I've always been a horror fan. Ever since I was a teenager, the genre was intoxicating. It was a forbidden fruit, a window to the secret horrors that adults knew existed, but children were protected from. Of all the different types of movies and books, horror was the one that all but guaranteed a glimpse of the two most dangerous excitements: Sex and violence.
As I grew up, I realized that horror wasn't that simple. Sure, slasher movies like the Friday the 13th series always held a campy titillation, but they don't define the best of the genre. I explored more intelligent horror films and books, only to discover that the best available seemed to frequently shy away from that title. There was a stigma surrounding the word 'horror'. Authors often shunned the label, insisting that they wrote suspense or thriller books. Horror flourished in the late seventies and early eighties, but before the nineties came around it seemed to have passed its zenith.
Horror was arguably born with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The original book was an allegory to the dangers of science, but it taps into a visceral fear as the protagonist is relentlessly hunted by their own undead creation. Horror existed before the doctor's creation, but it was usually tame, gothic ghost stories. Interestingly, the impetus for Frankenstein was when Shelley and her friends dared each other to write a gothic tale after reading German ghost stories all night.
Shortly after Frankenstein, we were given the works of Edgar Allen Poe. No one in literary history has defined a genre as perfectly as Poe was able to do with his unsettling tales. His works are magnificently creepy, and has served as inspiration for authors since they were first published.
Horror was given another gift with Jekyll and Hyde, where Robert Louis Stevenson again used science to explore the evil that dwells within. This also, in my opinion, was the novel that helped the genre graduate from gothic tradition to a more relatable setting. Then Lovecraft tore apart our expectations by opening portals to the most creative universe of nightmares that has ever been explored.
Once movies lit up screens across the world, horror had a new hurtle. It was one thing to rely on a person's imagination to conjure up the disgusting images that horror revels in, but would the public be able to handle it on a screen, projected for them to see in all its terrifying glory? Without a doubt, yes! Horror swept into cinemas swiftly, from Nosferatu to the Wolfman, movie studios discovered that audiences were longing for a glimpse of the macabre.
And then came Hitchcock. This master of suspense picked the genre up from its cartoonish movie monster mire and delivered it to audiences complete with all the thrills that he was famous for. It seemed that the genre had been reborn, ready to delight and terrify audiences for decades to come.
Stephen King has to be lauded for reinvigorating horror literature, and his name has become synonymous with the genre. At the same time, the film industry began churning out cheap slasher films that dominated the landscape and unfortunately altered the public perception of what horror had to offer. Each new group of teenagers that got slaughtered was another step in the wrong direction. While I sheepishly admit to loving these movies, I also recognize that they debased a genre I love. They provided the evidence critics needed to disregard horror all together. Today, if you tell someone you're going to see a horror movie, they have a specific expectation for what you mean, and it rarely involves an intellectually stimulating exploration of fear.
The most recent evolution (de-evolution?) of horror is what has come to be known as 'torture porn'. These movies delight in letting us watch the vilest explorations of pain imaginable. They test our endurance as flesh is torn open, eyeballs are plucked out, and bones get sawed through. This is horror that rarely has a redeeming quality, and is only there to push our limits beyond what we can handle.
Sadly, we've now entered an age for the genre where some of its most prolific artists are hesitant to be labeled as such. Horror isn’t a title that exclaims quality, and instead seems to assure mindless fun. I abhor this fact. I desperately want to see the genre regain its credibility. I want horror movies to return to the halcyon days of Hitchcock, and horror novels to be as highly regarded as they were in the days of Poe.
I've tried for a long time to properly define what horror means, and how it can differentiate itself from other genres. The best definition I can give is this: It's a thriller when a child is scared of what monster might be in the closet, and it's horror when the monster gets out. Horror is an exploration of our worst nightmares, and for that reason there is an endless area for us to explore. Our worst nightmares shouldn't be limited to an axe-wielding maniac that chops up groups of teenagers, or a sadistic killer with a slew of torture toys.
Horror deserves better than that!
By A.R. Wise
David was caught in the middle of the city when the zombie outbreak started. His wife and daughters were at home, stranded on the roof as zombies waited below. He would have to fight through hordes of undead, merciless other survivors, and a series of death defying stunts to get home. However, even if he makes it there, how can he be sure they're safe?
Deadlocked puts you into David's head as he struggles to get home. Then a final confrontation occurs that could guarantee his family's survival, but at what cost?
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A.R. Wise was born in Hammond, Indiana, just outside of Chicago. He's spent time in several states throughout the years but now resides in beautiful Colorado, near the Rocky Mountains. He is the proud father of two adorable, beautiful girls that inspire him everyday, and is married to an unreasonably understanding and loving wife. He has been writing since he was a child, but the ebook revolution is what finally convinced him to offer his work to the world.