It’s October! (Already? Yeesh, where did September go? Or for that matter, where did the summer go?) And you know what means!
HAVING THE PANTS SCARED OFF YOU.
I’ve always been a fan of all things dark, morbid, and goth, and I think it’s pretty fitting that my relationship anniversary is in the month of October, so my fiance and I can celebrate by going to haunted houses/corn-mazes. Huzzah, horror!
Last year I wrote about the difference between horror and terror as a storytelling device, but this year I want to focus on the “types” or horror, or the sorts of stories that scare you. While my fiance and I both like horror, the horror stories to which we are drawn are very different. When it comes to horror movies in the theatre, he goes for the slasher-type, whereas I prefer ghost stories.
Blood, guts, and gore? Or the supernatural? Both types of horror stories are certainly valid. But because I am the sort of person who likes to dissect and categorize, I’ve divided the two of us into External and Internal Horror.
Bear tends to like stories with an external danger: the serial killer on the loose, the deranged psychopath inflicting pain, etc. I call these External Horror narratives, stories in which there is a clear delineation between Good and Evil. (Cabin in the Woods skewers and plays into this sort of horror story quite well.) External Horror often has a high body count, and it is frequently gruesome. In External Horror narratives, the protagonist is the audience proxy, the point of entry for the viewer or reader into the story. Because the protagonist is the sole character you can trust, everything and everyone around him or her becomes suspect, which creates an atmosphere of fear, interspersed by spikes of terror. (The infamous “scare cut”.)
On the other hand, I prefer stories in which the danger is not quite so distinct or discrete. I like stories about possessed objects, children, or houses, parents slowly losing their minds, murderers who turn out to the be the protagonist all along, etc. I call these Internal Horror stories, where the danger may or may not be “real”. The protagonist is not the audience proxy in Internal Horror narratives, and instead of people or things around the protagonist, it’s the audience’s perception of events that can’t be trusted. Internal Horror stories tend to have less of a body count than External ones, and the scares tend to be less intense, but there is a constant level of tension that becomes nearly unbearable by the end. (The Shining is one of my favourite examples of the Internal Horror narrative.)
Of course, both Internal and External elements can exist in the same horror narrative. Rosemary’s Baby is a great example, as is American Psycho (the movie, not the book), both of which are some of my favourite horror stories.
What about you? What sort of horror stories do you like?