I watched my first horror movies in my parent’s bedroom, when my mother was at work. It was a secret between my father and me. His father, my grandfather, had recently passed away and we were living in his house. On my breaks from school, we’d sometimes watch three movies in a row. We were living in this mini-mansion with an unfinished basement and a spiral staircase and all the makings of the perfect horror film. After one particular movie, I would never stick my hand anywhere near the garbage disposal again.
My father didn’t talk much those days. He was angry and sullen and didn’t leave the house much. But, we did watch those movies, and we screamed and jumped and laughed when ghosts popped out of closets or the main characters ran straight into the haunted attic instead of going out the front door.
I’m sure a lot of kids would have hated it, but I became a little obsessed. It was around this time Buffy first aired, and I got my first typewriter, where I typed up murder mysteries and the tales of a Frankenstein monster family, complete with a green dog with a box shaped head.
Flash forward to a fifteen-year-old who writes stories featuring torture sessions and eyelids that get cut off and flung onto bathroom mirrors, and you can be sure that I’ve been asked more than once, “Why do you write these stories?”
While I was pondering what I wanted to submit to The Midnight Society for a first post, I happened to be reading The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion. I’ve been a Joss Whedon fan since the first airing for Buffy, and absolutely loved this movie, so it seems appropriate to be quoting him here.
“Why does anyone tell these stories?
After a certain question about strong women characters, this is the one question I get the most and answer the least. Why do we need horror stories? And I don’t mean enjoy, I mean NEED. Because we do. We revel in them. And maybe that’s a response to the darkness of the world (or an inoculation against it), or maybe it really is why we need to be gotten rid of. I think, and I hope this movie conveys, that it’s a bit of both. If there’s one constant I’ve found in my work, it’s the devastating and necessary human capacity for conflict of interest. We are always at war with ourselves. Our darkness and our better angels. Our desire to achieve and our desire to succumb. Our capacity for self-destruction, or at least self-sabotage. Watching horror, identifying and objectifying, rooting for and against both sides, is a particular thrill, a sleigh ride into that inner conflict. And it’s fucking fun.”
— Joss Whedon, The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion
At a time where life had gotten so much darker, I fell into stories where people dealt with darkness. When I’m afraid of things now, as I usually am because I’m afraid of pretty much everything (Heights? Cars? Fire? Chickens? Mice? The list goes on.), I turn to these stories. Maybe it’s to make myself feel tougher. Maybe it’s to make characters suffer. Maybe it’s to feel in control in a powerless world. I don’t know. But I do know that I feel more at home in a story with killer mice, than I do in one where everyone’s smiling. There’s a truth in a story that admits darkness, a one I don’t find in stories where everyone is smiling to cover it all up, that I find comforting.
And also, it’s just more fun.