"We made up horrors to help us cope with the real ones"
- Stephen King
Human beings have the tendency to tell horror stories, every culture has it. We are a people fascinated by horror stories, our books and movies are full of them. What attracts us to horror? Is it because through horror stories, we get to take the backseat, and experience our deepest fears as an audience?
If so, what then, is the essence of fear which motivates the telling of these horror stories?
I have some interests in the genre of horror, and it is difficult to find a kindred spirit with similar interest in the Christian community. The truth is, you will probably see a few raised eyebrows and suspicious looks from people in the Christian community, if you openly admit you like horror and research this genre... they will probably tell you to read Chronicles of Narnia or the Bible instead of reading horror stories written by secular authors.
I have a different opinion about horror stories compared to the general church culture. In my opinion, horror stories express mankind's deepest longings, hopes and fears. This means we should not develop prejudice against them.
Let me explain:
In my experience with the horror genre, I've noticed 2 major types of horror; the supernatural horror, and the naturalistic horror.
Supernatural horror stories, often contain elements such as ghosts, demons, evil spirits, or some sort of mystical creatures not from the natural world. The plots of these supernatural horror stories, often revovles around the supernatural entity wanting revenge against the living. The concept of "vengeful spirits" is historically common in all cultures. Even today, horror stories of this nature appears frequently in horror movies, comic books, and novels. For example, movies such as "The Crow", "Mama", The Grudge". or the comic book "Spawn" all revolve around the concept of vengeful spirits. I wonder, if people tell horror stories about vengeful spirits because it is an extension of mankind's thirst for justice and righteousness?
On the other hand, supernatural horror stories about ghosts and demons often take us into a world not our own, with ideas about after life, good and evil, and a sense of divine order. Perhaps this means people tell ghost stories to help them deal with the fear of one's mortality? Perhaps telling ghost stories, is an exhilirating way to assure us "this is not it", there is more than just this life, and there are meanings to everything.
I call the second type of horror, naturalistic horror. This is a fascinating genre invented by author H.P. Lovecraft. Before Lovecraft came along, supernatural horror stories dominated the genre, and they often tell stories about ghosts and demons. Such as the book "Ghost stories of antiquity" published in 1904. However, when H.P. Lovecaft entered the stage, he turned the genre upside down.
H.P. Lovecraft is most famous for his horror stories about forgotten, otherworldly elderitch horror and cosmic entities, lying dormant in ancient, cyclopean megalithic structures while gazing upon the mankind with indifference. In other words, the real horror of Lovecraft's stories is when he asks us to consider the possibility, that life on earth has no meaning, no purpose, while this ancient universe gazes upon us with indifference... because the universe does not care. It is the fear of the unknown, that should we ultimately discover the utter meaninglessness of life, we should either go mad, or flee back into the blessings of ignorance (see the opening lines of "The call of Cthulhu")
By now, you can probably see very clearly, that supernatural horror is more akin to theistic view of life, while naturalistic horror is resembles atheist view of life.
So you might ask, which version is more reasonable?
Personally, I think both views can be intellectually reasonable, depending on your personal convictions.
However, if we tell horror stories to help us understand our deepest fears, then perhaps we can explore this question from a different angle, by asking a different question: why do we have fears?