‘It’s not a kind of fiction meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.’
Douglas Winter, 1982, Prime Evil. (1)
The origins of horror can be traced back to the very creation of man, for as long as we as a species have been able to tell stories we have been trying to scare each other. It may have been to teach children to behave, or warn others of dangers we had not seen, but the human race has always had a morbid fascination with what goes bump in the night. ‘The horror genre is predominantly concerned with the fear of death, the multiple ways in which it can occur and the untimely nature of its occurrence…’ (Paul Wells) (2). The genre preys on the innate fear present in all of us.
From the time that we have begun to write, the roots of horror can be seen growing from folklore, mythology and religion. Horror in literature has much of its roots in the ‘Inquisition and its obsession with heresy and witchcraft. Other inspirations included the first volume of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Inferno (1307) and John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667)’(1). However the genre of horror wasn’t truly distinguished from the Gothic until writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and Bram Stoker took an interest in the topics within itself, such as science and mental illness.
Fast forwarding to the 21st century, some of the world’s leading authors have had footholds in the horror genre. Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, even J.K Rowling have been involved in writing Horror, even if this is at an incredibly base level (for example Harry Potter exists in a world of Witchcraft).
The morbid attraction to the macabre has leaked into pop-culture to such an extent that there is a constant stream of monster filled media. From video games (Outlast 2013) (3) to Creepypastas (BEN Drowned) (4) and films (Nightmare On Elm Street 1984) (5), fear has shown to able to capture an instant gathering.
The definition of horror is a bit less cut and dry as the serial killers and creatures from the depths of hell will have you believe. Within the genre of Horror (originally a subgenre itself), there is gore, psychological, killer, monster and paranormal. Within these there are even more categories that stories can be sorted into. It is often seen that some can be a combination of themes. However it is very rare for a story to cross between all of them, although not unheard of.
One example is Stephen King’s 1986 IT. The cosmic entity that is Pennywise is able to morph into anything that the young protagonists can dream off. This story further delves into deeper fears with an apathetic town, abusive parents, and homicidal bullies that portray the worst in humanity. (6)
The human race is forever going to enjoy being scared by the imaginings of madmen and women who pen, and often produce the stuff of nightmares. Its thrill brings to what Aristotle believes, a cathartic effect to millions who need the quick hit of adrenaline (7). The world of horror continues to evolve, each new limb grabbing a hold of our minds as it becomes a new nightmare, and as we continue watching this behemoth grow, we know that soon not even Maturin can help us (6).
For full article links are embedded in the post.
(1) “The Evolution of Horror in Fiction: a brief guide – The …” Accessed February 1, 2018. http://thecircular.org/evolution-horror-fiction-brief-guide/
(2) Paul Wells, The Horror Genre: From Beelzebub to Blair Witch (London: Wallflower, 2000), pp.10
(3) Outlast. By J. T. Petty, Published by Red Barrels, 2013.
(4) “BEN Drowned.” Creepypasta Wiki. Accessed February 04, 2018. http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/BEN_Drowned.
(5) A nightmare on Elm Street. Directed by Wes Craven. By Wes Craven. Produced by Robert Shaye. Performed by John Saxon, Ronee Blakley, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund, and Jsu Garcia. United States: New Line Cinema, 1984.
(6) King, Stephen. IT. New English Library: Sevenoaks, 1987.
(7) Gillani, S. N. “Aristotles Concept of Catharsis.” Engliterarium. Accessed February 04, 2018. http://www.engliterarium.com/2008/11/aristotles-concept-of-catharsis.html.