When does horror become horrific? This a question that has been on my mind recently. When do the conceptual, primal horrors of the word and the film become the kind of horror that actually keeps us awake at night?
The culture of terror has always been concerned with the demons of our subconscious, or their manifestations in modern society. So when we talk about monsters, we are actually talking about science, and passions, and fear, rather than actual beasts. A dragon itself isn't as terrifying as the emotions and projections behind it. The witch, the wizard, the ogre, the ghost, the dungeon; these are all expressions of other ideas. By expressing them we exorcise our own negativities, either by catharsis or by turning them into thrills, chills, or laughter.
The horror is the horror; but it is not horrific. The horrific relates to the real pain of real people the actual movements of power and experience that render us powerless. We can all probably recount many examples of the horrific from our own lives, where the reality of pain and suffering makes the memory hard to withstand. These horrors are not entertainment; they are sobering, disorientating, and without comfort.
Furthermore, there is an increasing amount of the horrific in the world today. From the separation of families, the uncovering of abuse on a massive scale, the rise of extremist street violence, and the election of authoritarian misrulers the world over, we are seeing an invasion of the horrific into the world on a massive scale. Fear of disorder, oppression, violence are filtering through into the collective subconscious of society. What can Pennywise or Jason Vorhees do that Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro would not?
It is no wonder, then, that Halloween, that evening of escapism and the macabre, has turned into a month-long festival of spooky: as the horrific grows, horror becomes all the more important. As the real world becomes more and more horrific, the exorcism of our personal demons becomes the preferable alternative to misery. And often, a pretend hell is preferable to a hell on earth.
So, get carving those pumpkins; practice your hexes; and sharpen your scythes. We may be needing the cast our own spells soon enough. And, Happy Halloween!