The Art of Mirriam Neal

//SCWH: Requiem (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

“Would you mind talking more about your last statement?” “You didn’t mention psychological horror!” “What about Frankenstein and other classics?” I had enough responses to the last post (after just twelve hours, guys! Whoa!) that I realized I needed to write a followup post and discuss some of the topics readers brought up.

I decided to start by expounding on the postscript I made to the last post. I stated, “After discussing this with Arielle, we came to the same conclusion: redeemed horror cannot, in the strict sense of the word, remain true horror. It may start out as such, but it would be something else by the end. And that, I think, is a good thing.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘horror’ as the quality of something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock : the horrible or shocking quality or character of something.

Three hundred and sixty-five times, the Bible uses the phrase “Do not be afraid” or another version of the same idea. Not because there’s nothing scary happening, but because we as Christians don’t need to be afraid. There’s something bigger than our fear out there, and it has our back.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Most horror definitely doesn’t leave us thinking about true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy things. You’ll notice Paul didn’t say don’t ever think about anything that ISN’T on this list but we can call this verse a guideline. Horror is a powerful genre because the imagery stays in our brains, and the storytelling pulls no punches. It’s in-your-face. It’s graphic. It’s, well, horrifying.

Personally, I believe powerful genres should be redeemed, and I believe horror definitely can be. The demon is cast out by a higher power, for instance – that’s redemptive. But the point of most modern horror is Evil Wins. That’s something I can’t get behind. In the Grand Story, evil doesn’t win, which means the idea that ‘evil wins’ on a large scale is a lie. Lies don’t sit well with me.

So what I mean when I say that redeemed horror isn’t truly ‘horror’ is that in redeemed horror, evil does not win. And evil winning is what true Lovecraftian horror is all about. (An argument could be made for slasher horror, where usually one protagonist escapes, but I can’t think of a single instance where ‘one person living’ made up for the rest of the carnage.)

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE ‘HORROR’ THINGS

In my last post I gushed about creature-horror (or ‘creature features’) and how much I love it, but now I’ll give a few more examples of well-done fiction that falls under the heading of ‘horror’ these days.

  • Classic gothic horror. We’re talking Stoker, Shelley, and Poe here. Stoker is plain flipping awesome, and provides TONS of religious, symbolic imagery in which good triumphs over evil. Shelley is all about monsters, experimentation, and reanimation – which are incredibly complex, unceasingly fascinating subjects. Poe is more of a mixed bag – the man could write horror like nobody’s business, but I don’t like everything he wrote. Good won sometimes, sometimes it didn’t. Other favorite ‘horror’ classics are Jekyll & Hyde and The Invisible Man.
  • Zombies. I LOVE ZOMBIES, OKAY. There’s so much potential where zombies are concerned. I love the ghoulishness and the humanity and the different ways it’s portrayed. I love it.[Speaking of which, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is now available digitally. You should get it, because it’s one of my favorite movies ever. I saw it four times in theaters.] I also love mummies. LOVE. Love mummies.
  • Psycho-thrillers. I think psycho-thrillers are often labelled ‘psycho-horror,’ and I suppose that’s because twisty, bendy, psychological chaos is kind of horrifying (nobody wants to live in such situations) but personally, psycho-thriller is one of my favorite genres. It’s a genre that makes you think and question. One of my upcoming novels, Nihilum, delves into the psycho-thriller category.

Many things fall under the umbrella of ‘horror,’ but sometimes horror means horror and sometimes horror means scary. I’m all for scariness. I love it. I’ve always been extremely difficult to scare, so thoroughly enjoy things that try (although they rarely succeed). But horror – that which revels in carnage, terror, and evil without enough goodness to redeem the story – is not something I will ever write or condone. It isn’t thought-provoking, it isn’t entertaining, and it isn’t something I want to spend time on.

CREATURE-HORROR EXAMPLE: I adore Alien versus Predator. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies ever. But I disliked the sequel very much. In AVP, we have lots of courage, determination and self-sacrifice. In  Alien versus Predator: Requipem,we have cruelty, unnecessary killings, and honestly, the darkness of the cinematography made it hard to see. The only good part was Wolf, the Predator who arrives to clean up the xenomorph mess – and (spoiler) Wolf is killed by humans. So we have the character who was attempting to save the humans and fix everything is killed. I don’t like that.

TO SUM UP: Good has to be stronger than evil. And that’s that.

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