c.1375, from O.Fr. horreur, from L. horror "bristling, roughness, rudeness, shaking, trembling," from horrere "to bristle with fear, shudder," from PIE base *ghers- "to bristle" (cf. Skt. harsate "bristles," Avestan zarshayamna- "ruffling one's feathers," L. eris (gen.) "hedgehog," Welsh garw "rough"). As a genre in film, 1936. Chamber of horrors originally (1849) was a gallery of notorious criminals in Madame Tussaud's wax exhibition.
Elizabeth Barratte wrote:Absense · The unknown: This is the first, most primal fear because it contains all the others. Anything could happen; anything could emerge from the darkness. In the real world, certain guidelines like natural laws help us predict events; in fiction, authors often suspend those rules. Our imaginations readily run away with us, leaving us clinging to the edge of our seats. Yet the unknown is limitless in potential as well as in threat. Everything known emerges from the unknown, and so it has endless power to hold our attention. · The unexpected: From the unknown comes the known, the way we expect reality to function. When something shatters our expectations, we feel shock and distress. Your stomach plummets when the monster smashes through the wall. Even without the sudden impact, unnatural creatures and occurrences make us uncomfortable. On a deep, instinctive level we react to them as wrong. Sane people do not like having to deal with an insane world! The absurd confuses us. We look for a solution, a rational explanation ... any rational explanation, just so long as it maintains our reality tunnel intact. However, we also need occasional shakeups to avoid getting ourselves into a mental rut; a one-track mind can become a serious handicap. · The unbelievable: Nobody ever listens. The scourge of the story can be flattening a city and the main characters can't get any assistance because nobody believes them. We disregard that which does not fit into our pre-existing definition of reality ... a dangerous habit. We also fear falling into a situation that places us beyond belief. The nature of sanity comes into question. Despite this, we enjoy a jaunt outside the boundaries of everyday reality. We look to fiction as a means of stretching our minds; we willingly suspend our disbelief and thereby enhance our abilities to distinguish between different types of reality. A definition, attitude, or set of rules which works well in one situation may prove worse than useless in another. · The unseen: Blood and guts grab our attention precisely because, in a normal world, we never see them. They only become visible when something goes seriously wrong. This is why slasher scenes work -- they show us something we rarely see -- and why their effectiveness decreases with repeat exposure. Other instances of the hidden revealed include ancient manuscripts, artifacts, or creatures brought to light. When something new and strange arrives on scene, we can't take our eyes off it. Our own curiosity holds us hostage. · The unconscious: Inner worlds mystify us because we can neither control nor escape their effects. We all fall prey to subconscious urgings, many of them not very nice. Thus, we fear ourselves; we also fear that others may give in to their vile desires. At the same time, we feel compelled to explore these strange regions which remain a part of ourselves no matter how we may try to hide them or expunge them. · The unstoppable: We all believe in entropy; in nature, things wind down. Humans and other animals wear out eventually. Therefore the inexorable advance and endless pursuit upset our expectations. People retreat, fighting harder as they back into corners. Relentless forces too powerful to fight call up uncomfortable associations with death, which most people don't like to think about. Yet death comes for everyone in time, so we cannot avoid it forever. Instead we go whistling down dark alleys to confront the inevitable.
Elizabeth Barratte wrote:Presense · Helplessness: Nothing feels worse than the inability to affect your fate. In most fiction, characters must have agency -- the ability to act, react, and change -- in order to hold a reader's attention. In horror, much of the attraction comes from a complete lack of agency, of power. We all feel helpless sometimes, so this motif strikes a chord with everyone. We can relate deeply to the anguish of helplessness. We also love the rush of satisfaction when, in many stories, the protagonist somehow manages to overcome the odds. · Urgency: When you can't do something, you must. This is the central conflict of most horror. Helplessness contrasts with aching, desperate need. The price of failure is always astronomical: the death of a loved one, the destruction of the world. The characters cannot simply walk away; they draw us into their urgency as well. This driving force also contrasts with the apathy common today, the feeling that one's decisions and actions never make a difference. Thus, the very stress of the protagonist's struggle appeals to us. · Pressure: Ah, suspense; a successful horror writer must master this technique. With the slow build of tension comes the increasing need to do something. Pressure combines with urgency to spur characters to greater feats, while heightening audience involvement. You lean forward, urging the protagonist on. It may seem strange to enjoy fiction like this when we face so much pressure in our own lives today, but unlike real life, fiction promises a resolution -- though not always a happy one. The pressure builds, peaks, and then dissipates. · Intensity: With danger comes a heightened awareness, enhancing all emotions both positive and negative, drawing attention to every detail. The senses pick up far more than usual; the world becomes more immediate, more real. Also, the threat of death often drives people to celebrate life, so we see romance running hand in hand with horror. People fall in love as the world falls apart and gibbering monsters chase them down dark alleys. Making love can also get characters killed, a popular motif in slasher movies. The intensity of emotion and sensation drowns out common sense. This surge of input from overloaded senses can appeal to people used to living a calmer existence. · Rhythm: The preceding elements combine to create a rise and fall of tension. Rhythm is essential to horror in that it allows the intensity to build to a higher peak than would a straight assault. It sets up a pattern of action which draws the reader in, rather like the panting advancement of childbirth. Alternatively, some horror stories succeed through a profound lack of pattern, again playing on our innate desire for the world to make sense. The random attacks eat away at our security and force us to take the story on its own terms. · Release: The promise of resolution offers a refuge from the undelineated stress of everyday life. Every story comes to a conclusion. In horror, we may see the world returned to "normal" or bent beyond recognition, removed from all hope of salvation. The uncertainty keeps us reading eagerly to find out what happens, because we have no way of knowing how the story ends until we get there. Either redemption or disaster offers us a sense of completion not often found outside of fiction; it allows us to heave a sigh and let the story go.
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