With all the shooting tragedies that have occurred this past year, there’s been a lot of finger pointing going on in our culture. To a degree, that’s healthy. When something that horrible happens we should reflect on what the fuck is wrong with us. But we have to decide on a plan of action based on reason, not fear. Think equally with our hearts and minds, not just our lizard brain in a state of terrified survival mode.
And no matter whether you think the problem is guns, gun control, mental health, pharmaceutical companies, video games, bullying, bad parenting, or your aunt Hilda’s shitty cooking, there’s one thing no one can deny; and that is the need for societal catharsis.
And Horror film & literature are all just catharsis. I hate when people with political and social agendas “for our own good” jump onto a tragedy and co-opt it to further their cause. Take away catharsis and we’ll see even more tragedies. I guarantee it. This has already been proven throughout the ages. And every time something like this occurs, I get asked the same questions, by the same kind of people - people who don’t get horror. And I’m sure you do to. Questions and statements that are all different versions of “You must be sick to create/enjoy this stuff.” On the contrary, I’m quite healthy. So are all the people I know who make a living doing what I do. And that’s because we address the things that scare us and we move on. We conquer it by moving THROUGH it, rather than avoiding it and leaving it there to haunt us with its presence.
To drift into the land of metaphor for a moment, watching horror is like brushing your teeth. You have all this gunk on your teeth, and you scrub it away. Horror scrubs away all the negative and pent up shit in your brain. It cleanses by allowing you to experience terror in a safe way. A lot of people who’ve been through some horrible experiences in their life go to horror as a means of self therapy. Classic cognitive therapy, actually. You face the fear, you take control of it, and it goes away. You’re filled with a sense of victory, and then that sense becomes pleasurable, so you repeat it.
No matter how anyone tries, no one’s going to take away video games or violent movies or horror any time soon, so it’s not like we need to worry about the crazies with their agendas, but it is good to address them every once in a while, to remind them, and ourselves, why we enjoy the things we do.
A fellow horror writer and good friend of mine, Hans Rodionoff recently said something to me that I loved. He said people tell writers to write what they know, but that doesn’t mean literally. You don’t have to have real ghost experiences to write the paranormal. You don’t really have to be a spy to write spy fiction. What that means is to write from your personal place. Write from WHO you are. From your heart. Your personal stamp, whether you’re a parent, or a bachelor, an atheist, a zealot, an adventuresome soul or a fearful worrier... whatever you are personally... That is what needs to come out in the writing.
A lot of horror creators that I know (myself included) have some dark and traumatic experiences in our past. Nothing to do with supernatural creatures or occurrences, but we express our healing and catharsis through the metaphor of ghosts, gods and monsters. Fantasy to express and comment on reality.
That is how we create horror, and how it heals, rather than hurts. Because while the creators are coming from this place...
...so too is the audience.
Gaudium per atrox.