Classic films aside, if you’re in the mood today for dissecting the nature of horror in fiction and film, you could do worse than look at this massive article in The Psychologist journal:
Psychology can help explain why horror takes the persistent form that it does, but that still leaves the question of why we should want to scare ourselves through fiction in the first place. One suggestion is that, like play, it allows us to rehearse possible threatening scenarios from a position of relative safety. ‘Movie monsters provide us with the opportunity to see and learn strategies of coping with real-life monsters should we run into them, despite all probabilities to the contrary,’ says Fischoff. ‘A sort of covert rehearsal for… who knows what.’ Despite its fantastical elements, Clasen explains that successful horror fiction is usually realistic in its portrayals of human psychology and relationships. ‘That’s where horror matters,’ Clasen says; ‘that’s where horror can teach us something truly valuable.’
Read the rest of ‘The Lure of Horror’. It’s fascinating stuff for any writers out there, horror or otherwise.
I’ve never been a huge fan of writing horror fiction, to be honest, though there is an immense amount of pleasure to be found in creating the odd creepy segment. For the most part, my fascinations have been to make weird, perhaps horrific or otherwise unsettling things, seem quotidian, which is maybe why I enjoyed films such as Ghostbusters.
See, I’ve enjoyed two schools of horror in literary form.
The first is the Stephen King route, where you’re being so nonchalant to the violence that you can write it as it is. King doesn’t skip on the details, and that’s why he’s effective, because it’s so well described that you *can* imagine it.
The second is the Lovecraft route, which is where what you’re describing is so terrifying and monstrous that it just can’t be written down or imagined. Your brain tries to work it out, but it can’t, and that’s what scares you.
That second point is interesting. I’ve not really experienced that myself, but I know what you mean.