Learning to Love Horror

Today* was a miserable day, not because something bad happened, but because of the weather.

Southern Ontario was hit with a “historical” ice storm on Saturday going into Sunday. And sure, the aftermath of ice storms are always beautiful with the ice covered trees and bushes, but having to scrape your car off and waddle down the sidewalk to avoid falling are not fun or beautiful things.

Canada, we get tired of snow just like the rest of the world!

Sunday started off how Saturday ended, with ice pelting the streets and icing cars and anything else in its path. It later turned into rain, which is better than ice but only made walking more slippery, the snow heavier to shovel, and driving more hazardous. Still, we survived, so I guess that’s something.

Most people stayed in during the weekend because of how dreary and cold it was, but a group of friends and I had planned to drive down to a further movie theatre to see Love, Simon because we wanted to see it at an earlier time than the time the theatre in our city was playing it. Because of the weather plans were changed and instead of driving to the further theatre we kept it close, and instead of Love, Simon we decided to watch A Quiet Place.

Here’s the thing, I don’t like horror movies. But two out of the four of us wanted to see it, and I’m not one to say no to watching a movie with friends, so I drove (slowly) through the city, picking people up, and then we went to the theatre.

I’m very weird with the horror genre. It’s a love hate relationship really, when I was young I loved shows like Goosebumps, Freaky Stories, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and Tales from the Crypt Keeper but it I ever saw an episode that was too scary for me (the dummy episode of Goosebumps) or something in the show that unsettled me (the theme song for Are You Afraid of the Dark?) I stopped watching it. I had nightmares a lot as a kid and ended up avoiding everything horror and anything scary.

But I do think horror movies have interesting plots (though I’ll admit, there are a lot of really stupid ones too) and what I began to do was search for horror movies on Wikipedia and read the plots, which has now become a strange hobby of mine. That way I know what the movie is about and can talk to people about it all without watching the movie and being scared!

A few years ago I decided to read a horror novel after reading an article on BookRiot called “5 Horror Novels That Will Give You Nightmares” and immediately became intrigued. I planned to write down the books on the list and find summaries of them on Wikipedia to read later, since I had long convinced myself I was too scared to read horror. But the second book on the list just made me too curious. It was House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, and the author of the article described it as a book within a book with more stories piled on top, and that the further you dwell into the house in the book the more the physical pages of the book changed too. I’d never read a book that changes as you read it and I didn’t exactly know what the person was trying to say about it, so I put the seven-hundred-and-five page book on hold and got it a week later at my bookmobile. I told myself that if I got too scared I could always stop reading and return it.

But I didn’t. It took me about a month to read the brick of a book, but I finished it, and it is easily one of the best books I’ve read in my life and also one of the scariest. There are little things to unsettle the reader throughout the book, like how the word house is always written in blue whenever it appears, even in a foreign language. Or the codes that appear randomly throughout, or how the book really does change the further you go into the house. I can’t even describe what the book is about because there are so many stories present, but it’s a book to experience and return to over and over again.

And yes, it scared me. It even gave me nightmares. And that’s okay!

Finishing the book, I realized my issue with horror movies is how they manipulate you through sound, and they do a good job of it. All minor chords and crescendos, and knowing just when to silence the music preparing you for a jump scare, or a quick fake out that then becomes a real jump scare. It’s the music that puts me on edge, that prepares me for certain cues of getting scared, and knowing something will happen, getting so on edge waiting for the monster to appear and knowing the movie will take its sweet time to do so.

Horror novels obviously can’t do that, but they describe what’s coming. Reading how an author builds the suspense and thrill of a monster or some evil presence coming after a character and waiting for it makes me want to read more until the evil thing happens. When a similar thing happens in a horror movie setting I’m hiding behind my popcorn and telling my sister not to laugh at me. I guess my reaction to reading a horror novel is the same to how my sister and other horror movie lovers react to those movies.

I’ve since started reading a lot more horror and thriller novels, and I’ve loved most of them (Shirley Jackson is Queen!). It’s this whole genre I thought I was too scared to enjoy but realized I just enjoyed it in a different way. I don’t know if I would have liked horror novels when I was younger or if it’s something I had to grow into. Maybe it’s because a part of me knows now that there are much bigger things to be afraid of than demons and ghosts.

Whatever the reason, I’ll keep a place on my bookshelf for horror and wait every Halloween when horror movie lists come out so I can read their Wikipedia summaries.

And in case you were wondering, A Quiet Place is fantastic. And yes, I did read the Wikipedia summary before watching it.

*Today meaning Sunday April 15 when the post was written.

(Picture from House of Leaves found here.)

 

3 thoughts on “Learning to Love Horror

  1. lissette maldonado says:

    Hey, Sarah, I completely understand about horror movies. I remember the first horror movie I watched was John Carpenter’s Halloween when I was a kid and I got scared of it that I couldn’t sleep by myself for a week. Ironically, now they’re my favorite franchise. Horror movies do a lot of jump scares, and also they manipulate sound. I look up summaries of horror movies too when I’m going to watch one with my family. I thought I was the only one who did that glad to see I’m not alone. I agree with you on how you’re affected more if you see something that frightens you rather than reading about it. I’ve read 3 Stephen King novels, one of them being Carrie. Carrie didn’t scare me because the book is told through newspaper articles, interviews, and reports. Also, the whole book takes places on prom night so it’s to be expected that something was going to happen to Carrie. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SarahScribbles says:

      Thanks Lissette, it’s nice to know I’m not alone with reading horror summaries! And I want to read Carrie so badly, I know the story but had no idea it was told through newspapers articles and other documents, I really need to put it on my TBR pile!

      Liked by 1 person

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