Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I think that horror, true, frightening horror, is hard to find these days, whether it be in movies, television or books. There are things that gross me out (the movie genre known as "violence porn"), but they don't truly frighten me. As I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, there is a certain movie--which I shall not name lest one of you gets it in your head to go watch it--that makes me want to stick a hot poker through my eye and scramblefy my own brain just to get the images out of my head. But it doesn't actually scare me.

I don't know why people today must watch such things to be scared or if, like me, they're just disgusted to the point of horror. I find real horror is slow, deep, quiet, subtle. It doesn't jump out at the screen at you and splatter you with guts. Instead, it's all around you, creeping in the shadows, occasionally swatting you to remind you you are being hunted.

Perhaps today, people don't have the patience for slow building horror. It wouldn't surprise me in this age of instant internet access that people don't enjoy puzzling through House of Leaves or reading the heavy language of Lovecraft. In those types of work, the horror is usually not overt. I mean, what's so scary about a house that breaks the rules of reality? There are no ghosts or serial killers. It's just a weird house written about by weird men. Who cares that it contains materials that are older than our solar system?

Sigh. Horror, where art thou?

What are your favorite scary stories? And what do you think is "scary"? I'm curious to know.


  1. I don't really do scary. Lord of the Rings is about as scary as I will go. Isn't that sad?

    When I worked at a children's home, one of the boys brought home the old Salem's Lot one day-- they couldn't watch the newer version because of the R rating, so I think they thought they were getting away with something. I let them watch it and they all slept with the lights on that night. Result = quite afternoon AND night! :)

  2. I don't read much horror, and I rarely watch it. But I agree with you that the slow building of creepiness & suspense is much more effective than outright violence and gore. I'm thinking of "Signs" and "The Village". Both were much scarier *before* you saw the creatures.

    That said, one of the members of my crit group writes horror, so I do get to read it occasionally.


  3. Another thought-provoking post!

    Of course the original 'Psycho' is very scary. But again it is not particularly gruesome (well apart from the shower scene). There is simply much more going on in your head making you think it is scarier than it is. Also, the score adds brilliantly to that film and raises tension.

    I also really enjoyed 'Orphanage' a recent Spanish-language horror film. It had one of those moments when the whole of the cinema jumped out of their collective seats....and it came at a moment when you imagined that nothing could scare you. Brilliant!

  4. I don't read much horror. But I certainly find scenes to be horrific. In The Ginseng Hunter, the Great Leader demands everyone go out in the fields and bang pots and pans to scare the sparrows away from eating seeds in the field and keep banging until all the sparrows drop dead-their hearts give out because they have no where to land. Next year, no sparrows, nothing to eat the locusts and there's a great famine anyway. Scary--all around.

  5. Su: I wonder how quiet they'd be if they'd seen the R version.

    Debbie: Agreed. The not knowing is much scarier, maybe because what we imagine is worse.

    David: Great examples! I saw The Orphanage and remember a lot of the jumps. It was a very tense movie--I think Psycho was too, actually.

    Gale: That does sound like a terrifying scene. Good point that a book doesn't have to be labeled "horror" to have scary moments.


Please validate me.