I have been on a fantasy craze as of late, narrowing my sights and choosing to hone in on all those stories regarding ancient lands and great battles and mystical forces and what not. But that wasn’t always the case. At one point in time, i used to read everything i came across. It just so happens that i haven’t been in the reading loop for a while and i find myself intrigued with certain fantasy series that i have tasked myself with catching up on. Some of these books i didn’t even know existed and discovering that there were entire series of them excited me and thus forced me into a world of none stop fantasy.
It isn’t fault really. There was a point in time where it became my problem to purchase these initially expensive novels for my self and rather than continue my literally hobby, i thought it a more worthy goal to invest in a computer, then finding myself spending more money on repairs and upgrades, then video games, then movies, then TV series, then anime and manga and so on. Soon i forgot about that pass time that would keep me entertained for so entire weekends and in returning to the literary fold, i found myself sorely behind. So yes, i intend to stay in my fantasy bubble for a while, unless i am recommended something intriguing that is worthy pulling myself away from fantasy.
But back then i was all about a great story and i would find it in any genre that i came across. But even then i would say that it was something that was forced upon me and thus molded me, not something i chose. In primary school, it was a well enforced rule that each student would pick a book from the library each Monday morning, read it through out the week and do a write up to be handed in by the next Monday morning. Then you returned your book and picked a new one. It didn’t matter if you were done with the book, you had to return it by week’s end and woe to anyone that hadn’t finished reading. We were each handed an exercise book to put our write ups in to be handed to the librarian to mark and rate out of ten (by who knows what rating system); we even had a summary prefect to enforce the borrowing, reading and summarizing of a book, and any that failed to meet this weekly requirement, along with other academic requirements that i would rather forget, would, as someone once put it, have the board of education applied to their seat of understanding.
While i initially hated this chore i eventually learned to make due with it by using my ten minutes to locate a really good title that i could stand to read in a week. Which is why i ended up reading all sorts of books in all sorts of genres that i thought i would never read or really enjoy. Sometimes i was lucky to find something really interesting to read, other times i had to settle for Nancy Drew, Hardy boys and the like, which i eventually tired of.
Past my primary school days, this kind of situation where, absent of any other entertainment medium, i would read whatever title was available to me continued. I wasn’t always able to go to the bookstore on Saturday and sometimes, for what ever reason, my father would find time to buy me a book or two out of the blue. Of course there was an assumption on his part that he knew wha it liked, which he didn’t, and he would end up purchasing a menagerie of books, of all sorts and kinds from one end of the spectrum to another.
One day he could bring me ‘The wind of fire’ a fantasy, then next day he would opt for ‘Holes’ an adventure about kids in a rogue juvenile centre that, rather than dig six feet deep holes haphazardly across a field day in and day out, begin planning their escape; then i would find myself reading a western, something along the lines of a sheriff defending his town against a group of thugs during one cold winter weekend in the mountains, next i am following a journalist fighting for his rights and all that. Basically i either read these titles or died boredom, and after some disgusted noises, i would eventually get down to reading everything that was thrown at me and for the most part i was surprised that i could enjoy this mishmash of stories (except for the one about Elvis returning from the grave to save humanity, i remember that one even to this day; holly hell, that book sucked.).
My point is i loved my books and i could really lose my self in them if the conditions were right. And when i would run out, i would send subliminal signals out that i needed more; it wouldn’t take my father that much time to figure out what i was trying to say when he found me reading Red wall for the eighth time (i just remembered how much i loved that book. Even when the pages came loose and it fell apart again and again, i was more than willing to stitch it back together.)
Anyway, there were certain types of books that would really pique my interest, certain genres that i would really look out for more than any other. Horror was one such genre. I loved reading anything remotely horror more than most other books. Sure i loved fantasy and mystery more back then, but third place was good enough for me to seek out these type of books, like a dog sniffing for a bone. And whenever i would find them, i would drop everything else to immerse myself in this new dark world.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that i was one of those swept away by the Goosebumps craze. It has been said R.L. Stein is the Stephen King of kid’s horror and i have to agree because, back then, those books (at least some of them) were bone chillingly scary and rest were more than entertaining to make up for the lack of horror. Each book would some how manage to introduce a new set of heroes, villains and a monster vile enough to give the weak hearted a nightmare or two. I can remember spending endless hours trying to figure out those multiple ending type Goosebumps, kind of like how one would play a video game, trying to determine which ending i hadn’t yet read and which option or path presented, based on Goosebumps rules, had higher chance of ensuring my survival. Certainly things changed at later date, what with the novels taking of a lighter fluffier tone, no longer worth the hours of time i used to assign to them; and the fact that i could read them in 4 hours didn’t help their case, especially when i was buying one book every few weeks, it wasn’t the logical choice later on; but i still have my memories.
