Written by: Josh Black
In the past couple of months, I’ve been both reading a lot more books than usual and watching a lot more movies. I’ve noticed that there’s a huge difference in the type of horror I seek out and enjoy in each of these mediums. The more I think about it, the less I seem to understand it.
When it comes to movies, it seems that the more gratuitous nudity and bloodshed there is, the more likely I am to have a good time. Inanimate objects come inexplicably to life and/or giant monsters tearing shit up are a surefire way to keep me glued to the seat. Utter absurdity, political incorrectness and a cheese factor cranked to eleven? I’m game.
Horror novels or short stories, on the other hand, are a different beast altogether. If any or all of the things listed above feature prominently, I’m not likely to even crack the book open let alone read it to completion. Give me a quiet, atmospheric tale, a character-driven piece, something cerebral that leaves an insidious feeling of dread swimming under the reader’s skin. That’s the stuff I want to read.
There is, of course, writing that combines these two seemingly clashing modes of expression (the works of Clive Barker immediately come to mind). I’m told that the best of bizarro fiction explores so called “serious issues” with intelligence and sensitivity, but admittedly I’m not familiar with the genre. It’s horror I’m talking about here anyway.
One theory I’ve come up with is that it’s incredibly difficult to get inside the heads of characters on film in the same way you can in writing. The movies I’ve seen that attempt to do this range from mediocre to exceptional, but even the most well-structured ones can’t compare to the sense of connection I feel with the best prose.
Still I’m not sure why I can fully enjoy movies as varied as Frankenhooker, Piranha 3D and Friday the 13th(not to mention maintain the opinion that Return of the Killer Tomatoes* is one of the greatest films of all time), while I wouldn’t look twice at these stories if they were contained within the pages of a book. Maybe it has something to do with more time and effort being needed to read as opposed to passively watching. Still, where does that leave short stories?
This isn’t meant to be some erudite exploration of anything. Really it’s just thinking out loud, coupled with curiosity as to whether there are more like-minded fans of the dark side out there.
I’m going to close with a couple of open questions: Does anyone else have such a gaping disparity between taste in literature and film when it comes to the horror genre? If so, how do you account for it?
* Not remotely a horror movie, I know. Just really wanted to throw that out there.