What Do Horror Fans Want?

The Series continues. This week, we feature author Elyse Draper. She is one of the authors in “Voices of Autism: Stories of Courage”, “Comfort and Strength”; “Ladies of Horror 2009”; has illustrated several others, and has three novels in the process of finding a home: “Free Will”, “Consequences”, and “Vindication”, a fourth in progress “The Takers”, and a fifth on the drawing board “Mirrorscape”.

You can visit her site here.

I think the first thing we need to ask is: what it horror? The simplest answer would be something grotesque and terrifying, something that causes intense fear and/or discomfort. The possibilities for the sources of these horrific feelings are as random, and unique, as each separate personality walking around the planet at this very moment. How can we, as horror manufacturers (whatever our medium may be), provide a product that speaks to the most people as possible? Touching varying tastes by breaking down the genre into subsets? Leaving us to try and to find the horrific potential of mutual terror by including most amount of disgust as possible? … with monsters, or anguish, or perhaps gore? Personally, I believe that the best horror, which spins a poignant tale for every audience, is the one that taps directly into the human psyche, finding the shared nightmares within our primal selves.

Historically speaking, illness, gore, even death were as common place as hangnails … what did history’s personalities find terrifying? Did they seek out ‘fear’ for its entertainment value? What did they hope to gain from acknowledging the horror in their lives? What stories would we hear, if we were to sit around a camp fire while our neighbors were dropping like flies from the bubonic plague? There may be bits of conversation going on about starvation, the lack of life saving supplies, clean drinking water, or perhaps what a shame it was to not get a piece of the wench on the corner before she became a large oozing pustule … but this dialog wouldn’t be horrific, this would be ordinary life. Certainly though, you would eventually hear a story spun that was able to take broken, exhausted minds to a different place … I think that this is when horror came about for entertainment’s sake. For a small moment in time, there was something scarier than the real world … it was fantasy, fiction, the unknown; but, god did it feel real and exhilarating. It was something that came from nightmares, mysterious deaths, supernatural powers, and the paranormal … it was real in our minds, and something bigger than our current situations. It was horrific, and it made us feel alive.

The modern audience still carries some of those basic fears … although, we’re not quick to fall for the standard tale about the old lady on the corner actually being a witch. Even the most devote film or literary gore monger would have issues with the real deal … subconsciously understanding fiction is fiction, and that they are safe with a book in hand; but actually picking up the pieces of a slaughtered child is truly too horrific. As providers, we need to take the audience to that next level, take away their safety net … sometimes, even surpassing taboo for the greatest amount of shock value. The audiences are not stupid, or easily fooled … they want to be cut quickly through their minds and hearts, taken into their fight or flight reflexes, and assaulted intellectually; adrenaline pumping, heart fluttering, they want to be scared enough to feel alive.