• OK, it's on.
  • Please note that many, many Email Addresses used for spam, are not accepted at registration. Select a respectable Free email.
  • See https://www.intpforum.com/threads/upgrade-at-10-am-gmt.27631/

What is Horror?

Cognisant

Prolific Member
Local time
Yesterday, 20:32
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
8,273
Someone with their arm stuck in a meat grinder, being drawn in as the scarlet mush of their arm comes out the other end, it's gross, clearly painful, but not horror, not yet, not until you see yourself turning the handle.

I think that's what true horror is, the conceptual fear, an abbitoir drenched in blood isn't half as scary as a palm sized puddle in your house, which I guess is why classical music, art, poetry, and other finery seems such an appropriate accompaniment, because like horror it's abstract and requires contemplation before it can be truly appreciated.

As with the meat grinder example, it's horrible, you don't want to think about it, but some part of you couldn't help but wonder why you would be turning the handle and that's when the chill went up your spine, because there's a multitude of answers and none of them are pleasant.

I wonder what would be something really scary, what is the greatest conceptual fear I can think of, it occurs to me that art imitates life and thus by the creation of art we gain a mirror by which to perceive ourselves, not directly, the meat grinder example doesn't indicate that I'm some kind of misanthropic psychopath, quite the opposite in fact, if I lacked empathy it wouldn't have horrified me and I wouldn't have used it as an example.

Lets write some horror stories, I want to know what you fear :D
 

Brontosaurie

Banned
Local time
Today, 09:32
Joined
Dec 4, 2010
Messages
5,646
i think of nightmares, the abstract variety. hard to convey in words. the worst one was just an apprehension of the likelihood of dying at any moment. a compression of time into a single point, sort of.

horror may not be the domain of art at all.
 

Cognisant

Prolific Member
Local time
Yesterday, 20:32
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
8,273
i think of nightmares, the abstract variety. hard to convey in words. the worst one was just an apprehension of the likelihood of dying at any moment. a compression of time into a single point, sort of.
High school exams are scarier than that.

Death isn't as scary as living, for instance I once had a nightmare in which I attempted suicide by jumping from a roof and I didn't die, I was just totally fucked up, and then came that really awkward bit when I woke up in the hospital surrounded by my family who were some combination of furious, grief stricken, and trying to console me, now there is a real nightmare.
 

Puffy

Demon Alpaca Overlord
Local time
Today, 08:32
Joined
Nov 7, 2009
Messages
2,802
Location
SOON
Heh. My horror stories usually involve people who feel compelled to embalm/ mutilate themselves in some way, which is probably a little telling, but is also intended as a kind of metaphorical reflection on the culture industry.

I agree that the best horror films utilise disgust and fear as a means of exploring certain aspects of the world. A dark mirror, if you will. :cat:

Invasion of the Body Snatchers/ The Thing - pretty obvious 'red scare' influence.

The Night of the Living Dead - Vietnam War/ Civil Rights movement

Dawn Of the Dead - Frankly a hilarious consumerist parody

etc.
 

Jennywocky

guud languager
Local time
Today, 03:32
Joined
Sep 25, 2008
Messages
10,688
Location
Charn
High school exams are scarier than that.

Death isn't as scary as living, for instance I once had a nightmare in which I attempted suicide by jumping from a roof and I didn't die, I was just totally fucked up, and then came that really awkward bit when I woke up in the hospital surrounded by my family who were some combination of furious, grief stricken, and trying to console me, now there is a real nightmare.
I'm more scared of being horribly maimed and living than dying per se. Being limited in my ability to do things (including just taking care of myself) would be horrible, as would having to impose on others to take care of me.
 

Puffy

Demon Alpaca Overlord
Local time
Today, 08:32
Joined
Nov 7, 2009
Messages
2,802
Location
SOON
If you're interested in the horror genre, I think Noel Carrol's book, The Philosophy of Horror, is excellent.

For him, a monster is something that defies categorisation. Bird + Lion = monster. Horror as a genre, was really born in the 18th century gothic tradition, curiously alongside the birth of the 'enlightenment'.

