Let’s Talk About The Horror

Well it’s Halloween today, usually one of my favorite holidays of the year. I love all things spooky and kooky and gothic, appreciate a good horror movie and find the whole aesthetic of the fall season charming. The leaves are red and gold, the weather in California at least, is perfect, and there is nothing like a good walk in fallen leaves that shush around your feet, letting you kick around the year’s end and contemplate the new one.

I am a bit of a horror movie buff on the quiet. Get me going and I will talk for hours about how Jigaw/John Kramer has a G_d complex and is offering a twisted redemption via his traps. He sees himself as a jealous and unreasonable G_d, who sets painful, but survivable tests of pain and suffering for the unfortunates he sets his sights on. The problem is he is just not just. He is not a good judge, or a fair judge, and his sense of punishment is all off kilter. Smack addict who accidentally, but seriously hurt his wife who was a doctor working at a drug recovery clinic does not warrant a bear trap round the head. Perhaps jail, perhaps restitution, perhaps given a chance to apologize, perhaps even shunned from society, but probable death if they can’t hurt themselves badly enough? Who, but a monster or a jealous megalomanic man who thinks he is G_d thinks that is ok? No one. But I digress.

The horror universe tends towards morality tales – look at who gets topped first – the kids who go off into the woods for some drinking and teenage fumbles in a tent, the gossiping girl on the phone, the lone sheep that gets plucked off from the herd. Bullied Jason in Halloween would never have put on the mask if he was not bullied and hurt. One thing we learn from horror movies is that hurt-people hurt people. Their reactions are never reasonable, but generally understandable.

This year I have lost my taste for morality tales gone wrong. I have no desire to re-watch the Saw franchise or hang out with Jason, or wonder if the Nun will ever meet Annabelle in some haunted mash up that we know we need, finally marrying those two Big Bads together. I don’t even want to watch a ghost movie. I have ghosts enough. No. I have lost my taste for horror and slasher flicks and the perfection of Jamie Lee Curtis’s scream. There is horror enough for real to want to look at it on a screen.

The world suffered a collective trauma when covid hit. It was real horror movie stuff. I can see the movies of twenty years in the future, with ambulance-riding ghosts in New York City, and makeshift mortuaries that go on for miles. We are undergoing another trauma now, that hits some of us harder than others. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to acknowledge the fact that somehow our leaders have led us into some valley of death, instead of a prosperous and kind future. I don’t want to think about the suffering that not even Wes Craven or Stephen King could dream up. I don’t want to think about the passion for torture. I certainly don’t want to watch fake blood on a smeared screen and smile at the adrenaline kick that horror always gives me.

It is a guilty pleasure to enjoy horror from the safety of a living room, with the lights out and a pillow to hug, and a big old bowl of popcorn in front of you. It is avowedly not real. The jump scares and the cat and mouse games are all for fun, to get that heart racing. The supernatural is somehow cowardly and doomed, and powerfully elemental at the same time – it is destructive but bound for eventual defeat, even if it does take ten entire movies. I say it is a guilty pleasure because when confronted with real horror the decent people shy away. They do not want to look, they do not want to participate, they do not want to inflict suffering on others. They do not even pick a side beyond “GOOD” and “EVIL”.

…Which is all well and good, except we are now seeing, worldwide: a rise of people enjoying horror. They revel in it. They pick a side which seems like it might make a good teeshirt, a fashion statement, ditch their old alliances to their past obsessions, like they are picking a new horror franchise to follow. They are the biggest fans of horror. They wish suffering and pain and torture of the most unimaginable kinds upon innocent people, and not just justify, but joke about evil beyond all realms of imagining by anyone with a soul.

I don’t believe in Jesus, but the little baby jeebus wept, folks, I swear, when he saw some of the jokes on twitter. I don’t repeat evil. I don’t speak horror. If you are awake and alert and breathing online, you see it. You might even let yourself have a naughty little giggle. Conspiratorial even. That warm glow of confusion, of hatred spreading through your bones like butter.

People love a good horror franchise. It gets the heart beating. You want to see the denouement. Only the franchises they follow are real, not made up in some backlot of a Los Angeles Hollywood studio. I am waiting for the axe to fall every damn day. My hands shake. My knees quiver. I feel like the rabbit and the dogs of war are loose and have my scent.

