Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
The Horror! (x2)
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2007 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
Morning work discussion included proposing which films, and which films' special effects, still hold up on contemporary viewing. Suggested watersheds in special effects: Star Wars, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Matrix. Candidates without a broad consensus: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Jaws, The Blair Witch Project, Toy Story. I found Blair Witch quite frightening while a colleague found it amusing; I noted that a work of horror, as in porn, either pushes your specific buttons or it doesn't.
I don't generally read or watch horror, for fear of nightmares. I did pick up High Cotton: Selected Stories of Joe R. Lansdale at Borderlands once when a bookshop employee suggested it as a gateway drug to horror. I appreciated it, but it didn't expand my comfort zone. I still can't trust the squick to stay in its little box, going away when I close the book. I fear that it will attack again when I'm asleep, defenseless.
Yesterday I saw a trailer for a new horror film called Vacancy. Intellectually, I can decompose the premises, viewpoint and structure of the movie. It reminds me of Blair Witch and The Truman Show, and of what I've heard of Saw and Hostel. Viscerally, I can tell that Vacancy would actually push my buttons and scare me -- even the trailer is memorably scary. At least, it pushes my specific buttons.
Before "boundaries" became an in-vogue pop-psych word, I had already decided that I wasn't going to watch or read horror because it might make me uncomfortable, especially in ways I couldn't control. But every once in a while I peek over the edge. Blair Witch, Lansdale, an afternoon in the Pegasus bookstore at Durant and Shattuck reading Carrie.
I guess I'm trying to figure out what people get out of horror. Is it a thrill ride? Is it a reminder of the nearness of oblivion or hell, like "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (Slacktivist name-check) or Camus? Is it catharsis or feeding for bloodlust?
30 Mar 2007, 19:12 p.m.
30 Mar 2007, 20:51 p.m.
01 Apr 2007, 22:58 p.m.
06 Apr 2007, 21:58 p.m.