What is Horror? #1

Horror, Dark Fantasy, Weird Fiction is a celebration of imperfections – an impetus of revealing the human imagination in all its inglorious detail.

It is ugliness unmasked and paraded. Freakery accentuated. Disturbances leaping out of the jack-in-the-box of pleasures that are not meant to be pleasurable.

Horror aligns the exotic with the perverse. It hurls them into a vacuum of atrocities and makes them appealing by exposing them to our malicious fascinations and the excitements they bring.

Moral Vacuum Cleaner

Fans of Horror, of Dark Fantasy, of The Weird, are capable of forming inappropriate responses to the shocks and upsets of horrors that people, really, should find distasteful, abhorrent and offensive.

Where normal people raise a hand to the mouth in surprise and shock, Horror fans titter. Titillation abounds where the reaction should be one of repugnance, indignation, disgust, moral outrage.

The problem is, almost anyone engaging with Horror Fiction (in films or books) responds in exactly the same way – the way they shouldn’t. Not just the aficianados and uber-freaks. But everyone. In spite of themselves. Everyone to a tee.

The appeal of Horror rests in the human genome like a lighthouse in the midst of an icy sea. The ship of desire is guided by the lighthouse and given safe passage through the straits of degradation, where the moralists sink without a trace and the hedonists ride like dolphins over the crashing waves.

The great thing about horror is that it’s an affirmation of the perverse that inhabits the human character. It gives license to the admission of thrills which are otherwise diminished by the wet blanket of common decency.

Horror provides a safe space in which morality can be stripped naked of its restraints and ritually humiliated by la bête sauvage with delight and fervour. It is the darkly carnivalesque – a Feast of Fools that allows us to indulge the sadistic and masochistic urgencies of the spirit without permitting any real damage.

The well of gratification seeps to the fore – gushes out in hot springs of lust and craving. The emotions are catapulted beyond the mental strait jackets of decorum. We are emotionally liberated, in awe of the cruel techniques of suffering made attractive by a raft of monstrosities, and the mad-god-creators who created them.

Self-Affirming Roots

The quasi-popularity of Horror is a self-affirmation of the twisted root that inhabits the garden of human servitude to social norms and codes of behaviour: it is not an admission of guilt but a brazen indulgence of it – a celebration.

It is the organism of the soul conspiring with its weakness for bloodlust, for suffering, for sensual appetites that writhe beneath the mask of inhibition, aching to be released, to be fulfilled by the pleasures of the flesh and the abstractions of emotions taken to riotous extremes.

It is a form of anti-catharsis – a means of filling up, rather than cleansing, the throbbing arteries of desire that pump through our brains and bodies with the efficacy of the fluids that inform them.

The Unreal Reality

Horror defies the logic of evolution. It contemplates the self-destruction of the species – fetishizes it – puts it on display in a glass case to marvel at and crave.

It doesn’t make sense. But this perhaps is where the attraction comes from. It is the disintegration of sense – the deposition of order by the underlords of the chaotic impulse – the undoing of everything that represents structure, coherence and human reason.

Horror is a vehicle for the paradox of the desire for chaos in a world where order prevails as the dominant psychology.

Horror is anarchy – emotional anarchy – the emotions set loose and recognised for what they are – base, primal, invigorating and accommodating of the immoderations of pure instinct and the voracity of basic needs.

It is the stark recognition of ourselves through the mirror of truth, reflected in fiction, which only a few of us will look upon with the prolonged scrutiny of the fanatic – aloof upon our battlements of ruined Gothic splendour – from the vantage point of the lunatic fringe.

Horror is unreality made real within the context of fiction – closed within its own space – where it challenges the false gods of the mainstream with open rebellion, and with the sole purpose of bringing them down.