I’ve always thought that I didn’t like the horror genre. And it’s true that I don’t like a lot of what I generally expect to see in horror. But since I’ve unexpectedly found myself enjoying a few works in the genre right in time for Halloween, I’ve taken some time to think about what this means. Specifically, that I don’t like a lot of the tropes I associate with traditional American horror: lack of focus on characterization, shock value deaths, the notion that characters need to be punished. I’m not necessarily enamored with a work of fiction trying to scare me either, or reveling in the helplessness of the characters.
Still, while those things make up a lot of horror works, they don’t have to. Horror (especially psychological horror) can be character-focused. Every death can mean something, or alternatively, the threat of death could replace actual death. And while the entire point of the genre is to pit the protagonists against something far more powerful than themselves, that doesn’t mean the story can’t also be about them looking for ways to fight back. Continue reading