This post has been a long time in the making and is from a guest to my blog, Todd Crawford, a good buddy of mine. I must apologize to everyone as it seems that my blog kicked me out for a few weeks and is JUST now letting me back in to post.
With that being said, ENJOY! :)
A Diagnosis of the Common Horror story
Dr. Todd Crawford (P.H.D. in B-Grade Horror Movies)
Fear is perhaps the most intimate provocation of the human mind, as well as the most carnal. There are many events which it is much easier to flee from than it otherwise would be to stand one’s ground, but what is fear? Although it is diagnosed by many to be the symptoms of illness, could it be a good omen of health? Or is it both painful and necessary, like a rite of passage through the Qabalah of one’s own mind and spirit? In this analysis, we shall put fear itself on trial, and dissect it the very way some of us have been dissected and torn apart by our trepidations, as well as regarding just how cathartic the passage (veiled by the trees looming and folding overhead with branches twined, may I add) of living through a Horror film may be for the viewers themselves.
Let us begin where fright originates, in that den of blankets which a child hides shivering. Yes, it is not outside in the darkness from which the intangible, perhaps androgynous hands of the unknown reach out, but the heart of the child itself reaching out to fulfill the exterior world. We are all familiar with this tent where a child awaits the passing of the terrors in its bed, a make-shift womb forged in the desperation of anxiety. One may view the mind as a constantly evolving organism which adapts constantly to its surroundings, and it is within this cocoon that the restless mind is lulled to hibernate until the following morning, whence it may rise unperturbed by the previous night’s woes and continue to evolve throughout the progression of the young day. In order to effectually frighten the audience, one must tuck them into this position they once held as a child, and it is the horror writer’s job to convince the audience that they are viewing the fictional world through the eyes of a child no different than a writer of fantasy must do so in order to enchant. It is likely that all basic genres stem from these young emotions, from the exploits of comedic mishaps to the tales of romance ripe enough to wet the lips of any young girl dreaming of her very own Prince Charming (let’s hope that it is coming in the form of Ryan Gosling rather than that pesky Matthew Mcconaughey). To frighten is to belittle, and in effect give the illusion that oneself is larger than life, and that is exactly how fright icons such as the malicious Freddy Krueger, or the cold, indisputable masks of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers rose to the top of the pop world in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Another prime example of this is a personal favourite of mine, Dario Argento’s classic, Suspiria. Without venturing away from our thesis by futilely attempting to sum up its eclectic, surreal plot, the script was written with children in mind to star as the film’s protagonists. However, the picture studio was not overly fond of the idea of showing the morbid deaths of children in a film, for some reason, so the script was quickly doctored to accommodate its wishes. There are subtle hints in the film, though, that would suggest the characters are more childish than meets the eye, such as the knob of a door being as high as lead actress Jessica Harper’s head, and the immature fashion which they converse in getting changed. (“S is for ssssssnake!!”) Every successful piece of Art (of any nature, might I add) accomplishes the reaction which it wishes from the audience by tapping into their early most fascinations (think Jurassic Park, for instance, and how it relates to just about every young boy’s obsession with dinosaurs).
Now, what does the audience get from this? Why would anyone actually enjoy being folded up into a vulnerable position and then diminished emotionally by the masterminds behind a scary tale? Well, it’s simple (and surprisingly enough, not all-too masochistic): every child is attracted to what they are afraid of. (Okay, I lied; it is.) If you tell a child not to place its hand upon the stove, for it is hot, of course it will do so the second its parent’s back is turned! That’s just a child’s nature. Likewise, they are drawn to this foreign allure known as fear. Just as one yearns to believe in gods, they are equally seduced (or should I say “molested”) by the prospect of devils. It is with this fascination which many of us pick up a novel by Stephen King, or go to the drive-in theater to see the latest… (well, what successful Horror franchises are left? Paranormal Activity? That’s it, really? …No, I’m not going to refer to that of all films in my guest-blog post! That film sucked! Only the most idiotic, juvenile consumerists would be tempted by its false promises and shoddy production values posing as “found footage,” let alone the fact that there happen to be three going-on four sets of this “found footage.” I’m above that, Rhiannon is above that, and I like to think that we both write for an audience above that. The topic of my next guest blog post: “Why America Needs A New Horror Icon.”) err…addition to a successful series of Horror films, or whatever the kids are watching these days.
Another very valid reason that we keep coming back to the theater is in the hope of living out a fear of our own without putting ourselves in danger. Many people are afraid of tight spaces, so does that mean they’re going to go venture out into a cave and get themselves stuck in order to overcome this fear? Heck, no! They’re going to put a copy of Neil Marshal’s The Descent in and empathize with the characters on-screen from the safety of their couch with a bowl of ice-cream on their lap. Many successful films stem from very relatable subject matter. Think of it this way: If Average Joe cannot fathom anything else but the events in Average Joe’s life, then he is far less likely to go see a film about Bob The Billionaire and things which all of the Bobs in the world may relate to than he is to go see a film about Average Joe and the inconveniences of a day in the life of Average Joe. Fear is something which everyone can relate to, and there is a potential audience member for a Horror film or novel within us all, from Average Joe to Bob The Billionaire. Specifically, one feels more alive when they are afraid, as if the threat of having one’s life taken away verifies its importance.
It is not only this fear that draws the audience in, but the surmounting of it. Coming from personal experience, I’m terrified of snakes. If I was to go out into the woods, however, and upon finding a snake punch it in the face before grabbing it by both ends and snapping it in half like a Twizzler rope being tugged too hard as it is being fought over by two overweight children, I probably wouldn’t be so afraid of them. In the comeuppance of Jason Voorhees, or Roy Scheider blowing the shark up at the end of Jaws is similarly a moment of monumental success for the audience as well as the characters within the film. The audience, in watching the film and seeing it to the end has overcome the anxiety which the Big Bad Scary Movie has posed over them. Although, not all moviegoers are so successful.
One woman actually sued the studio behind William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, claiming that the fear it invoked from her caused her to have a miscarriage! Just like climbing on board a roller coaster to come out on the upper hand of one’s fear of heights, many flock to see Horror pictures. Just keep in mind that if you happen to puke during the ride, you were fully aware of the potential consequences!