Something happens to our fear as we age. The acute terror of the monster in the dark becomes the dull, cold dread of reality. The heart-pounding terror of a demonic presence felt in your room fades with time, traded for late-night anxieties about job stability, bank overdrafts and the body's slow decay into old age.
So you're saying being old isn't cool? You're actually going to hate on senior citizens right now?
Our childhood fears of the supernatural never become real, so at some point we begin to fear reality. Somewhere along the line, I think we begin to miss that sharp fear, that simple black and white “Is it going to get me?” feeling. If you ask around, it seems that most people would actually prefer a zombie attack to cancer. Even something survivable, like knee cancer.
Nobody wants knee cancer.
So, often we turn to movies, books, games, looking for that old scare. We want to find that hovering demonic presence, the witch outside our window, the ghost in the hallway. Sometimes we even get lucky (and then maybe we regret it, laying in bed at night, afraid of what might come crawling out of the TV). In a horror story, we might find that thread that reaches the scared child inside of us.
What thread is that?
I think at the core of these things scary, there's a thread of our primal fears. If you could take fears like aging, loss of money, the car breaking down, and you distilled those fears down, I believe you would have to come back to the original fears. Fear of death, of being hunted, of the unknown.
That's logical, but where are you going with this?
Well, I was thinking about horror and about the evolving art form it is. There's a common thread that runs through every sub-genre of horror. Take something like Frankenstein. You can follow it from the 1931 film all the way through something like Re-Animator. Along the way, you'll find it winding its way through the works of Lovecraft and going on to inspire someone like Rob Zombie.
Before the movie is the novel, though.
Of course, and coming before that are the things that inspired Mary Shelley to write that tale on a stormy night in the early 1800s: Her own nightmares, scientific discoveries of the time and a collection of Germanic ghost stories.
The horror genre is like a bundle of roots buried in the past, which have spread out into thousand different branches, all twisting in different ways but can be traced back to similar origins.
You want to climb down the tree, I suppose. That could take lifetimes. For you, at least.
Well, I'm going to take it one at a time. We're going to start next time with an easy one that everyone can follow.
Next time? So I can get out of here now?