HORROR FICTION. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!
During the Second World War, Hollywood, California
studios lost a great many writers to the patriotic
urge to enlist or to the draft. To overcome
the shortage, they began re-distributing, throughout
their network of small theaters in the United
States, the original adaptations of the classic
horror films of the 1930ís and early 1940ís.
I can still remember closing my eyes during
the scary parts of the monster movies on Saturday
afternoons. Oh, as a point of interest, movies
in neighborhood theaters were five cents during
the mid-forties. My weekly reward for not getting
into trouble, during or after school, gained
me ten cents on Saturday, a nickel for the show
and a nickel for the candy machine.
Now that weíre past my reflection of those
by-gone days, letís quick forward to the mid
70ís. Writers like Stephen King broke the horror
mold with his blood and gore novel, Carrie.
When Hollywood adapted the book to film they
gave audiences a new "finger biting" fear and
created a "gorier genre" of horror.
But, for a few more moments, letís stay focused
of the horror movies of yesteryear. Not all
of the 30ís and 40ís horror film adaptations
were from authorís books.
Dracula (1931) featuring the Hungarian
stage actor Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) was taken
from Bram Stokerís literary work.
Frankenstein (1931) written by
the brilliant English
novelist Mary Shelley (1797-1851), introduced
the English actor Boris Karloff.
The Mummy (1932) also featuring
Karloff was written by Hollywood scriptwriter
John L. Balderston.
White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi
starred in this Voodoo horror film. It was written
by screenwriter Garnett Weston.
The Invisible Man (1933) starred
the British actor Claude Rains (1889-1967),
and was taken from H. G. Wells's 1897 Sci Fi
novel of the same name.
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
featuring Elsa Lanchester (1902-1986), the wife
of British actor Charles Laughton, was the work
of screenwriters, John L.Balderston, William
J. Hurlbut and Edmund Pearson
The Wolfman (1941), written by
scriptwriter and SF author Curt Siodmak, starred
the young American actor Lon Chaney Jr. (1906-1973).
These are just a few of the great horror classic
movies, but they werenít the first horror films,
although they still remain quite popular, even
to this day.
In the 1820ís Washington Irving (1783-1859)
wrote the short story "The Headless Horseman
of Sleepy Hollow", a frightening story about
a man named Ichabod Crane being chased by a
headless ghost on horseback.
What would horror be without the master of
terror, Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)? His horror
stories include "The House of Usher" (published
in 1839), "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846) and
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841), which
is actually considered to be the first detective
The horror films of the 30ís and 40ís introduced
glued to your seat "FEAR". The kind of terror
that makes most moviegoers skulk back in their
seats and bite their fingernails during the
Fear about the uncanny creates uncertainty.
It leaves thoughts for dreams of things that
go bump-in-the-night or the sheer terror of:
Is someone hiding under the bed?
The difference between the old and new genre
created by King with his
Carrie is that you get to see the
terror under the bed and the blood on the walls.
Carrie and the films that followed
are types of horror movies that leave audiences
with images of blood spurting out of headless
bodies and zombies eating people.
Now, letís take a look across the pond to England.
When one takes note of the long list of Nineteenth
Century horror writers (Poe and Irving), itís
found that the English really opened the door
to the written world of fear and the weird.
Twentieth Century British writers: Brian Lumley,
Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker, also contributed
their works of Metaphysical and Dark Fantasy.
Of course, many American writers like John
Saul and David Koontz, who wrote thrillers,
Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy Horror stories,
did everything possible to avid being type-cast.
They didnít want to be classified as horror
writers even though their combined stories are
defined as quintessential essence of horror.
As a matter of fact, David Koontz became the
first president of the Horror Writersí Association
founded by renowned fantasy writer, Robert McCammon.
To avoid the horror stigma McCammon stopped
writing. His real passion was in writing historical
Latter day writersí works include:
The Rats (1974) and
The Fog (1975) by James Herbert
are gruesome tales that define what fear is
Bring Me Children (1995) by David
L. Martin presents his brand of torture that
is truly horrifying in its portrayal of evil
Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Woman
(1998) by Edward Lee and Elizabeth Steffen provides
a description of body mutilation that is not
for the faint hearted.
Their work isnít about fairy tales or witches
and goblins, but true terror from the darker
side of humanity.
So, what does all of the above mean to the
genre of "HORROR"?
To spell it out pure and simple, itís a multibillion-dollar
business and the industry is starving for something
new and sensational from authors. Publishers
are tired of the trend for using vampires, werewolves
and other clichťs of horror.
They want something fresh and original. Current
dayís endless repetition of scenes of blood
and gore has been worked and re-worked. The
use of snakes, crocodiles, monkeys and other
animals has been exhausted.
It only takes a brief look at the SCI-FI channels
to see the amateurish attempts to create horror.
These low-budget films are so bad they reek
with an odor of bad taste rather spreading the
atmosphere of fear of "true" horror.
True horror or "Horror Fiction" is defined
as the intention to scare, unsettle or create
fear in the minds of the audience, whether it
is by word or sight. Two of the most important
characteristics of the horror genre are shock
and terror, which are intended to be "nightmare
Horror is really all about "FEAR". It goes
beyond monsters under the bed, ghosts, dead
people walking and even vampires. Horror is
meant to push fact beyond reality and reason
and cause an uncanny, eerie feeling within the
mind. It must leave a mental image that makes
a person cringe when conjured-up.
Some writers have said horror is ambivalently
human, meaning to embrace it and fear it at
the same time.
Stephen King broke the old mold of 1930ís horror
and now someone else will have to do the same
with the current trend, using all sorts of animals
being chased by women in tank-tops and a band
of untalented male actors, in atrocious story
Hypothetically, the secret of becoming a successful
horror writer is realizing that great horror
happens in the human mind. To achieve this a
writer must create uncanny and unbelievable
characters, have originality with a compelling
plot and set the stage in a psychological landscape,
which becomes one of the storyís most important
In essence, today a writer must go beyond the
morbid works of Poe or even King to become known
in the literary arena of "Horror".