Tuesday, October 27, 2015

HALLOWEEN WEEK TREATISE ON THE SUBJECT OF HORROR

Back when I was a Professional drunk, my obnoxious term for New Years Eve was AMATEUR NIGHT. Well, maybe Halloween is HORROR AMATEUR NIGHT. Better analogy: just like everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, we're all horror fans on Halloween.

Horror for me is part nostalgia. I was raised on Godzilla movies and The Ghoul and Sir Graves Ghastly in Detroit. It is my connection to my deceased brother. Childhood memories are
intertwined around horror movies, and this continued through my adolescence.

And now, as refined adult and self-proclaimed most interesting man alive, I still love that old time horror, and also find that horror literature has a potential to have the biggest impact of any words I'll ever read. Same goes for cinema.

Unfortunately, people will say "I dont like horror."  What about movies like The Sixth Sense? Oh, that isn't horror, that has Bruce Willis.

Shaking my damn head.

Horror is considered cheap, and to label something horror runs the risk of having it dismissed as unserious art. I don't willingly shun away from the horror label (MILK-BLOOD's sub-title is "A Tale of Urban Horror") but I do think Horror is as much technique as it is genre. 

I enjoy artfully done gore such as in The Evil Dead, and straight-out creative storytelling that is fun and thrilling, but I want my horror to be an extension of the intensity of life. To illuminate the universal human experience. Candy Man is one of my favorite horror movies, and not because of it's hook-for-a-hand monster, but for its story of urban isolation and betrayal. The Exorcist is about our greatest fear of being a helpless parent: that our love isn't enough, that we don't know what we are doing, that we can't really help our child while they suffer, and the forces that have possessed our children are way beyond our reach.

I loved season one of American Horror Story. The horror back then was just a metaphor for the damaged, fractured souls of a hurt family. The past hangs around like ghosts in a basement and stops them from loving one another.  I eagerly watched the most recent season of American Horror Story, and had to turn it off after 45 minutes. Trite, tacky, cliche, with cheap scares. So maybe I'm not a horror fan. 

The Walking Dead isn't about zombies, as you all know, but about finding a moral compass in a savage world that  will eat you alive if you don't pack together. But be careful, for once you find yourself sticking to this moral center as your only guide, you'll be killed. Just ask Dale or Hershel, and now Glen. We're sad he died because we want to believe that people like him will live and thrive. (btw, the trick photography that showed Glen getting supposedly getting eaten was well done, but you are only allowed one of these fake deaths, Walking Dead). We are all infected, we are all the walking dead, and we watch the show not just for fun, but to learn about ourselves since the world it shows us isn't much different from the one we live in. 

Scariest show on TV right now for me to watch is, hands down,  The Leftovers. While not considered horror, the premise is certainly horrific: Millions of people suddenly disappear from the earth without a trace. How individuals, family, and society reacts in The Leftovers is nothing less than the intensity of life turned up. Pressure doesn't create character, it reveals it. While this premise may seem outlandish, it is actually reality. All of us will suddenly have a loved one disappear from our lives, usually unexpectedly. The horror is reality magnified, like good horror is. The result is a chilling portrayl of life in suburbia. One of isolation, fear, mistrust, questions of faith and human nature. One of the main characters is a middle-aged suburbia dad who has to fight to keep his family and his sanity and someone I can closely relate to (though i'm not nearly as hunky).

Perhaps the most popular piece of horror literature out right now is A Head Full of Ghosts ("Scared the living hell out of me" said Stephen King)  I'm 50% done and think its genius. It's not just about a demonic possession, but about the terrifying world of a 8 year old and how moments growing up can have a permanent psychological imprint on our psyche. The author has created an incredible portrayal of those secret pacts all of us had with our siblings. I know i had mine. (We're going to smoke pot in the garage, Mark, don't tell mom and dad and we'll get you a present.) There's also a masterful 'meta-ness' about the piece of work, and a statement on multi-social media. I'm only halfway done, so this is all subject to revision, but so far it's a must read. 

I don't know how much of a horror fan I am, but I know I am a fan of anything that makes me think intense thoughts and feel intense feelings. Fear is at the base of our emotions and human experiences. It's our spine. I don't write horror to scare others, I write it because I am the one that is scared. (and you know what? you are scared too, and so is the last person you talked to, and so is the next person you'll talk to) Fear is the most basic thing to overcome in order to reach the spiritual and emotional heights of being a human, so when it is done right in art, it's the best art there is. 

2 comments:

LBTEPA said...

I really like this post - it was very thought provoking to me as I am completely freaked out by gore (got out of the haunted house at Luna park and threw up) and avoid shows/movies books that are too violent. I loved the 6th sense, and the book of the Leftovers, though..... thanks for making me think :)

Charlene said...

Loved this post, Mark. Though I must disagree about Head Full of Ghosts. :)

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