Okay, gentle readers!! I have to pretend I’m an actual horror writer, that I live, breathe and fart tales of gentle gore and words that bring forth the monsters we know and love. Vampires, zombies, mostly. Werewolves never seemed to take off or get their hot streaks in the public eye. Vampires, yeah. Sexy vampires, via True Blood and Twilight. Oh and a shout to Anne Rice and her emo fang boys, of course. Louis and Lestat, oh my! Zombies, hello. Walking Dead! What fans didn’t burst into unashamed tears when Carol and Daryl hugged after Daryl found her, again, and they had that little dinner and he lied to her about Negan’s use of a baseball bat. Oh! My poor little heart! Tears! Or when Rick and Daryl hugged after Daryl escaped Negan? Oh!! Pretty much when Daryl does anything and it involves Carol or Rick. Yep.
Werewolves, now, not so much. They’re not, oddly, very popular. Or not so oddly. A guy who turns into a dog. We like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, but he’s not a werewolf or some other were-animal, not really. Underworld— how many movies now in that franchise? tries– sexy leather-wearing vamps and sexy leather-wearing werewolves, but they all look alike in that blue lens filter. We’re just there to watch skinny people fight in leather. Plus, maybe it’s just me, but I’ve yet to see a turning into a werewolf sequence that didn’t just make me go, uh, that looks fake, is that supposed to be a wolf or…? Well, American Werewolf in London, okay, and the girl turning slowly into a werewolf in Ginger Snaps, not bad. And there’s other examples, I’m sure, that were astonishing trickeries of camera and makeup. Company of Wolves was hit and miss on the chango factor. It was pretty fun there until that hunter guy in Granny’s House went all wolfboy, then it was just a big dog and a girl. But Angela Carter did it so much better on paper, anyway. As our imaginations did that transformation and boy, did it look real.
The Big Bad Wolf trope really does need to get explored some more. Into the Woods took a swipe at it and if you saw the original staging of that, the Wolf could have done porn. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. And it wasn’t done to exploit or titillate, it worked in so many ways for that oft-told warning sent to little girls who leave the path. “Nice is different than good.” Yes, little girl, yes, it is. [You’ll get eaten by wolves or monsters, so behave and do what you’re told, little girls, or else. Little Red Riding Hood might as well be called Be a Good Girl or You’ll Die. Do we gals all not get that same dreary, strident warning all the time? Wear the right clothes. Act like a lady. Be this way. Be that way. Then nothing bad will happen to you. Except it does, of course. It does. The art work is called Twisted Eden, I believe. But if you go looking, you can find that many artists found many ways to portray the little girl or not so little girl and the wolf, the beast, the animal, the wild that threatens to engulf her or reveal her real nature or…yep.]
But. Werewolves don’t seem to dominate all horror offerings like vampires and zombies do. Mummies, either. Frankenstein’s creation, eh. Ghouls? Nope. Ghosts? Sure, we do get our ghosts but that comes and goes. It’s been zombies on top for some time now. And vampires. Vampires for the romance and safe dark sex angle and zombies for most of the other needs. With your weird sharknado offerings and dystopian hellscapes full of politely dirty children gritting out lines about revolution and rebellion while looking like memes for America First, Everyone Else Can Suck it.
But. In the jellyfish gravy [ha ha, I bet you thought I was just coming up with weirdo titles and then not referencing them.] of my brain, I do tend to gravitate toward the dark, the strange and unusual. It interests me. I find exploring what makes that thump you hear at night– a thump that’s not a roommate or one night stand or family member of some sort or your dog trying to break into the fridge– something I just like to do. I do like realism and those little odd moments that pop up in every day life that can be exploited like a motherfucker for gentle readers to sigh over and nod over and smile or cry over. As writers are exploiters of the human condition, in case no one told you that. We’re not nice. At all. We’re cannibals. We eat our own. What writer doesn’t mine, ruthlessly, their own friends, family, children and self for their ‘art’? Name one. I’ll wait.
Reams have been written about that ghoulish tendency to use those family fistfights at Christmas for writing fodder. I want it noted that I, too, acknowledge that yes, I will ruthlessly, without ruth anywhere near me, use anything anyone has ever said to me or done to me. I’ll disguise it a bit or not. I might get super-brave and just let it all hang out there for that person to read or see. [I do write plays. I have a big fancy degree that says I can write plays.]
And playwrights, oh dear. We do tend to get a bit sloppy with that surgical scalpel as we cut and sew together conversations we’ve actually had, or just had in our heads instead of actually bothering to talk to other people, into conversations for the masses. Or not so massive masses if no one comes to see your play. Eugene O’Neill famously asked that Long Day’s Journey not be performed until after, what, twenty years or so after he was dead? Can someone go Google that? Thanks.
Oh jellyfish in my brain’s gravy, thy name be tangents.
Anyhoo! Monsters. I did promise to write a bit about monsters after clumsily baluffing for many many words about romance novels and escapism, fantasy fun and lemonade. Danger noodle!
Scary stories are cathartic. They’re a bit sexual, okay, a lot sexual. We get that nice fear going, we build up and build up and AH, MONSTERS or AH, DEAD MONSTERS.
In romance or love stories, that moment is the moment when the sky fills with fireworks. In horror, it’s when the monster dies or we do. Wink! Either way, we’re getting some sort of ‘death’ and a release and a cool-down period on the other side where we’re either victorious over whatever evil we’ve faced or we’re dead and we don’t care anymore until we get brought back to life for the sequel. Well trod territory.
