How Horror Transcends Its Own Genre
Now, before I even start, I would like to address the elephant sat happily in the room. When I say “Horror”, I don’t mean the stupidly overly hyped and overly made, jump-scare, maniac and masked killer from the dead, or yes, Zombie filled films and books you see too much of today. None of that. If you want to know what my opinion of that, go and watch the brilliant Satire on the subject, Cabin In The Woods made by Joss Whedon and Directed by Drew Goddard.
Try and think less Slasher and more Drama. Less Friday 13th and more Hereditary. Horror as a genre has in many ways grown and adapted, and through all the bad, there are some shining examples as to how it has transcended its own genre. As well as how other genres have, in their own way, fallen into it. Mainly through how society has changed over time.
Let’s start easy, Crime Fiction. This has always straddled Horror and Thrillers, as they encompass the same stories, just told from a different point of view. But, more and more, I have seen them starting to bleed together.
One of my favourite examples of this is the Ceepak Mystery’s. Written by Chris Grabenstein and narrated on Audible by Jeff Woodman. The style lends itself to immerse you almost completely into the stories. Told in first person and present tense by Officer Danny Boyle, at the start a Part-Time Officer for Sea Heaven New Jersey. His Partner John Ceepak is a war veteran who struggles with PTSD and lives by a Code of Conduct which he uses to cope.
So far you’re thinking; standard Crime Fiction, and in some ways, you would be right. However, it is how the cases are presented to you, how well the characters are developed so they no longer become a stereo-type and the fact that throughout the entire series it makes you address life’s true horrors.
I won’t go into any story spoilers, but to explain this correctly, I would say the tone sets the mood. It feels like you’re on a rollercoaster, alongside the protagonists, sometimes you feel like you’re one step ahead, desperate to shout at them what they’re missing. And other times you feel like you’re right there with them, unsure, unsteady and scared.
It has a good sense of humour through Danny’s character, giving you relief when you need it and when the mood drops, you feel it. This is not the landmarks of a Crime Fiction, which will usually follow a procedural and linear story-line, you feel the emotion, not through the ‘Detective’ themselves but what they see and experience, and aren’t often told through their eyes, but a third person narrator and the events unfolding will be told as if already having happened.
Being in the shoes of the ‘detective’ is a Lovecraftian trick, which is very much in the realm of Horror, if not one of the oldest tricks in the horror toolkit. Which is sadly not used as much anymore. I would say that the Ceepak Mystery’s straddle the sub-genres of Psychological and Drama Horror. While retaining the Crime Fiction genre itself.
Now let’s talk romance. A little trickier I know, but hear me out. Imagine you’re watching a Horror film about a girl being stalked by a man who thinks he is love with her. They met once and had a pleasant enough conversation, but she carried on with her day, while he began obsessing. Or maybe he simply saw her and got it in his head he needed to be with her. And so, began plotting a way to become a part of her life.
Creepy right? Well now look back on any romance where the plot is ‘Boy Meets Girl’. I can guarantee you will find at least a handful of these plotlines. Where the guy peruses the girl and wears her out, manipulates her into ‘falling in love’ with him. (Bonus points if she was already dating, married to, or in love with another guy.)
Of course, it can go both ways. There’s that Romance staple, ‘The Manic Pixie Dream Girl’. The term was coined by film critic Nathan Rabin in 2005 to describe a female character who “exist solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.“
However, they have been around a lot longer than that. Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast At Tiffany’s ‘Holly Golightly’, was undoubtedly a manic pixie dream girl. So, how does this all tie into Horror?
I’m going to run by you another Horror idea, see if it sounds familiar. A girl pops into your life out of nowhere, she is bubbly, smart and seems outgoing. Almost perfect, even. She does all these incredible things like playing for an underground band, volunteers to help the homeless, and goes backpacking into the countryside on the weekends. She’s got a unique taste in fashion but, doesn’t care what others think about her. Soon you find yourself being dragged off on adventures, getting into trouble, and being sucked into her world.
It’s only then that you start to notice it, she isn’t quite right. At the slightest hint of an argument, she will abandon you, wherever that happens to be, and can disappear for up to weeks at a time. She has a very strange sense of humour and enjoys shocking you, her moods ranging from adorable to vile, which can turn on a six-pence.
You start to get concerned, what kind of relationship have you gotten yourself into? And can you get yourself back out of it safely?
In the Romance genre, the man will be smitten with his manic pixie dream girl. Which for me is more alarming, as it’s normalising that behaviour. When in reality, if someone treats you like that, you should be getting out of dodge. And no, you cannot say “Well, what about mental health issues?” – I agree this could look like a mental health problem, but as someone who has a mental health problem, I would never willingly subject my other half to this behaviour, and if I did, I would want to be pulled up on it so I could change it. If someone doesn’t want to, then you should leave that relationship for your own mental health.
From one bad Romance genre trope to another that would and does slide into Horror. I am going to put a TRIGGER WARNING just here, as what I’m about to talk about could affect some who have experienced it first-hand.
OK, so, you’re watching a Horror film and a girl (or guy), gets very drunk or high. They’re barely conscious and stumbling around. And the aforementioned male or female stalker finds them and rapes them. – Horrifying right?
And yet, how many Romances, especially aimed at teens for some reason, have you seen where the “Will they, Won’t they?” moment comes down to one or both of them being drunk or high… Too incapacitated to give consent. I have also seen this in a few Horrors and Thrillers of late.
Admittedly, it is getting better and is being addressed more for what it is. But, there are still far too many creators using this as a ‘sweet moment’.
Alright, we’ve covered how other genres have started bleeding into Horror, but how has Horror started bleeding into other genres?
For this, I would like to turn your attention to the Netflix TV series Haunting Of Hill House. No one could argue this was not a Horror, in fact it is a very smart and effective Horror. But, I would also surmise it was a family drama. Again, I won’t go into spoilers, however, I do suggest you watch it. The way it’s been crafted and framed makes you feel as though you’re watching the family first and foremost, which makes the Horror aspects even better, as they don’t feel forced. Yet, at the same time, it leaves you feeling as though you’re watching a family drama with a Horror backdrop.
I mentioned Hereditary before, this is another fantastic example of Horror utilising what is actually scary. Blending in the family dynamic and giving it a Horror backdrop by utilising, very tactfully a Horror storyline.
In conclusion, I would say that the genre has a lot to say and is saying it. We are getting better at creating meaningful Horrors, but they are being swamped by the ‘mainstream fluff’. So, it seems to have found another way to be heard.
We need an outlet, a catharsis, and while it seems Horror has become Polarised, between what some of the major companies think we want, and what some creators know we want. Horror has slipped into other genres in order to give us that release.
But, there’s a problem with that. Lack of self-awareness. We need to remind ourselves of what we’re watching, and that some things, no matter how you dress it up, will always be horrific.
Twisty has been an avid Horror fan for many years, and a writer for almost as many. She has always enjoyed being on the darker side of fiction, even as a child, originally using it as a way to conquer fears.
Now, Twisty is using it to bring people together. And in early May of 2019 she created Twisty’s Horror Parade, a place for writers, readers, and creators of all things Horror to come together and help each other.
As a strong believer in supporting new, indie, and upstart authors and writers alike, Twisty loves working with them. The Horror Parade being not only her personal online writing portfolio, but she also wants to build it into a community. Stating, “I have always believed you should leave something with more than you get out of it. So, by creating an online portfolio, I wanted to open it up to others who needed or wanted a platform.”
You can find out more about Twisty by visiting her Official Site TwistysHorrorParade
You can follow Twisty on Twitter @TwistyGirl88