Horror Evolution

So it may seem like a rehash here but I think of it more as something which will never really be answered and if it were it would be time to change the question.


What is horror? How has horror evolved? We have already discovered the main ingredient according to the experts is intent. The intent of the work is to frighten, startle, scare, let's just call it horrify. The intent is to horrify. That's part of the horror doctors definition.

Horror has been around for who knows how long? Lets be safe and call it hundreds of years. Some might say the Bible contains some horrific content but I would be very careful in how I said that to keep from being misunderstood. My point is horror in some form has been around likely since... lets just say people have. I imagine a couple of cavemen sitting around the fire eating grilled teriyaki pterodactyl (tery-tero amongst the hip) telling a story of a deranged clown menacing the cave next door.



How has horror evolved? I often come across Edgar Allen Poe in discussions of the horrific. I remember in junior high it was punishment to hand copy The Raven. The amount of times was based on the crime. Until today I can not say I ever read it since then. Now I look back, that assistant principal may have been onto something. Punish the bad kids with horrifying classic literature. I see potential here, "Hillary you appear to be lying. Go copy this dreadful Poe poem until you crack one way or the other. Sit in front of that window so the whole school can see..."



The rhyming pattern itself is disturbing enough to me, just how he wrote so much and made it all go together so awfully well. And this is without considering the content. Pretty sure the talking bird gently tapping at my window would have been enough to completely freak me out, much less opening the window to let the damn thing in? Who would do that? You have to be kidding, and this all happened after Lenore's ghost was tapping on his doors? "I give I give, I deleted the email to hide my AshleyMadison profile! Hit me with the paddle, call my mom, kick me out of home ec... No more Poe... PLEASE! I promise I will be good."

This Poe tangent takes us back to the 1800's. Yes horror has evolved incredibly since this time but has it really? If the intent is to horrify, that old piece is still more than a little disturbing. And this is just one example. Obviously nearly everything else in the human experience has changed since the 1800's if you look at how we live, technology, even culture as a whole has changed so much. But what are the things which remain the same? Love, hate, good, evil, security and fear? Certainly their faces change with time but at the core has that which scares us really changed?  



Obviously with the advent of movies the graphic availability has spread the genre out to more visual mediums. This shift in itself has evolved in a way which deserves its own volumes of analysis. The immediacy of included graphics allowed horror to become very visceral and some would say simpler. Adding unseen before horrific images and situations to a story line was terrifying. Numerous scholarly articles have documented the evolution of horror more toward the psychological, cerebral experience and away from the slasher type horror. Viewers have experienced so much of the earlier that it appears to be taking a more in depth approach from those who intend to horrify. Sounds to me like an evolution to the past. Poe had no special effects to pull us in and repulse us with immediacy. He had to force the reader to get there on their own with their mind.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?













6 comments :

James Pailly said...

Hand copying a poem like The Raven doesn't really sound like punishment to me. That sounds like a great way to really immerse yourself in the poem. In fact, I kind of want to go try it.

Gordon A. Wilson said...

Busy work I suppose, the punishment was having to go to the principals office.

Dick Grimm said...

I attended Christian schools from 7th grade until high school graduation. One of our Bible teachers once punished the class by having everyone copy Matthew Chapter 1 five times. Great way to make kids hate the Bible, eh? The Raven would have been a big improvement over "Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac the father of Jacob. Jacob the father of Judah..." and on and on...

Gordon A. Wilson said...

That just might make it into a book. It sounds so 60-70's!

Jay Lemming said...

I think fans of horror storytelling are fortunate in the early 21st century for two reasons that you remark on. First of all the cinematic aspect of horror creates a more visceral experience for the audience than reading ever could. We SEE what someone wants us to see to scare the hell out of us, and there's nothing we can do about it other than to turn off the show or leave the theater (and what fun would that be?). Back in the day when horror was all about reading, god knows what filters our minds applied so as to avoid disturbing us. So that's one. The other is the move toward the psychological and away from the slasher, which I also appreciated your mentioning. Films like The Ring are really disturbing because they basically rip apart the "safety net" we've always had--that is, whenever we are watching something on a screen, we can always be comforted by the fact that it is ON the screen and not really happening. The Ring tore that safety net apart. Other films really do try to work against the areas of psychological safetey we've always known. Jay

Gordon A. Wilson said...

And the pendulum may be swinging the other direction back to a Poe-ish horror. Getting in the minds via a less or more direct route. Thanks for joining the discussion.