HORROR, the genre, must be horrible because horror, the reality, stalks us daily; the relief of laughter, and the relief of revery inspired by beauty, both exist partially as an antidote to anxiety. Directly confronting fear (in a horror film, for instance) triggers a physical response which competes with laughter–a bodily response–and pleasurable swooning–also a physical response. The comedic, the beautiful and the horrific are sisters. Art deftly combines them, and the skill in combining these three marks the great artist.
Fictional horror gives a crude psycho-physical pleasure in the use of contrast as it diminishes the banal horror of ordinary worries and anxiety–the less intense dread we feel in varying degrees in our own lives.
The cure is the poison itself; fear in life seeks out more intense fear in stories; ironically, more palpable fear comes to us through fiction; the horror genre is a vaccine of ‘dead’ (fictive) horror for our ‘live’ (real) anxieties.
But why does horror have to be horrible when it can be comedic and beautiful too–and not merely full of horror? We can have our poem and eat it; the art that is beautiful and comedic and terrifying all at once is the greatest gift art can give.
Alfred Hitchcock won no Oscars, and the terrifying film “Bright Star” will win none, and Poe, who they say ‘is not really that scary’ (of course not! his genius was not merely out to scare) was the Hitchcock of his day, winning no ‘Oscars’ (Poe was shut out by the literary establishment, despite his popularity). I’ll name one more figure who fits into the category of aesthetic balance–and for that reason gets rejected by various camps: Camille Paglia. A highly controversial, contradictory, but rich, thinker, (who has wasted her talent on political blogging to some extent) Paglia provides more than single-genre types can chew on.
On this Halloween, here’s to celebrating books, films, and art that are scary, funny and beautiful in tasteful, ingenious combination.
Take fright and add a little light. The dark doesn’t have to be so stark.