All good horror is comprised of at least one of the following: Dread, Disgust, Death. Sometimes all three are used in a single effort, while other times only one is needed.
Despite all the hate The Blair Witch Project receives within the horror community, the film does have its fans. And, while the film doesn’t show any on-screen deaths or disgusting scenes, the sense of dread is palpable. Dread is also subjective, and can be easily ruined if the viewer isn’t in the right frame of mind. If you went into The Blair Witch Project expecting a thrill ride, you were more than likely disappointed. The film creeps up on you, and even though we can assume no one survived, none of the film’s characters die during the movie’s run time. Their fates are all in our heads.
Disgust is a feeling of revulsion toward things viewed or implied. Torture-Porn films like Saw and Hostel bet all their chips that you’ll find someone taking a blow torch to the face horrifying. But, just like The Blair Witch Project, these films have their detractors. Some horror fans do not believe gore makes a good scary movie. Other horror fans prefer their films bloodier than Carrie at the prom. These fans don’t care whether or not the characters die, only that the cast is maimed and tortured and left swimming in a pool of their own bodily fluids.
Finally, we have those films where the main draw is death, namely slasher films. No one goes to a Friday the 13th movie expecting the cast to survive. Fans of slasher films want the most original death scenes the writers can concoct. Beat a teenager cocooned in a sleeping bag against a tree and you have a happy audience. Shove an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s neck to a sea of applause. Slice a cleaver into the face of a man confined to a wheelchair and you’re welcomed by a cacophony of cheers. These films aren’t shooting for classy cinema. They know their audience, and they bow to the fan’s wishes. Fun times are had by all.
I think the best horror fiction (no matter the media type) uses every one of the three Ds. Check your favorite movies and books and see if you don’t find a perfect balance of dread, disgust, and death. Even if you don’t find all three, you’ll find one or two done exceptionally well. My personal favorite? Dread. It’s also the hardest one to master of the three, and this is because you’re relying on the mindset of the viewer/reader to be susceptible to what you’re selling. The creator can only hope for someone who expects to be creeped out, and then the game is that much easier to win. Even roller-coasters suck if you’re not in the mood, and they’re especially terrible for those that don’t enjoy them at all.
If you like my point of view on the horror genre, why not give one of my books a go? If you’re a fan of slasher films, I suggest my serial novel, CRUELTY.
Thanks for reading,