ratWhy is horror appealing?

The only thought more terrifying than that we might not be alone is the thought that we might, indeed, be alone. The only belief more terrifying than that there are weird and unexplainable things going on, dark and hungry and impossible to comprehend, is that there is nothing out of the ordinary happening anywhere. That we are doomed to mundanity, to mere and endless lowing humanity.

If nothing is happening, if we never expect anything to happen, there is no reason to pay attention. We unfocus our eyes bit by bit until the world is a uniform grey haze which slowly fades darker until it reaches a ceaseless black– that is the gibbering terror that sends us running headlong into the open arms of our nightmares– whether they be stinking, rotting, covered in tangled rancid fur or fatty white drowned flesh or rivers of twining slithering blood. That is the preferable fate.

Show me your nightmares! Even the most mundane and trite of your gnawing fears and visions will do– I know they are all beautiful and terrible and unnerving in their own way. Is the water rising? Are your friends falling apart at the seams? Are bugs crawling through your hair and between your teeth? Does the sun become too hot, scald your skin like boiling water, burn your life into a withered husk? Or disappear, leaving you in darkness, where something is breathing, and what you thought was the moon is just one eye… Well! Bring them out, show them to your audience, and we will try to feel, if only slightly, the agony and discomfort you felt for the few moments you thought this might be your new reality.

It’s important to know what we’re afraid of: Our minds cannot always be trusted to tell us the truth in these matters. Horror is the allergy test: You tickle yourself with a needle and see if the goosebumps rise. What does it mean when the wild dogs tearing a woman apart bores you, but the shattered face of a porcelain doll jabs shards of ice between your ribs? If you slept through the part where a flock of glistening birds burst out of a cadaver, but still wake up at night remembering a man who read a mysterious letter and walked into the sea? If you laugh at the monster that climbs through open windows at night but your muscles tighten at the sight of a weird crack in an old wall?

–where does that crack go? Is there a body hidden behind it? A secret room, packed with the nonsensical writings of a madman? Or is there nothing behind it, just emptiness, and if the crack widens it will begin to expose the hidden darkness behind the world, will begin to spread, until there is nothing left?

What are you afraid will happen?

What are you afraid won’t happen?

  1. Miles said:

    Well said, but it carries the taint of a voice that has never dealt with the uncontrollable sort of nightmares. It’s easy to say that the awful visions are preferable to tepid mundanity, but would you feel the same living inside a brain that produced more horrors than you knew what to do with?

    • “Your account of surviving dry harsh conditions in a desert is harrowing and convincing, but let me ask you this: Have you thought about how much it would suck to drown? Pretty shitty, right? Yeah, I thought so. CHECK MATE.”

  2. Miles said:

    Your analogy is decent, except for the “harsh conditions” part. What you’re describing is “ennui brought on by lack of harsh conditions”.

    • I’m just talking about thirst vs drowning here. Stop halfassing my metaphor.

  3. Miles said:

    Your metaphor says shut up.

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