THE SLEEP OF REASON PRODUCES MONSTERS



Horror genre stuff very frequently is framed around an investigation. Something paranormal happens, people investigate into it, it defies their understanding of reality, so they kill the monster.

The slaying of the monster, seems to me like the rationalist's repression of the irrational really. I like films where the monster wins. :cat:
 

Cognisant

Prolific Member
Local time
Yesterday, 20:32
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
8,273
THE SLEEP OF REASON PRODUCES MONSTERS
Actually I think it's the opposite, that reason is the source of all monsters, I mean as I said in the OP about the meat grinder example it's not the irrationality of the situation that's frightening, rather the conclusions that one comes to when one does rationalise it.

A similarity I find between great horror writers is that they never quite tell you the whole story, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and others, they all tell you enough to fuel your imagination, but they never figuratively unmask their monsters (or whatever) completely, they leave you wondering. It's like how I've said before that the thing that possibly terrifies me most is some phenomena that's simply inexplicable, even if it were something innocuous, merely knowing that the observed thing is impossible could reduce me to screams & tears in broad daylight because I can imagine the implications.

That's not the sleep of reason, that's the horror of staring into the unknown.

I like two part stories in which the first part deals with the monster of some external unknown, which in the end is finally understood/defeated and dragged out into the sunlight (for example Jaws) then in the second part the monster is reborn and must be defeated a second time, except defeating it this time isn't a matter of understanding the monster itself, rather the horror is introspective and defeating the monster is merely symbolic of the internal struggle between relative good and evil (Deep Blue Sea).

Those two movies don't demonstrate this perfectly, but you can see how it works, lets say the shark from Jaws was captured, thus becoming the antagonist of Deep Blue Sea, and in the end the person who has to shoot it is forced to choose between two great evils, kill the shark and lose the implied Alzheimer's disease cure which could save many lives, or let the shark go and trying to recapture it later, risking manny innocent lives in the process.

So I guess there's two kinds of horror, the inner and outer.
 

Jennywocky

guud languager
Local time
Today, 03:32
Joined
Sep 25, 2008
Messages
10,688
Location
Charn
A similarity I find between great horror writers is that they never quite tell you the whole story, H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, and others, they all tell you enough to fuel your imagination, but they never figuratively unmask their monsters (or whatever) completely, they leave you wondering. It's like how I've said before that the thing that possibly terrifies me most is some phenomena that's simply inexplicable, even if it were something innocuous, merely knowing that the observed thing is impossible could reduce me to screams & tears in broad daylight because I can imagine the implications.
I agree, and especially with King as the most obviously accessible of them (since he's still writing and you can track his work in two different mediums).

His best books, he leaves ambiguity. The reason his movies (which he typically does not work on anyway, it's others trying to adapt them) tend to flop is because the monsters have ambiguity removed and end up being far less than what they seemed and even laughable.


I like two part stories in which the first part deals with the monster of some external unknown, which in the end is finally understood/defeated and dragged out into the sunlight (for example Jaws) then in the second part the monster is reborn and must be defeated a second time, except defeating it this time isn't a matter of understanding the monster itself, rather the horror is introspective and defeating the monster is merely symbolic of the internal struggle between relative good and evil (Deep Blue Sea).

Those two movies don't demonstrate this perfectly, but you can see how it works, lets say the shark from Jaws was captured, thus becoming the antagonist of Deep Blue Sea, and in the end the person who has to shoot it is forced to choose between two great evils, kill the shark and lose the implied Alzheimer's disease cure which could save many lives, or let the shark go and trying to recapture it later, risking manny innocent lives in the process.
TBH, the scariest part of Jaws for me was the opening scene with the swimmer where you never see the shark -- you just see what happens to her above the surface. The rest of the movie was less, and especially when the shark is shown (as it looks fake to me). But I still get chills in that opening screen where she is being jerked around unnaturally, screaming and no one can hear her. That was good film-making. Less is more; what I can't see is worse than what I can.

Yeah, I guess you could say the dilemmas in DBS (which is more a thriller/campy horror pic, although I happen to love the movie) is internalized and its reflected in decisions involving the external threat... whereas in Jaws the focus seemed to be more on overcoming the external threat directly.

