Saturday, July 16, 2011

What Horror Has Come To Mean To Me:

From Charles Grant's introduction to his first Shadows, a collection of shorts from some of the biggest names in horror:

That is what Shadows is all about.
It is not what the current spate of horror films and novels are about, however. They, most of them, deal primarily with shock, not true horror. For all the learned pamphlets and discussions on the religious foundations of The Exorcist, The Omen, Audrey Rose, and dozens of lesser-budgeted films, what they have failed to grasp is the possibility of satanic possession, reincarnation, or conjuring of gods/demons from arcane mythologies - we are, rather, shocked because of the blood, the vomit, the decapitations, the mutilations, and the transformations in vivid crimson color.
This is not fear. It's revulsion.
What really frightens us, for the most part, is not that we (and the savage) do not completely understand, but all that we do not see, even though we know it is there. The classic case in the media? The film The Haunting, and in it the scene in the house library when the extraordinary wind sweeps thunderously down the hallway, the echoing pounding on the heavy oaken doors begins. ..and the wood bends inward as whatever is out there tries to get in. That we do not see what is there (and never do), frightens us. And the anticipation of seeing it unnerves us even more. The savage, scuttling away from the platform crack into the more comfortable darkness.

And so it is with a good horror story, without the reliance on blood and gore, mayhem, ghosts, and the usual stable of monsters, both mythological and psychological.  These elements may, in fact, appear, but they are merely parts of the whole and not the point; they are segments only of a larger nightmare.   

Shadows, then, deals with what that title suggests, those shadows over there in the corner that do not quite resolve themselves into objects familiar, the shadow formed by a coat over the back of a chair at the foot of your bed, the shadow that presses across an empty autumn street, the shadow that has no light to give it birth. Despite some of the thunder, it's a quiet sort of horror we're dealing with here, and a quiet way to scream.
And thus must I now succumb to an aged, even cliched admonition: For the sake of the authors, and for the sake of your enjoyment, do not read this book from cover to cover at a single sitting (even horror dissipates itself in surfeit). Take one, two, perhaps three at the most, and lose yourself in their creations. 

Some of them will get to you immediately you read the last line; others depend on a moment or two, or a minute or two afterward before the effect of the material sinks in and draws blood. Some will downright frighten; others will linger and work on the back of your neck when you least expect it.
And in an age that seems to demand speed even in reading, I would ask that you take your time, as you would with a fine brandy.
Ideally, use the evening.
Practically, use whatever place you can find where you can sit undisturbed and read and enjoy.
Only. for the shadows. Be sure, somehow, there's a light there to make them.
Randolph, NJ, May 1977

Pretty sure anything I could add would be superfluous in the extreme.  Interesting how his assessment of popular horror genre - both film and literature - back in 1977 is still pretty relevant today...