“Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.” Douglas Winter, Prime Evil
My formative encounter with the horror genre occurred when I was 11 years old, staying at my Grandma’s and reading Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
It was indeed late at night, and the house was silent, my grandmother fast asleep. It was just me, a book that I found high on a shelf in the closet, and probably some cats. I can’t tell you anything about the book; I don’t remember a single story, but I do remember that as I turned a page, there was a spider, smashed flat and stuck to the paper. The little corpse, the size of a quarter, had likely been there for a long time.
I would like to say that the spider merely startled me. But in reality it scared the crap out of me, for no logical reason, and I spent a long, sleepless night trying to calm my jangled nerves.
For me, the genre of horror is a web of experiences woven with books, movies, and the feelings and memories evoked while reading and watching. More than any other genre of film or fiction, the deep-rooted visceral reaction inspired by horror had formed a fabric of memorable experiences that I’ll never forget, beginning with that very dead spider.
My experiences form a mythology, a story of me, an identity that encompasses a deep respect, if not love, for the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, David Cronenberg, Robert Wise, Dan Simmons, George Romero, David Lynch, and many others.
Well, October is over, but horror never leaves. It grinds along the joints in our bones, even if we never pick up a horror novel or watch a horror film. It lives in bloody westerns and procedural network dramas, in fantastical lands haunted by dragons and the uncharted reaches of outer space. Whatever name we apply to our genre of choice, horror lurks at the edges, from the horror of the bad marriage to the menace of murder mysteries. We seek it in fiction in hopes of exorcising it in real life. It visits our dreams and our news feeds. Horror is the primal emotion. It lives in our lizard brains, in dark corners and cobwebbed attics and damp basements, and in the twisting, twisted labyrinth of the human mind.