Thursday, August 11, 2011

Enjoyment Modifiers: Horror

As the first full exploration of my Enjoyment Modifiers, I suppose I should explain the format I've settled on.  First, I'll give a nice itemized breakdown of the modifier name, category the modifier fits into (Genre, Plot point, Character type, etc.), type of modifier (Positive, Negative, Neutral), and the strength of the modifier to effect my enjoyment on average.  For type and strength there could be multiple values, since some things effect me differently depending on the medium, as demonstrated by our first entry. After the bare bones breakdown, I'll then pontificate about why it affects me, and maybe post a few examples. So, without further ado, on to the EM exploration.

StrengthHigh (Film, TV) Low (Literature, Comics)

When it comes to TV and Film, I'd hazard to say that the genre of Horror is one of my most consistently powerful positive Enjoyment Modifiers, regardless of subgenre; it doesn't matter if it's vampires, slasher, werewolves, demons, or zombies*, if it's a Horror movie then odds are good I'm going to enjoy it, even if just ironically.  This love of Horror fiction stems from several aspects of my personality.

First, it appeals to the part of me that is drawn to the outre, the unique, the inventive, the out-of-this-world.   I have a feeling this aspect of my personality is going to pop up a lot in these posts, as I've found that I'm willing to give much more leeway to anything that's a bit "out there" than I am a more "normal" film of the same general quality.  So, anything with a supernatural theme already has my interest, and even the horror featuring regular human slashers usually gets a bump from featuring some original death sequences. 

Second, it appeals to my darker side; I have a cynical streak which finds boundless optimism in fiction cloying and off-putting, but with the bulk of Horror films, even when the good guys win -- and with horror that is not even close to a given -- there's generally a fatalism that resonates with my own.  This fascination with the darker side of things also applies to the bleak, dreary, and creepy atmospheres you often find in Horror flicks. 

Third, even the less stellar examples of horror can provide for that need that many of us share:  a need for mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum that allows us to turn off our brains for a bit and just enjoy ourselves.  For many people action movies fill this role; for others, it's romantic comedies or procedurals.  But for me, when I'm in the mood to just vegetate, I will always turn to a B-movie filled with slashers or giant animals wreaking havoc on Z-grade actors.  This is probably why out of all the genres, Horror gets the biggest boost from the MST3K effect.

Please note:  I'm not saying all Horror is mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum -- just that when it is, I'm more likely to enjoy it than other examples of mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum.

In regards to the printed page, however, the bonus is much lower.  Part of that is due to the fact that I prefer to get my mindless, predictable, formulaic pablum in moving picture form, and not in typeset; the whole point of such entertainment is to turn your brain off for a bit and just vegetate, and I find it much more difficult to zone out while reading. 

Another factor is that I am not a particularly visual thinker, and thus the perennial bit of wisdom about how the pictures in your imagination are better than anything that makes it onto the screen doesn't always hold water for me, particularly when it comes to conjuring up mental images of the dark and disturbing things that populate Horror fiction.  Not that it can't happen; I've gotten completely creeped out by descriptive passages from Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker, and others.  But the amount of verbal skill required for a writer to take me to that place means that it's not as sure a thing as a well designed and directed film.

How about you, my blog monkeys?  Are you fellow gorehounds, or do you eschew all things horrific?  If you are a horror aficionado, are there any particular sub-genres (vampire, slasher, zombie, etc.) that you'd like me to discuss?  Sound off below, and come back next Thursday for a look at another big Genre:  Science Fiction.

*Well, maybe it matters a little if it's zombies -- zed-word burnout has diluted the Horror bonus quite a bit there -- will talk more about that in a sub-genre post at some point.

1 comment:

  1. When I was younger I did not like horror at all, but now that I'm older (and actually thinking about it) I find that I don't seem to mind it as much anymore.

    For me, though, horror, on a whole, is neutral. I greatly enjoy reading HP Lovecraft (in the day), but at the same time find watching a number of horror films doesn't appeal to me (particularly slashers).