Donald Jacob Uitvlugt answers a question oft-thrown about: why horror? What compels authors to write horror? Are we all just sadistic, twisted individuals, or is there something more to it? Read on for a nice first-hand perspective!
Written by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
Horror writers often get asked the question why? Why do we write about such horrible things? Why do we spend so much time and energy spinning stories about vampires, cannibals, world-swallowing octopi and cosmic forces of chaos that wear the face of a circus clown? I know many horror readers who get the same question. Why do we read about monsters? Why do we immerse ourselves in imaginary horrors, especially when our world has so many real horrors?
I don’t think that there’s a single, simplistic answer. We’ve all read stories or watched movies by authors who are in it just for the money — horror is the genre of the moment and they’re going to cash in on it. But we all know when someone just goes through the motions. The products are imminently and deservedly forgettable.
On the other end of the spectrum are the artists and audience who are into horror simply because it’s fun. There’s something fundamentally enjoyable, something freeing about the genre. That’s a perfectly valid reason for engaging in a behavior, but it doesn’t really answer the question. We do horror because it’s fun, but why is it fun?
For some people, horror is a form of revenge fantasy. This is what scares people who aren’t into the genre. They fear that people into horror are secret sadomasochists, a sociopathic monster waiting for the final story that will push them over the edge. Horror is what will galvanize them to commit their future crimes.
Contrary to these fears, I think that many people do horror for therapeutic reasons. We write and read and watch in order to exorcise our inner demons. I don’t mean catharsis here — we’re not getting our serial killer fantasies out of our system so we don’t kill the neighbors. That’s too close to the position of the fear-mongers.
We write horror to control and face our fears.
There are so many bad things in the world that we don’t and can’t control that it’s nice to have some horrors we have some control over. We can always put the book down or pause the movie, or at least look at the screen through our fingers. Horror can be an escape, a way of bringing order to our lives, if only for an hour or two.
But even more than escape, doing horror is healing. We all have a tendency to ignore the darker sides of life, the darker sides of our own personalities. But ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. It usually makes it worse. Bringing these dark pieces of ourselves or the world into the light gives us the chance to face them. Sometimes fighting evil is the way to overcome. Sometimes we can only move on to wholeness and harmony by accepting that darkness really is part of our makeup. Doing horror prepares us for both battle and surrender.
If we face the darkness within and without, maybe we can live our day-to-day lives with a little less fear. That’s one of the reasons why I do horror. How about you?