is the phony name I used (and possibly surveillance footage of me picking up the car in a fake beard sunglasses).
Rule Four: Never stay in a hotel.Hunting is not only high risk/ high reward, it's incredibly wearying and labor-intensive. It would be fantastic to crash at a motel after dumping a body, but the danger in getting a room is that checking in leaves evidence. Giving a fake name and paying in cash are options, but any witnesses who see and report the rental car would lead police right to my motel room. The best chance to leave as little evidence as possible is to drive out to a small town— which could take 2 to 4 hours each way— take care of business, then head right back home. While the sport gives me a rush in one sense, it also relaxes me to the point of feeling sleepy. In dire situations, I would stop at a convenience store to buy an energy shot, but always wear a hat to hide my face from security cameras.
I call bullshit.
Knowing that my procedure was effective, I continued the same routine until one instance suddenly changed everything. Recognizing an opportunity, the decision was made to pick up a homeless man one night instead of doing the usual bar stakeout thing. Spotting the lone vagrant wrapped in a sleeping bag behind a liquor store, I figured there was little harm in deviating slightly from my usual process to pursue a different type of easy target. Pulling over in a dark alley on the other side of the store, I approached the man with a metal baseball bat in my hands. After knocking him out and taking him to a barren desert somewhere outside of Victorville, I hacked the transient to pulp with a machete. As the 17-inch blade tore through his flesh, blood splashed my face. Warm liquid dripping down the side of my nose and cheek felt therapeutic, easing the underlying muscles the way a hot tub loosens up your tendons. I could taste the saltiness in my mouth. Engulfed in the moment, without thinking, I licked it off my lips. There was something satiating about it, and it wasn't just the briny, metallic flavor. Running my fingers down the side of the dripping steel sword, I slid my scarlet-coated digits into my mouth and massaged my tongue. The sport of homicide was already rewarding in itself, and imbibing the salty cruor of this victim was the single most profound moment of my life. The feeling was almost sexual, or spiritual (I'm guessing). No drug or life experience can compare to the sensation. It's the combination of the ultimate high, the ultimate orgasm, and godlike transcendence. I'm not the superstitious type, but the effect of drinking blood is practically supernatural; the surge of self-assuredness makes me stride like the most powerful man in the world. Confident. Focused. Full of energy. You feel unstoppable. By day, I'm no discernibly different than anyone else; by cover of night, the Earth is my private garden, and people are merely fruit to be picked. Consuming plasma has nothing to do with being young forever or restoring life force: blood is concentrated power in liquid form. The elixir of omnipotence.
This Christmas, give the gift of life:
Saturday, December 22
10am to 1pm
East Los Angeles Church of God in Christ
Sitting in a patient's chair aboard the small bus, I watched as the nurse tied a rubber tourniquet around my arm. Navy blue text embroidered on her scrubs revealed her name as "Cybill," which I only remember because she was the first Cybill I've ever met. Outside the driver's side window, a stocky female coworker hollered that she was going to take down the signs and pack up. Just as the nurse turned around with a needle in her hand, I pointed my Taser at her and asked her to sit down in the chair across from me. Keeping the weapon aimed at her chest, I removed my gloves from the bag and slipped them on. Using some zip ties, I bound her hands behind the chair. She fidgeted in discomfort as a wad of gauze inside her mouth was being taped shut, but pressing the cold iron of the Taser barbs into Nurse Cybill's neck served as an effective reminder of what would happen should she cause me any difficulties.
Barely a moment after tying the nurse to the chair, the other co-worker returned. Carelessly, she opened the door and sat down in the driver's seat, her hands and eyes preoccupied with a stack of clipboards, manila folders, and paper. Sliding the main door of the van shut, I pointed the Taser at the woman in the driver's seat and told her to drive exactly where I tell her to go unless she wants to join her coworker in the back. Seeing Cybill secured in the chair next to me, she made no attempt to defy me and simply responded, "Where to?"
Watching with my back pressed against the rear of the van, the two medical workers thrashed in their chairs as they struggled to breathe. Having strangled a victim once before, I knew it wasn't my usual preference when taking a life. This was my only chance to savor the moment, but watching them suffocate didn't give me the same satisfaction as cutting, or even bludgeoning victims. It took all of my willpower to resist draining their blood, but the risk of getting it all over my clothes in broad daylight was enough to motivate me to get the hell out of there. Executing targets would have been preferable to merely killing witnesses, but that's what the situation called for. The driver's body went limp, and Nurse Cybill's followed suit after another 40 seconds. Removing my hairpiece, contact lenses, and facial hair, I shoved them into my bag and left through the sliding door. After exiting the parking lot, my last memory was waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk so I could get to the bus stop. My mind regained consciousness as two paramedics were strapping me into a gurney and loading me into an ambulance. Unable to move my head, I overheard a woman in the background saying she called 911 after witnessing an SUV mow me down in the crosswalk. Apparently the car ran a red light.