But they were very different movies despite the cosmetic similarities of people getting attacked by sharks. Jaws is voluntary -- the humans go after the shark, to stop it; DBS is involuntary, the humans are trapped and must escape the sharks. And there's a benefit to the sharks in the second that the characters must weigh before choosing to kill them or not, even at risk of their own lives. (As well as the whole thought that the danger they were facing was their OWN fault for messing with something beyond their grasp, whereas Jaws came from the outside to terrorize and the humans were just victims.) DBS is actually a morality play of sort, and people must pay for their sins, and the sharks are the hand of God so to speak. Note who the survivors are.
 

Cognisant

Prolific Member
Local time
Yesterday, 20:32
Joined
Dec 12, 2009
Messages
8,273
DBS is actually a morality play of sort, and people must pay for their sins, and the sharks are the hand of God so to speak. Note who the survivors are.


*adds it to the list of reasons why he hates Christianity*
 

Jennywocky

guud languager
Local time
Today, 03:32
Joined
Sep 25, 2008
Messages
10,688
Location
Charn
*adds it to the list of reasons why he hates Christianity*
Please, Coggy, tell me you didn't miss the blatant Christian overtones with one of the characters... please....! And how all the secular atheist scientists went right down the hatch...? LOL!

I don't even know why I like this movie. I think it just doesn't take itself too seriously + it has one of the most audacious mid-movie twists I think I've seen ... just awesome!
 

Brontosaurie

Banned
Local time
Today, 09:32
Joined
Dec 4, 2010
Messages
5,646
High school exams are scarier than that.

Death isn't as scary as living, for instance I once had a nightmare in which I attempted suicide by jumping from a roof and I didn't die, I was just totally fucked up, and then came that really awkward bit when I woke up in the hospital surrounded by my family who were some combination of furious, grief stricken, and trying to console me, now there is a real nightmare.
no. pure anguish is worse. you can't cope in any way.
 

BigApplePi

Banned
Local time
Today, 03:32
Joined
Jan 8, 2010
Messages
8,988
Location
New York City (The Big Apple) & State
Are you guys saying the horror has something to do with the unknown? If it's unknown we can't control it. If it's known, we hope to see the outcome as inevitable or at least calculable and perchance we can cope?

Battlefield wounds may seem horrible. But what about the medic? If he's seen enough they are something to deal with, not to be horrified by ... lest he/she not be acting professionally.

My sister gave me a book once. It had in it about battlefield soldiers who received 3rd degree facial wounds making them appear no longer human. The nurses had a problem. Finally they decided among themselves to call them, "crispy critters", thus distancing themselves from the horror.

When I was a teen I picked up one of my father's medical books. It was on skin diseases. You don't want to look at it. It did. I thought my curiosity was strong enough to overcome what I saw. I'm not sure today I've gotten over it ... maybe by now I have.
 

Brontosaurie

Banned
Local time
Today, 09:32
Joined
Dec 4, 2010
Messages
5,646
Are you guys saying the horror has something to do with the unknown? If it's unknown we can't control it. If it's known, we hope to see the outcome as inevitable or at least calculable and perchance we can cope?

yes. that is why a reduction of everything to a stochastic variable is the worst.
 

Starswirl

Active Member
Local time
Today, 02:32
Joined
Jan 16, 2013
Messages
129
THE SLEEP OF REASON PRODUCES MONSTERS

Five internets to you for posting an image from Caprichos! A wonderful addition for the subject of horror. Here are a few of what I consider to be the most horrifying.

"Here comes the bogeyman"

"Hunting for teeth"

"They are hot"

"And still they don't go!"

"He broke the pitcher"

"Everyone will fall"

Confound that Goya. He drives me to look horrified at his art over and over.

Are you guys saying the horror has something to do with the unknown? If it's unknown we can't control it. If it's known, we hope to see the outcome as inevitable or at least calculable and perchance we can cope?
"Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear." -Eric Hoffer
 

Brontosaurie

Banned
Local time
Today, 09:32
Joined
Dec 4, 2010
Messages
5,646
yes i won the fear contest. i have experienced horror extract. i deserve a lifetime supply of benzos.
 

