Friday, August 25, 2006


Let's see, where was I? I think I was about to talk about horror, wasn't I? Or was it a kitten? No, no, I'm pretty sure I've been promising you horror. There's a great essay by Robert Bloch (billed as an "introduction") in The Best of H.P. Lovecraft that has some wonderful stuff about the contemporary history of the genre. Of course, there's quite a bit about Lovecraft in there too, which is terribly interesting but not quite to my point, I guess. Let's see if I can give you some select quotes for a little background, shall I?

It was not until this country faced its own financial depression that the supernatural finally found a degree of acceptance... their king was Kong, Count Dracula their dark and noble lord. Frankenstein's moster served as surrogate for their own self-image as unwanted outcasts, victims of authority figures in a competative society where their elders maintained rigid control. ...World War II decimated American Dreamers and dissenters alike. Those who survived were faced with terrifying truths. Vast power can fall into evil hands--the world can be destroyed--science, armed with bological and nuclear weaponry of its own creation, is not our savior but an omnipresent enemy. ...In the light of such attitudes the movie monsters of the thirties frightened no one in the forties. Even Abbott and Costello could easily outwit them.
Their place was taken by mad scientists, prehistoric beasts, or creature from outer space. Such menaces came in many forms, but with a choice of only two motivations--to take over the world or to destroy it. Nevertheless, the hero usually managed to triumph in the end. ...But revelations of personal insecurity continued to rise in the decades that followed. Depletion of natural resources, spiraling inflation, religious warfare, governmental and industrial corruption, political assassination, street crime, mass murder, and drug addiction grew and flourished. No heroes appeared on the scene to offer succor or solutions. ...Graffiti proclaimed, "God is dead." ...Evil as a tangible presence gained adherents. ...Satan became the scapegoat.
And exorcism--that ancient, half-forgotten ritual to rid us of our demons--suddenly captured the imagination fo the masses. ...Vampires rose again to refresh themselves with a sanguinary nightcap; not to be outdone by the undead, the dead themselves awakened from their graves for a midnight snack... werewolves followed suit
and a seemingly psychotic mass murderer was solemnly identified by a psychiatrist as "the Bogeyman." Ghosts, ghouls, succubi, and incubi infested earth, and even in outer space The Alien incubated in a human breast, emerging to create catastrophe for cat lovers on a spacecraft.

There, I think that's a pretty good run-down. And I quote all that for you so you'll have a little bit of history, yes, but also to make a point. The horror written and filmed in any given time period is deeply affected by the fears of the day. I believe that art normally imitates life, if you really must use that cliched analogy. My point is this: There is darkness in the world, and we all have to learn how to deal with it. Some of us deal by choosing to stare indirectly into it... from the safety of the stadium theater seating of Regal Stratford Stadium 14 or even our own living rooms. Besides which, there's a physiological rush from getting scared--that's why roller coasters and thrill rides are so popular.

Still not convinced that it isn't sick and evil? Ok... here's the thing, if you pulled every book that was written by anyone who wasn't completely mentally and emotionally stable... you'd have very little left to read. And you'd proably be a hypocrit--I believe everyone could use a little counseling here and there. And really, horror has just as many good pieces of literature with deep symbolic meaning as any other genre... it just chooses to scare the piss out of you while it's doing it.

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

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