So there you have it, officer. There's your confession. Hold that tape recorder closer to my face and I'll say it nice and clear to make your job easy: I, Jacob Dorian, hereby confess to carjacking, robbery, assault, abduction, and more instances of first-degree murder than I can count... and I'm a fucking accountant. So now what? Where do we go from here? Are you going to handcuff me to the bed? You'll be lucky to get me in court within a year, and my carcass would have already been used for research and tossed aside by then. There's no use in me lying to you because my death has already been marked on the calendar for this year. I have nothing left to lose.
Now, could I trouble you to pass me that leather bag under your chair?
© Copyright 2013 Ramsey Doudar. All Rights Reserved.
Labels: blood, calculated, dark humor, death, evil, first person, gory, horror, knives, murder, sadistic, serial killer, short story, slasher, violent | 3 comments
Friday, March 15, 2013
12:42 AM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
A friend of mine, a film buff, recently proposed an interesting question: where is horror going? Various ghost stories have been popular in the last few years, though they are not necessarily indicative of the future of the genre. To be clear, horror films always have been and will always continue to be diverse, but some sub-genres of horror gain greater popularity for periods of time. For example, slasher flicks have been generally popular between the 70s and 90s, cheesy b-horror movies were trendy in the 80s, and zombie films made a big return in the 2000s; the question is, where will horror continue from here? What is the modern man afraid of?
|If you haven't seen Twilight: don't.|
Despite our surviving the great Mayan apocalypse of 2012, my prediction is that apocalyptic themes will become more popular in years to come. With anxiety-inducing reports of global financial crises in the news each day, whispers of a severe recession-- or worse, a complete economic collapse-- seem to be new sources of fear. Continuing in the popularity of the zombie sub-genre, movies in the next 10 years may place heavier emphasis on themes of survival. Aside from the undead, some topics one could expect to see may include viral outbreaks, post-government society (state of anarchy), extraterrestrials (alien invasions, experiments, & conspiracies), and devastating natural disasters. Many will still flock to the cinema for a good fright, but future moviegoers will be attracted to the idea of seeing [generally] realistic solutions demonstrated in an entertaining way.
Labels: alien, apocalypse, appeal, conspiracy, disaster, essay, future, history, horror, movies, survival, tools, trend, vampires, virus, zombies | 2 comments
Thursday, February 7, 2013
2:06 PM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
There are many people who are unable to understand the appeal of the horror genre, in spite of the fact that horror has a substantial fan base all over the world. To clarify, I define horror as any type of story (movie, novel, song, etc) written to induce fear and discomfort in the audience for the sake of their entertainment. These critics tend to perceive horror as an excuse to portray senseless acts of violence with excessive amounts of blood and gore. Furthermore, many are of the belief that horror has no artistic or literary value, so any fan of the genre must be a sociopath who's hiding homicidal tendencies.
It's easy to see why one may feel that way, especially when many of these critics don't make it a habit to watch horror films to try and understand the appeal. On the one hand, I agree that horror can and does appeal to the darkest desires hidden deep inside of some individuals, but on the other hand, there are many fans of the horror genre, and with good reason. Horror has the potential to provide value to anyone who embraces it; it doesn't exist simply to profit off the psychopaths among us.
There are a great deal of horror films which focus on the fear that there are highly intelligent and reputable people in our own lives who are capable and willing to do terrible things (and this is one of my favorite concepts in horror), but horror films can be about any subject matter that makes the audience frightened or uneasy. Like any story, every horror story must have been inspired by a concept or idea; most horror exists to make a point, even if there is no clear or strong stance on what that point is. These stories exist to encourage us to face our greatest fears, and evolve. Like any good piece of literature, horror is meant to provoke thought.
Of course, individual fans of horror consume horror differently from one another; they differ in their personal tastes as well as the benefit they gain from reading a horror story or watching a horror film. To give an example of how tastes may differ, let's talk about porn. My understanding is that men and women consume pornography in different ways: women appreciate the sex & nudity, but what really gets them off is the storyline (who are these people and why are they boning in the back of a minivan). I can say from personal experience that men just fast-forward through all the context and dialogue to get to the sex & nudity.
I find that I watch horror films similarly to the way that women watch porn: I enjoy seeing all the gore, but what really gets me off is the story (who are these evil people and why are they terrorizing these victims).
