I admit that when I was unhappily married, I read hundreds and hundreds of romance novels and kept about 100 that I loved the most so I could reread them constantly. It fascinated me to no end that there were men who liked to kiss, who gave compliments and desired their women. I couldn't get enough of it. When I knew I was leaving the marriage, I packaged up all those 100 romance novels and gave them to a donation group for some unhappily married woman to read. I was going to live it, not read it.
But, horror? I kept every one of my horror novels. No matter where I have been in my life, I have loved my horror! What is it that satisfies us about horror unlike other genres?
Everyone has a different attraction to horror. Mine began by growing up in a 250-year-old creepy house with flocked wallpaper and heavy velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers, fireplaces and creaking wooden floors, ghosts in the halls and shadows in the corners. I have always been comfortable with darkness, and curious by nature, I love the excitement of not knowing what is coming next.
Here's what I recall about my very first total and absolute absorption into horror. I was at home and about maybe 9 or 10. I sat in front of the spare black and white TV and flipped through the channels until I saw a big old spooky house like my own. I pulled my blanket around me. The fireplace was crackling, but there were no lights on.
I listened to the story unfold as they showed “The Haunting.” I studied the open space behind me in the room and the shadows dancing from the firelight onto the ceiling. I pulled the blanket up around my ears. I wanted to look away, but I could not. The tension was building, the unseen forces terrifying the characters. I looked at the walls around me and wondered if they could flex and bend like the ones in the movie that seemed to be breathing.
Suddenly, the world I thought I knew had a secret life, just like my house did. This concept intrigued me, that we think we know how the world works, but in horror, it is nothing like it. Horror survivors involved people with skills to think quick, be virtuous and look the greatest fear in the face and beat it. I liked this much more than fairy tales where girls had to hope for fairy godmothers to make their dreams come true or SciFi where technology was the answer.
Horror means you face the abyss and, if you are strong in spite of your fears, you can survive. Basically, it's everyday life and our own greatest worries and anxieties, but playing it out in spite of that threat.
As well, horror comes with teasing squeaky soundtracks, darkness, mystery, the unexpected, tension, and other elements that keep your mind working fast and trying to stay ahead of the newest confrontation. Horror is for romantics with its mood, atmosphere and locations, but also for the intelligent who don't want to be spoonfed their plots.
So, what is it you love about horror?