I’ve known Jondi for a long time. We went to school together, sang in a Madrigal choir together, fed pigeons in Krakow together…she is one awesome gal. Not only that, but she definitely was one of the few who “got” my love of dark and subversive genre work early on. I’m so excited that I’ve caught up with her, because she not only is she still utterly incredible with costumes, not only does she have an great, intellient perspective on horror, but she’s also working on a book idea that’s going to knock people’s shoes and socks off. Believe me, I cannot wait until this girl gets published because she is going to blow minds. In the meantime, I’ve asked her to contribute her thoughts on women and horror this month, and I think you’ll find she has some great things to say.
If a book can keep me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, and then live on in my dreams (and nightmares), then it has done its job.
I have always been an avid reader of books, ever since I was in high school. I gravitated toward the fantasy genre and especially loved to read series. There is something about the prospect of characters, or a world, living on in a whole series of books that really piques my interest.
While I still love fantasy, my fictional love has grown to include science-fiction and horror as well. Horror, especially if it encompasses fantasy or science-fiction, has a special place in my heart. My love for horror started when I first picked up ‘Interview with a Vampire,’ by Anne Rice. I couldn’t put it down. It was like Anne Rice was a siren and her song was the words on the pages of her book. I was a victim to it, a helpless victim.
I never looked back.
Since I picked up ‘Interview with a Vampire,’ I have read all of the Vampire Chronicles as well as Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches books. But I didn’t stop there. If the book delved into the world of vampires, werewolves or monsters of any shape or size, I am happy to consume the words as quickly as I can take them in. Horror fiction is my vice, it is my escape, my guilty pleasure and my therapy. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
When I look around at the real world I live in, I sometimes find myself wishing the characters in the books I love would come to life. I dream that my fictional worlds and the world I live in could somehow leap off the pages and spruce up the mundane world in which I exist. When I have that need, when that craving is far too much to bear, I open a book and live through the characters I read about.
Horror fiction expresses that tiny part of you, which you may not want to admit exists, and lets you live out the things you would never dare dream about doing in the mundane world. It lets you dare to imagine a double life where you are part human and part something that is terrifying and beautiful. It speaks to the tiny little voices that live buried deep within your soul, screaming to get out but doomed to never see the light of day.
My love of horror is one that would surprise a lot of people. Why? Because I don’t like the typical horror movies. Psychological thrillers give me nightmares – not the fun kind either, but the kind where you wake up screaming in a cold sweat. Now don’t get me wrong, there are types of horror movies I enjoy as well, but they aren’t the mainstream horror films that society seems to be berated with on a near weekly basis.
I like the hokey B-movies. The ones that make you laugh more that scream, the ones with storylines so predictable you could do a pre-emptive play-by-play. Movies like House 2: The Second Story, Leprechaun, Deal Alive and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
This isn’t to say that I haven’t enjoyed being thoroughly and completely terrified by the occasional thriller. The Audition and Ju-On (the Japenese version of The Grudge) come to mind immediately. I also love the horror genre of Japanese anime. In fact, three of my favorite Japanese anime of all-time are Blood +, High School of the Dead and Claymore, which deal with vampires and demons, zombies and monsters called Yoma, respectively.
Horror is a unique genre. Unlike comedy, romance, action-adventure and many others, horror attracts a certain type of person. Not everyone enjoys it. In fact, men are more prone to like horror than women. It is almost engrained in a man to lust for violence, gore, blood and suspense that can be found in both classic and modern horror books and films. Women, on the other hand, often cringe at the sight of needless blood, gore and violence. It isn’t that women can’t take it, because they can. But women crave more substance to their stories than men often do.
Modern horror often lacks substance and is chock full of needless blood, gore and violence. Many modern authors and filmmakers seem to show no interest in attracting a female audience. But, that isn’t to say that women don’t enjoy horror. The difference is that women look further than what is presented on the surface. We want a story behind why the villain does what he/she/it does. We want the characters to have substance and a quality that we can emotionally attach ourselves to.
A horror story, in my opinion, is far more effective if I am emotionally invested in the characters. Then I am right there with them as they experience the terror and suspense that the story takes them through. I want to feel for them if they are killed, or tortured or hurt. If I am not emotionally invested in a story and its world and its characters, it is easy for me to walk away. Why bother reading on? Why not find something else to watch?
Horror should celebrate that tiny part of us that craves to be uncomfortable, to squirm in our seats and to sweat as we await an outcome of a story. When it lacks any true substance, I think women (more than men) will move on to something else. Women, as I can attest to personally, love horror as much as men. Maybe more.
Take a moment to think about your favorite horror movie or book. Ask yourself why you like it. I think you will find it isn’t the gore or the violence that does it for you. It is the overall emotional investment you put into it. The characters, the monsters, the villains, the heroes, the whole world speaks to you.
That, my friend, is what is so uniquely awesome about horror.
For more info on Jondi and her projects, you can check out her FB page HERE