Again, not all fans of horror share my perspective: some people like horror films just because of the scenes that make the audience jump. If many fans of horror share this sentiment-- and I theorize that many fans, in fact, do not view horror the same way I do-- then the appeal of horror could be explained much more simply: it's fun, like a roller coaster. Fear of the unexpected triggers spontaneous emotional responses. This is a valid perspective, as many people (myself included) enjoy watching action or comedy movies as a fun distraction. Nothing wrong that, but I'm of the belief that horror can and should be analyzed.
The "Saw" films are the perfect example of "torture porn," which is a sub-genre of horror. Torture porn, also referred to as "splatter," simultaneously caters to the viewer's fears and primordial desires, and therefore entices a different audience than "general" horror (think of the way people of history have gawked as fellow humans were beaten, beheaded, stoned, crucified, or burnt at the stake). The reason I bring up "Saw" and torture porn is because it's not accurate to assess the entire horror genre from just this sub-genre; that's like someone making the assumption that Black Sabbath is aggressive and heavy-handed after hearing music from two bands in the death metal sub-genre. It's like forming an opinion on the TV show "Friends" after watching a few episodes of "Joey."
To conclude, the general appeal of horror is that it encourages the audience to face their greatest fears directly, in the safety of a controlled, fictional environment. The viewer has the benefit of witnessing their greatest fear, seeing how the protagonist overcomes (or attempts to overcome) that entity/ situation/ event, and walk away thinking about how they may react under similar circumstances. Ultimately, the viewer grows as a human being when they watch a quality horror movie. Horror is meant to be an active movie-going experience, not a passive one.
Labels: appeal, black sabbath, books, critical, essay, friends, horror, jigsaw, joey, movies, porn, saw, splatter, torture, torture porn | 0 comments
Sunday, February 3, 2013
7:36 PM | Posted by Ramsey | | Edit Post
"The bad guy." On the playground at my elementary school, no kid ever wanted to play "the bad guy." If the game was cops and robbers, nobody ever volunteered to be a robber. When "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers" first came out, all the kids would want to be Rangers (sometimes settling for Alpha or Zordon), but no one would ever want to play Bulk, Skull, or Rita. There was an unspoken dread that anyone who plays the bad guy is actually a bad guy.
Horror speaks to me. It's a genre which allows [and often encourages] a story to focus on the villain/ antagonist with as much detail as desired. Whereas antagonists in action films, for example, are often one-dimensional characters, a horror film reveals enough of the antagonist's character so that the audience not only understands why the antagonist is a threat, they feel threatened themselves. Some people like to see movies because it makes them comfortable, but my kind of films are ones that cause me discomfort. That moment where you're sitting in a dark theater and panicking along with a character on screen, when all your body hair sticks up. When you feel like ice cold water is running down your back, where your only comfort in the world is knowing that it's only a movie: that's horror. That's what I live for.
Other writers in the horror genre are able to convince their colleagues that they're generally sane people who are not a danger to themselves or others, but how they manage to do that is beyond me. Rest assured, my intention is simply to tell stories; perhaps even to entertain. Horror stories, in my view, are much more than cheap attempts to shock and scare an audience with as much gore as possible; they should provoke thought. They should remove the audience from their comfort zone and stir up raw emotions of fear, anxiety, and survival. The horror genre will be further discussed in the next blog article, titled "The Appeal of Horror."
A good portion of horror stories (mainly films) end with a sense of release and closure; often a sole survivor conquering the villain. Even in horror, the "good guy" usually wins. Now here's my problem: I don't care for happy endings. Being someone who aspires to be a good writer, my aversion to happy endings could be a problem because some people will not like my stories for that reason alone. Many feel a sense of relief when a story ends on a positive note, but having everything wrap up nice and clean doesn't always do it for me. I'm still not sure why, but it could be due to any one of these reasons:
- Maybe I'm evil.
- Maybe I'm just a cynical asshole.
- Maybe I like unhappy endings and unlikable protagonists because they sort of rebel against good story structure. It's possible that I'm the only person who likes stories to end in favor of "the bad guy," or on a note of hopelessness and futility. In that case, this blog is merely a learning experience for me.
- Maybe I'm an optimist who just wants to make everyone happy. Stay with me. My stories might make some readers uncomfortable, upset, or even depressed, but when they finish reading, their real lives will seem like fairly tales by comparison.
Enjoy. You've been warned.
Labels: about, aladdin, antagonist, childhood, disney, horror, jafar, me, movies, power rangers, welcome | 0 comments