That’s why horror movies, stories, tales, what have you, will never ever go away. Tragedy works on this premise as well. Hell, there’s even a CLIMAX, as part of the classical progression toward the aftermath of that BIG MOMENT. That build and build toward something and then the freefall and the fall out. Very late night bullshit drinking a lot basic grad school palaver. I’m not the first to point this out and other fresh-faced dewy drunken sorts will point it out, hopefully, long after I’m a footnote in Kindle downloads on how not to be a writer manuals.
Horror stories and scary tales, ah. Because we need them to explore some iffy, icky stuff. And to, seemingly, deal with it and even seem to conquer it. Racism, sexism, otherness, bad skin problems, hunger, lust, materialism…what have you! Bad guy dies in the end. It’s comforting as Wonder Bread toast smeared with Blue Bonnet margarine. [See Post Danger Noodle really long title.] Or, bad guy seems to die in end but actually doesn’t and comes back over and over because who doesn’t enjoy that trusty scaregasm over and over and over. Can I get an amen? Amen!
Shall we not even go near how very Conservative wet dream horror stuff can be? The rigid behavior patterns, the monster wandering about all willy nilly not obeying rules, the virgin gets to live…yeah. Let’s not. The Scream franchise dipped some toes into this and had fun with it.
Oh and there’s also fearporn and exploitation horror and just plain bad crappy horror films and tales, which have no redeeming value other than to be as gory and awful as possible. There’s no real art or actual structure to such dreck other than to present suffering and blood. Silence of the Lambs versus Hostel. Both are about some pretty terrible people doing pretty awful things to others. One won Oscars, the other just gets rolled eyes and an ‘oh gross’ from most folks. Crafting the horror tale is a goddamn art. That’s why good horror tales that resonate are so rare. They’re, those excellent, cream rising to the top, tales of horror and scariness and dark deeds done in the dark of night, hugged and kissed and celebrated for a reason.
Now, Walking Dead can drift over into the fearporn, just want to make you suffer as much as possible category. Miseryporn I’ve heard it called. That relentless, just start killing people as nastily as possible, offer no hope, no light, blah blah blah kind of writing where you get exhausted and battered. And dread tuning in to see what beloved character or not so beloved character is going to get their head bashed in or eaten alive or shot or knifed or scalped or fall down a well. Until you turn that off and go look up political speeches by White Nationalists just to lighten the mood. [And I feel the actual need here to say– that last sentence was a joke. No, I am not into the Aryan Nations and so forth and so on. M’kay? M’kay!]
Which filters over into whatever I’m writing, of course. Balance. Don’t go so far over into the drearscape that your readers feel battered into jelly and just start politely avoiding your stuff in favor of Ren and Stimpy reruns and frothy Cormac McCarthy novels. Horror can drain you. Make you realize there is no purpose to any of this and then the universe laughs in your face as you weep. Yeah, I’ll keep that sort of bleak awfulness for my own private collection of stories, poems, plays and such and not share it too liberally with others. Mostly because trying to get that published is a damn nightmare. And I get funny looks and queries about my mental health and if I’m ‘okay’. So, light and frothy horror writer gal I shall be, by gum!
And then I get bitter. Real lemon bitter. And then get full of doubt and misgivings about myself as a writer in the first place and write bitter bitter words that I erase or fling out, depends on how self-destructive I feel.
Yours truly could start a war in Switzerland. That has long been my reputation. I’m a horrible person with a horrible set of awful words who’s not nice at all, ever. Yes, that is my actual reputation among most who know me. That might be my rampant braindemon, Fearmina Beaverface McAwfulness, having a constant go at me, but. My rampant need to destroy myself at every turn…it’s a combo of Vampire Queen and Zombie Horde. A kind of blood-sucking flesh-tearing free-for-all, if you will. Going on in my brain nearly all the time. Do you think if I took up heroin, I’d be a nicer, wiser, better, more polite person? Or at least…ah, the self-indulgent maudlin nonsense of an ‘artist’. Ain’t we fun??
Oh jellyfish gravy, where is this going again? Horror, scary stuff, post-post danger noodle world…
I like to write scary things because I like to write scary things. There. Okay? Here endeth the lesson. Sigh. 45 just banned most of the ‘free’ press from White House news briefings. Like the New York Times and the BBC and CNN and the Washington Post…and people are cheering this, who claim to wuv themselves the Constitution. Uh…? I can’t write anything scarier than that. I just can’t. It’s a bit, a lot, depressing. Oh, I tried to be light and cheerful and stay away from Tangerine Pussyhands and the Flying Buttmonkeys of Doom that have descended on ‘murica like an Orange Plague. I tried. I tried. I’m off to write a musical about my dog and springtime and butterflies. Yeah, butterflies. Who lead my heroine to a dungeon full of Pirate Highlander Viking Kings in cowboy hats. And then there’s a chorus line and a big showstopper about Sweden and whips. See Post-Danger Noodle for why I suddenly went flopwaddle. [Writer! I can make up words all I want!!]
Oh hey, if you made it to the end of this and there’s a medal if you did, baby!, then notice I wrote an actual book, I have plays on the internet if you’re a producer of theatre or looking for an audition piece and…yeah. I am Rhino-Skin and will ruthlessly promote my work!