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe what we need is a good new horror baddie to follow on the silver screen. Perhaps that will satisfy the blood lust. Maybe we, as a species can let out our baser desires, our crueler appetites on something less real. Horror show fake bloodied hands waving in the place where real horrors should be discussed and averted make a mockery of true suffering of human beings. Is it so wrong to be a humanist? To want no suffering, but to understand that sometimes that playground bully turns a sweet kid into a killer, if you push him enough, that is? One thing you learn if you love horror, is that possibly the best advice in the old testament is ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.‘ Better let some supernatural power with a bigger brain and soul than us exact vengeance, because when mere human beings seek revenge it all goes wrong. They end up overshooting the mark. They go too far. They are not just. Because when pushed beyond the limits of tolerance, humans react out of fear and loathing, as the Good Dr. Hunter S Thompson once pointed out, and that leads to the absolute horror we have seen recently. We don’t even tend to punish the right people, let alone in a just and measured manner!

We are in a dumbness spiral of immense proportions. We have uneducated ourselves, deconstructed decency and left ourselves with a society that does not function. Don’t ask me what the solution is, I don’t think there is one. I think we are headed for disaster and then perhaps, if there is anything left, anyone left, just maybe we can rebuild just to fuck it up all over again.

It is not say that I am some self controlled, decent human being, but I like to think I am kind. I wonder for how long I will be able to keep that up? How long before I have to watch myself for signs of hating men, hating those who hate me, hating governments and systems? Do I have it in me to make someone else feel uncomfortable, feel threatened? I don’t think so. Seeing the outpouring of blue haired college babies give into hate like they are picking up a new trend makes me feel a little queasy. There is common ground to be had, but not when people go on the attack.

Virtue signaling belongs in horror movies. Punishment and harassment are the fare of Evil personified, yet we are not concerned with Evil and Good. That went out in the 1960s with the Manson Family bullshit and the advent of free love that pretended to be good, but instead was just an excuse for an orgy of making everything permissible and fashion being more important than goodness. Some of it worked, let’s not throw the baby out with the bloody bathwater. We needed gay rights, single mothers to be supported, not condemned. We needed the freedom to say bad words. To speak our minds. When was the last time you felt free to speak your mind, without being scared that the woke version of twitter Freddie Kruger was about to cut you out of polite society, and cancel your entire character? I have not spoken my mind for a decade!

I keep quiet. I keep my own counsel. I say nothing, but I like to think I say nothing very prettily and if you read between the lines, you might be able to see a little of what I keep to myself. There was a time when I was bullied within an inch of my life to take the vaccine and to shut my mouth about my misgivings about it. It was what all these Wokesters were most obsessed about with their cute little dances and their Fauci masks. Woe betide anyone who said ‘actually, I’m gonna just wait and see and wear a damn mask….’…Now it is not their current obsession, I can say….actually…no I can’t….See I would rather have my lack of virtue unsignalled and remain somewhat safer, than to speak it, and be in danger. When people have free speech, but can’t use it for absolute fear, then folks…that is horror story worth telling.

I’m going to skip right to the holiday of lights. I cancelled Halloween. No darkness in this house! I’m ordering the most colorful candles I can find, and dream of gluten free donuts. People don’t survive times like this, by speaking their mind, by being open, and by letting it all hang out. No. We hide our lights behind our doors, and we wait until the world has regained its mind and hope we survive the interim.

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      1. Jennifer Patino

        I understand & can relate to that. I often remind myself that I don’t have to be sure what’s right or wrong, only what is right for me, & learn it by experience or at least trying to figure out what feels right. I also feel constantly that others try to tell me what I should find offensive, & often I’m not offended easily. I just try my best not to harm anyone & try to make it right if I do.

      2. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

        Thank you for coming to say hello! I honestly believe we were put on this world to learn how to be good to each other. It is one big schoolroom. Who knows, one day I might even say what I REALLY think! Then, look out! (joking….) Seriously, feel free to write if you ever need another poet and writer to talk things through with. I am happy to listen.


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