Horror, and Character Ghosts

I love Horror.

I must thank my Dad for cultivating a fascination with the genre in my sisters and me. Dad was for a time a criminal defense attorney and a Deputy District Attorney in Newark, NJ, so if that part of his life had been an episode of Law & Order, he would have been played by the hot girl who was there for maybe two seasons working for Sam Waterston until she scored a gig as the next Bond Girl.

The Ring's terrifying ghost
The Ring’s terrifying ghost

But that’s neither here nor there.

Dad loved movies like A Clockwork Orange. I remember the summer he read Helter Skelter and geeked out about it.

I think I read The Exorcist when I was eleven, which is way too young, but wow, what an incredible read! I found it lying around the house. Thanks, Dad! No, really. I am so happy I grew up way before the era of helicopter parents. I still treasure the freedom I had to get into a little bit of trouble.

The Exorcist
The Exorcist – You know, for kids!

The Wonder of Horror

In terms of lasting impact on the reader/viewer, few genres beat horror. My favorite horror films include Silence of the Lambs, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, Carrie, and Don’t Look Now. The psychological horror of Silence of the Lambs is particularly fun—who can forget those lovingly photographed scenes in which Clarice stares into Evil, and he also stares into her.

The Terror of The Ring—Delectable!

There’s a genre of Japanese filmed best exemplified by Ringu. The American version, called The Ring, was also incredibly terrifying and, for me, one of the scariest horror movies in recent decades. The inciting incident sequence has one of the most terrifying shots I’ve ever seen. There’s this corpse girl in the closet who has been scared to death by the main antagonist, the ghost. Oh, the slow pan around the closet door, and then, the moment you see her face, and the music shrieks at you!

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen The Ring, don’t read on!

The protagonist, whose personal ghost is a child she lost (for which she blames herself), tries to find the death spot of the ghost, who was a young girl. She attempts to heal the fury of the ghost by giving it mother’s love in a climactic scene that also heals the heroine’s wound. The heroine and her boyfriend think they have succeeded.

Now comes the Lovecraftian twist: love is not enough. The ghost is pure evil. I adore this point, at which the entire moral argument shifts. Yes, love heals, but there is also evil in the world that is unstoppable, and infinite. The little boy who knows the ghost best of all says of her, “She never sleeps!”

Writing Excuses

I came across a great podcast called Writing Excuses that is hosted by several published genre authors, including Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells.

Brandon Sanderson was on a terrific Fantasy panel at ComicCon 2015. Nuggets like Writing Excuses are why I will continue to attend that overcrowded hyperstimulation fest (ComicCon). Also, because, who knew Hugh Dancy was so funny? Fannibals Forever! Get that man a big Romantic Comedy movie, stat! (RIP, Hannibal—Unless!)

Anyway, Writing Excuses has got rich material on all aspects of writing, and practical exercises. They started their 10th season, a master class on writing, this past January. Unfortunately the audio quality needs work, but the content is worth dealing with that.

If anyone from Writing Excuses is reading this post, just turn down your levels, man! Get the audio out of the red zone. And if that doesn’t work, maybe invest in better equipment? Others have told you so. Please listen. Your podcast is too awesome to snap, crackle and pop like that!

Here’s a link to the Writing Excuses episode on Lovecraftian Horror.

What are your favorite horror movies or books and why? What makes horror so damn gripping? Let’s discuss in the comments below!


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