Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Manifesto... of sorts

I have a hard time understanding why “Saving Private Ryan” is a drama and “Night of the Living Dead” is a horror film. What? It’s because there are flesh-eating zombies roaming the countryside in the latter? Oh. Okay. Yeah, that’s much more shocking and gruesome than the actual carnage of World War II.  And don't get me started on that movie’s opening scene...

This disconnect between real life and what’s depicted in artistic media is one that has always intrigued me, especially when it comes to the genre of horror. For audiences, fact and fiction occupy separate statuses. But to me it is undeniable that horror exists more in our daily lives than it does in any artistic incarnation and the reality is that you don't have to be a "horror fan" to know horror.

Have you ever bitten into a wormy apple?
Do you read the newspaper, shocked by the bloodshed or injustices taking place worldwide?
If you don't hear from a loved one for a day or two, do you start to imagine the worst? 

I am always amused by those who balk at the brutality of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” while avidly following coverage of the latest school shooting; while playing video games in which the near-universal objective is to “kill” the enemy (and not just games like “Call of Duty;” even Two Dots necessitates that you annihilate those darned circles); while rubbernecking at the sight of a car wreck or road kill; even while deciding on how best to eliminate their rodent infestation (anyone who has had to clear a mousetrap knows what I’m talking about here).

Okay, the everyday scenarios do not assault our delicate eyes with buckets worth of bloodshed. But that which scares us is not defined by the amount of blood spilled. My boyfriend is quite afraid of public speaking; whether it’s an angry mob of murderous mummies or a room full of guests at a kitten convention, the mere idea of addressing anything en masse is enough to give him heart palpitations. I am a severe claustrophobic; extreme terror for me lies in elevators, storage closets, and getting my jacket zipper stuck.

I am even more frightened of human nature at its worst. And regretting. And of myself, at times.

Which I think is at the heart of the issue.

Almost six years ago when I first started IckAckEek, I set out to embrace all elements of horror; in so doing, I found myself at odds with a formidable foe – the stigma attached to those elements. Today, much has changed. Before, the word “horror” itself was enough to make most shy away from whatever it was being used to describe. Now we see spooky spectacles surfacing in every form of media, from vampires hawking automobiles to zombie self-help literature.

What hasn’t changed, however, is a misunderstanding of what horror is exactly. Best case scenario, it is something that elicits a "shuddering fear", this experience being desired by fans of the genre. Worst case scenario, it is a brain-child of depraved and emotionless beings, or simply put, anything opposite of feeling good.

While there are certainly arguments one can make in support of both positions, I feel that the truth lies somewhere in between. Rather, the genre seeks to spotlight the actual horrors of this world and to showcase how man’s worst fears materialize in daily life. I think that horror can be a positive thing, even elevating these moments to ones of beauty. Horror can be seen as showcasing the atrocities of man… perhaps exaggerating them to a degree that inspires opposite behavior through shock and disgust and fear. Or perhaps it establishes a self-awareness that allows one to keep the darker side of oneself in check. There is also the argument that it provides catharsis for our innate violent tendencies. I’m not sure where I stand on that one; however, it’s an interesting idea.

At any rate, I return to this blog resolute and with my mission revised - to shed light on this misunderstood genre and to finally reveal the answer to the question, "What is horror?"

Through event calendars, film reviews, discussions, anecdotes, recipes, and a crapload of other posts, I will show that horror is not just a genre of film or literature or artistic expression - horror surrounds us, and infiltrates every aspect of our lives. I aim to explore the many masks of the macabre... and to show that there's a little bit of horror in everything and everyone.