Since I write horror, I often feel the need to defend it. It’s the creepy, inbred cousin in the writing family, the one that you just know is going to pull an Ed Gein and live in a house decorated with body part furniture he got from a satanic Ikea.
For me horror, in most of its forms, functions as a way for people to deal with the horrors of everyday life. We all have little fears and worries that crop up; cancer, heart disease, car accidents, choking, Alzheimers, robbery, exploding suns, etc. And there’s really not much we can do about these things. Bad shit happens, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid it and that’s just a fact.
But horror in fiction is our way of dealing with these mundane monsters. In the beginning of the story, we’re given something to be scared of. Our fears are crystallized into a palpable form, crammed into gruesome figures wearing hockey masks and waving machetes.
And then it’s dispatched. Sometimes with a magical talisman (silver bullets, crosses and holy water), sometimes the heroes just beat the crap out of it. The movie or book conjures up a boogeyman and then dismisses it by the time you hit the last page or the end credits.
And even if the monster’s end is ambiguous, his tale ending with a question mark rather than a full stop, you can tell yourself that it was only a story.
That’s something you can’t do in the real world. There are no silver bullets, holy water wouldn’t even chase off a goth kid and garlic is only good at being delicious.
Horror, at its best, lets you forget the real monsters and, instead, gives you a fear that can actually be dealt with.