Vrecknidj

Prolific Member
Local time
Today, 03:32
Joined
Nov 21, 2007
Messages
2,198
Location
Michigan/Indiana, USA
I've watched several people die, slowly, from debilitating illness. I have seen people's faces express abject terror as they suffered from incredible pain. I've seen people make horrible choices that caused other people their careers, their relationships, or their friends. Those are all pretty horrible.

I worked in a hospital for a few years and assisted a pathologist with autopsies. I've worked in an ER. And, while the scientifically curious part of me found all of it interesting, I can say that, from everything I've experienced, I really find no fascination with horror.

I get it. I have a friend who is a horror fiction writer. My wife loves horror movies. My kids enjoy a horror flick now and then.

For me? I have no interest. If they're watching a horror movie, for instance, I'll go do something else. If I play in an RPG (old school D&D style, around a table, with books and dice, none of this online BS), and the DM or player wants to involve horror, I'll pass.

But, when it comes to speculation, I'm happy to oblige. I would think that horror does have something to do with the unknown. I would imagine that, settled in our Pleistocene-evolved brains, there are good reasons to be afraid of crawly, poisonous things; the dark; wet, slimy, creepy, echo-y places; fire; lightning; wide-open bloody wounds. I think that horror probably derives from what we'd now think of as reasonable fears.

And, given that humans are symbolic critters, we have all manner of ability to think that things that frighten us must mean something. We see patterns when there are no patterns, and so we can imagine a purpose to suffering. Worse then, I suppose, would be meaningless pain, meaningless grief, meaningless hopelessness.

I think there's something in that nexus of fear, meaning, meaninglessness, pain, confusion, uncertainty...

Thanks for the topic.
 

jantling

camera obscura
Local time
Today, 01:32
Joined
Feb 16, 2011
Messages
48
What is horror?

I don't know anymore, I only know what terrified me as a child:
The Ghost in the Darkness: I was terrified of the lions in that movie.
The Mummy: Again, it was the scarabs, not the actually mummy.
Red Planet: The nematodes I think they were called.


There are several similarities in the above:
They are all animals. (Something I have no control over)
They are all land animals.(Something I couldn't escape)
The methods of attack they used made them invisible until it was too late to get away. (Something I couldn't avoid)
They all killed without reason, to the best of my childhood memory, and would consume whatever they got into from the inside out.*Except the lions, which seems to be the only exception.

The thing that made me afraid of all of them, was that I knew they
would consume me, or I feared they would. So much so that I wouldn't walk alone down the hallway for at least two days.


The only thing I remember fearing outside of films is being eaten by coyotes in the dark. (Don't ask why, I don't know.) Except that they always attacked exactly like the Ghost in the Darkness lions did in my imagined scenarios. ( I used to force myself to go outside at midnight and wait, trying to convince myself nothing would eat me. It was so bad I had dreams about this where they took over my dog's body and then killed and ate both of us as soon as I left the house.)

Okay, getting to the point. I haven't been afraid of anything like that in a long time, but since it's unlikely that something that scared me as much as those movies and dreams did can fade completely away, I think I've just gotten better at ignoring it.

What I think I was (am?) afraid of is being eaten or consumed. Not like cannabalism or death, but the process of ceasing, if that makes any sense. I doubt it, since I'm mining and attempting to communicate something largely subconscious. There may be elements of betrayal too, since I've had similiarly themed dreams like the coyote one with different plots. I.E. People I knew becoming strangers and killing me or something negative.

More generally:
I think that horror definitely relies on an element of the unknown as others have said. This matches, at least sort-of, with what scared me in childhood since what scared me most was the attack methods of the creatures: Being eaten from the inside, not seeing them coming, not knowing they existed until it was too late, etc, not just the result of being overwhelmed by some no-thing come to life until it turned me into its mirror. It's like I was fine with the nothing that was out there, as long as it stayed away from me some place where I could constantly watch it like a sentry. Wow, I was a strange kid. I think I would have traded fears with any clown-phobic any day.

Post Script: If I can add anything to new to what horror might be and what makes it well, horror, uhm, it might be either the inevitability, reality, or unrelenting fact that whatever horror is, it will outlast me. I think I'm rambling now. Make what you will.
:confused:
-Jant
 
Top Bottom