|Posted on January 28, 2019 at 6:45 PM|
What makes horror great? Well before we get into that let's go over what is essential but not always necessary when it comes to horror. A scare factor, suspense, fear, blood, guts, evil, darkness, and death. These are just a few of the many words and feelings that attribute to horror but they are the basic ones that are usually seen. However, two three of these tend to always be the focus when they don't need to be. When making horror whether it's a novel, video or film the first three things people naturally go to right away and make sure they add are blood, guts, and death. Blood is usually added because it demonstrates a part of us that is usually the first thing to go when it comes to horror. This is in most cases followed by guts as a story being told goes past simple blood loss and guts are shown. Finally, after the two meet and are withering a person away death is the end result. Does a story truly need these three things to be great horror? The answer may surprise you but it's no, no they do not.
A great horror story or film can still be epic and amazing without all the theatrical elements that make it stand out. For example, an intense paranormal movie with extreme haunts from spirits, ghosts, and demonic presences does not use blood and guts because the sheer fact that they are not among the living is enough to invoke fear and scare a person. Psychological horror doesn't need blood, guts or death but relies on the deterioration of the mind by invoking fear and using whatever means of horror that are necessary to scare a person. Horror can be many things and relies on several different elements to make it what it is. When we read a horror novel or watch a horror movie we see the variables that make it up to be horror but sometimes it's the things we don't see or consider that truly make it a horror. A simple spine chilling look from a character, the focusing on a shadow or the cold sensation from a lingering ghost can make for some great and creepy horror.
It's not always about body counts. You know where I'm going with this. Perhaps not so much in novels although I'm sure there are some, horror movies solely rely on body count to really show that it's horror. Sorry, Jason, Freddy, Chucky, and Michael Myers but how you're used is a cliche in horror and while it is horror and it is gruesome it's not always necessary to truly make horror stand out. How many books or movies have you read or watched only to realize that either a bunch of people are going to die and the main evil presence sole focus is on killing people and lots of them at that? Chances are more than you thought and this is okay but in my opinion, we need to try to stay away from this and get into more factors of what makes horror great.
In my upcoming novel, The Wax Factory, I have a group of college students who visit an old factory as part of a project( I know this may sound cliche but just stay with me here). Along the way, they encounter some strange things and paranormal events that change the landscape and test their will power for survival. I'm not spoiling anything for you here but people die, also what I can tell you is that not everybody dies and there's not a huge body count. Why? Well Aside from not wanting to be cliche I didn't want this to be a focus in my novel. Death is just a basic anomaly, a natural part of life in this novel. Sure, how some perish could be considered extreme but the fact that I don't have a body dropping in every chapter means I want you to appreciate all the things that make the novel horror and not just the blood, guts and body counts.
Is horror too cliche for its own good? Not at all, but like all things and other genres it needs to be itself and branch out and expand. Do you want every horror novel to be on the sole point of everybody dies, it's about the kills and there's a huge mess afterward? Do you want every fantasy to be about wizards, dragons, and magic? Do you want every romance novel to have a hunky guy or love triangle? No, these are considered cliches and basic tropes to these genres but they do not define the genre just like how horror does not need gore and death to make it stand out. The next time you pick up a horror book or movie or see something horror ask yourself the following, will I stop reading or watching if it's solely one element? Or will I read and watch intently and look for the other essentials? Will my experience be better knowing that horror does not have to be about guts and the glamour of killing?
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