Art and Culture # 11: Western, American, Latin American, and Asian Horror

18 Feb
Source: https://twitter.com/BretEastonEllis/status/986681055640825856?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E986681055640825856%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fpublish.twitter.com%2F%3Fquery%3Dhttps3A2F2Ftwitter.com2FBretEastonEllis2Fstatus2F986681055640825856widget%3DTweet

Horror, to me is not just about tropes, or certain patterns that happen in jump scares. Horror is about knowing that something is under your bed, and sometimes it may not be out to get you, just yet. Horror movies and books do not always belong in the horror section. Wuthering Heights, to me, is about emotional violence that comes about when two couples are separated. While this might not be a typical horror story, separation can be a horrifying prospect of lovers who are divided by social norms. 

            The definition of horror has many layers, but the one purpose of horror is to allow plot and character to build up tension throughout. The Grudge, re-released by Netflix, is an example of how character’s lives build up to one central moment of horror. Drug addiction, doomed romances, suicide, death of a lover, poverty, abusive relationships, are character motivation in horror stories. 

            There’s always an emphasis of ghosts, but never the meaning behind what makes the ghosts a vengeful being. Guillermo Del Toro’s horror films has always found enough reasons for the audience to sympathize with the ghostly figures in his stories. Ghosts, like in Crimson Peak (2015), a gothic romance, can alarm the main character, Edith Cushing, of a future danger, repeating “Beware of Crimson Peak.” 

            If the danger in horror stories are to warn main characters, not enough importance is placed on other ghosts who haunt a house. Problem is, American horror doesn’t go the extra mile to make the audience or reader involved in the characters. 

            Horror when done right can help make characters either face there demons or die in confusion by demons who influence there downfall. The Forest (2016), takes a subject like suicide, as a young girl’s twin sister looking for her missing sister, who is lost in the Suicide Forest of Japan. The Forest is not such a bad example of meeting both western and Japanese mores, probably a mixed bag for me, should have followed more Asian influences when it came to the final product. Or adapted into a series, so that the character background could have been fleshed out. 

            But horror sometimes is not knowing the entire story, either. American horror doesn’t always resign in subtlety, which I would argue that the original Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Candyman, The Fly (Remake Sequel), Hell Raiser (as an aside, a song lyric from the Wu-Tang Clan member, Inspectah Deck, in the opening of “Protect your neck” says “I smoke on the mic like smoking Joe Frazier, the Hell Raiser, raising hell with the flavor”) as the name Hell Raiser is carried through different forms of entertainment), are prime examples of horror mixed with western horror that has enough character and detail to bear repeat viewings, but the sequels do not compare or meet the standards of the original. The sequels of these films are a staple of what has survived in the West, while much of horror, hasn’t followed in subtlety that America has not followed in. 

Suurce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0IUR4gkPIE

“Turning of the Screw” by Henry James, published in Collier Weekly from Jan. 27th, to April 16th, 1898, defies the cultural norms of what a horror story can be, and I’m pretty smart, but that story went over my head. “Turning of the Screw” was not just about “jump scares” or “boo” moments as much of it is designed to subtlety detail the story without adding in more scenes to tell an effective story. 

            An honorable mention, Mandy (2018) directed by Panos Cosmatos (I have also reviewed the film, which is available to read too), does blend horror that’s a call back to the 80’s of Hell Raiser, but with subtle techniques, like slowing down speech, to make an amplified effect, and using film grain to help tell a story about revenge, and the love we hold to commit such acts of violence in the name of revenge, and the cost behind what vengeance will take upon the hero’s soul. Mandy is ultimately satisfying as a horror story without preaching about how violence is bad.

            What is deceptive is pretending that horror should only be about jump scares and not about character, because unlike literary novels that require plot points, characters can take actions that move the plot in so many directions. I know people want to talk about Stephen King being “so good” but the problem is, does popularity play a part in a writer’s legacy, or is it the ability to repeat the same tropes in order to be recognized in the public eye? 

            A writer, if and when they get famous, can quit writing, because they won a Nobel or a Pulitzer, but as Harlan Ellison said, “It’s about staying a writer.” And Horror if repeated multiple times, can lose its potency. 

            What the best horror for me, is learning to take chances and see your own vision in the large gap of culture that will rely on old tropes to be relevant. Thomas Ligotti is one writer that needs more exposure, as the days go on, and horror has been muted by Culture Warriors to reflect societal problems. And let’s be clear, horror films are a part of society, and everyday horror can be terrifying too, but how much can you sit through Jordan Peele iterations until you become a broken record?

            The Bible could have many instances of horror (will handle that topic at a later time).

            But to close it all up, Horror, both Asian and American, are intertwined and new horror writers, like Thomas Ligotti, are part of the conversation, too. As always, if you don’t see a horror book that you can’t read, or watch, make it yourself. Horror is out there, and new ideas can sprout through you. All of the mentioned movies and books were created because each writer or creator needed to see something that they didn’t see on there shelves.

-Louis Bruno is the author of more than 15 books, including, The Michael Project, The Michael Project: Book 2: The Lost Children of Eve, Thy Kingdom Come, The Disintegrating Bloodline, Apocalypse Soldier, Hierarchy of Dwindling Sheep. His books can be found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Lulu. He can be found on Gab, https://gab.com/thereallouistbruno, Minds https://www.minds.com/lbruno8063/. His latest, Come Home, Young One, a dark fantasy novel is out now at Lulu.com. Link is here: https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/louis-bruno/come-home-young-one/hardcover/product-pw8q7z.html?page=1&pageSize=4

Note from Louis: Thanks so much for reading my articles and being such a constant reader. Also, I want to stress that to keep my content ad free, please subscribe, donate, like, buy my books, leave a review, comment, (and share the article if you can’t donate, all help is appreciated) to have access to top tier articles and reviews, and also grow my page to help keep corporations mad all day. 

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