Sunday, September 28, 2008

"So, Why Are You Into This Stuff?"

Try telling someone you're seriously into horror. Nine times out of ten, they look at you like you just confessed to drowning kittens for laughs.

I was a kid with an intensely overactive imagination. Most of the time it was a blessing. I had the space and the solitude necessary to create whole worlds and I had a lot of fun living in them. The down side, unfortunately, is that it never takes too much to scare the living shit out of me. If a friend told me that they were hanging up plastic skeletons in the house for Halloween I'd conjure up ghoulish images of bloody cadavers, their empty eye sockets beckoning to me. If I read a particularly effective ghost story I'd stay up half the night, covers pulled over my head, needing to pee but not daring to leave my bed because I knew the dead girl was standing in the corner in her bloody dress, staring at me, waiting.

So, why keep coming back to stuff that damages me? The best answer that I can give is that because I'm easily affected by horror it carries a strong attraction/repulsion for me. The stuff gets me like nothing else does and that's fascinating. I will be there on a horror movie's opening night and I will watch parts of it between interlaced fingers and I will keep looking over my shoulder on the way to my car.

Years of submersion in the horror genre have toughened my skin. Most of the stuff out there is created by fellow enthusiasts and admiration breeds repetition, so there isn't much I haven't seen already. But I am still imaginative, still easily affected by something cleverly designed to get under my skin and root around in me.

Image From

If you'll allow me to all Subtext 101 on you here, part of the appeal of horror for me is that, more than any other form of art or entertainment, it taps most directly into the existentialist dread of existence. I got most strongly into the horror genre during the most unstable time of my upbringing and the one thing that every horror movie, every horror novel, every scary artwork I ever ingested all secretly said the same thing: it's not going to be okay.

You do not have power. You do not have control. We are at the whim of a world that not only doesn't care about us, but is also actively seeking our destruction. Even if you make it through, even if you can eke out some small niche for yourself, the only thing waiting for you at the end of the game is death and darkness and nonexistence. For an awkward and frequently unhappy kid, horror fiction was the only thing that spoke to me in ways I could relate to.

I wanted to BE the monsters. Monsters had continuity. Monsters lived on in story after story. Monsters were the tormentors and the nightmares and the things to be feared. There is a lot of power in monster imagery, and that's what I wanted to draw strength from.

I went through my stereotypical scary-adolescent phase, doing my level best to freak people out so I could dictate the terms of my social interactions and not have them dictated for me. The wise weirdos among us grow out of that phase eventually, cut our hair, ditch the trench coats, and learn not to mumble when we talk, but I can't say that surly teenager isn't completely exorcised from me.


Brian said...

Joe, very nice post. It takes a lot to tell folks about your inner thoughts, but you do it very well.

Creature said...

Thank you. I do what I can.