They were indeed very awesome books, though maybe i was simply too easy to please, with my excessively over active imagination. After all, i am the same person who as a ten year old, during my initial encounter with the harry potter series, way before the craze struck, spent August, September and October of that year waiting to receive an owl inviting to me to join Hogwarts school of witch craft and wizardry. It wasn’t that i believed that magic and the harry potter world existed of course, more like i was so immersed in the world that if it had existed, i wouldn’t be surprised and i was leaning heavily towards its illogical existence.
Anyway, horror, i have as of late began to wonder whether such a thing as horror even exists in novels these days, or maybe it is the lack that exists in the book store that i visit; but seriously, what the hell is going on? I might have only re entered the literary world of fantasy but i have actually been searching for a good horror book for ages now, especially with the lack in TV and movies, and so far i have been sorely disappointed.
When ever i would cross to the horror section of the bookstore in the past few years, the titles that would fleet across my eyes would disturb me because none of them where what i expected them to be. Here is what all the stories, at least 80% of them, seemed to boil down to; a couple of high school teens who stumble upon a supernatural world, or ancient beings that look like high school kids, or adult characters, all built like super models, both male and female, who happen to be supernatural creatures but whose primary focus, and the core of the story, is the great love triangle or lust that exists between certain characters, a desire that they can hardly resist and which will threaten the very existence of their kind or the world.
Basically that is what the synopsis of every book that i keep coming across boils down to, at least a good percentage of them, and reading the titles usually lives me speechless; the idea that someone out their believes that all it takes to make a horror centric story is a good collection of unique supernatural creatures, probably with unique names and attributes and once you have that down, you have pretty much nailed the nucleus of the horror bit of a story and now you can do what you want and everyone will consider it horror. WHY? THERE IS MORE TO HORROR THAT BEAUTIFUL YOUNG PEOPLE HAPPENING TO BE UNDEAD.
But a large number of people out their do not get this idea and it infuriates me.
Let’s back track a bit so i can fume a little at one specific irritation. Why does 50% of the horror shelf have to be about vampires? When exactly did the vampire become the poster child for all things horror. Do not get me wrong, i am not complaining about the entire idea of vampires. I was very much into vampires back then, when vampires were actually vampires, ancient undead creatures reborn to cause havoc and chaos; now, i do not know what we have but they are not vampires, more like super powered mutants with sharp teeth and an allergic reaction to garlic and the sun. I hate what they have done to these once majestic creatures of the dark. I shudder at the thought of what Dracula would look like in a movie today. There was a time when the word vampire was synonymous with great fear and even death. If i was to choose a word to describe what has been done to he idea of the vampire, i would say that they have defanged, denied their true place as monsters and instead forced into the skin of cute puppies with a louder bark than bite.
I do not know what happened to the days of reading a horror novel for the sake of being horrified. Now, everything is about great loves that can’t be denied. Maybe i am imagining it, maybe it is my book store, or maybe someone has forgotten what it means to scare the living brains out of their readers. I still remember this one book, i don’t know if it was called Rose or Red, but i know i was 13 when i first came across it and i don’t know who gave it to me. Basically you had a kid possessed by the devil and a mother trying to keep a lid on things while also managing her crazy son.
It might sound like basic omen, take over the world, kind of the stuff, but it isn’t. In fact the situation was more localized, more domestic really, with no apocalyptic intentions in play. The mother was pregnant, and the devil possessed son was intent on preventing the birth of the child, and he willing to do all sorts of…disturbing things to achieve his objectives, no matter who, kin or kith, intent on helping the poor woman out, he had to burry. And he was pretty effective, especially with his ability to pass his possession on to the mother who then began to wonder who was possessed and who she really had to destroy.
It fascinated me to no end, while also scaring the hell out of me; based on some of the actions the kid took, especially while the mother slept (especially this one thing with a metal rod) , i am also quite sure it was inappropriate for my age. But i loved it and i spent a good year when i was 14 looking for it to no avail. But that was real horror. What i am reading now is…i don’t know what to call it but it is absurd. An example; i came across a novel taking place in a post apocalyptic time period, during which a zombie plague had overrun the world. This one girl finds herself pinned down by a horde of zombies only to be saved by a mysterious stranger who she immediately falls in love with. Now if that doesn’t sound absurd and unrealistic (with the kind of paranoid tendencies people who live in such times tend to develop), consider the fact that this mysterious savior turns out to be a freakin zombie; yes, she is in love with a zombie, oh but it isn’t that simple, the book claims, because he isn’t like other zombies and... i won’t go into it, just know that it is the same old crap. Really, when i read that synopsis, i laughed my head off; i do not know if i disrupted the piece of the usually quite location, because i usually have my ears plugged, but someone must have noticed me. Because really, first it was vampires, and now they intend to defang even the zombies? (not to mention all the ridiculous complications in play) WHY?
This will not end, i tell you. It is like some sort of plague; authors out their are deceiving us, writing…well, deceiving themselves into believing that they are horror writers, but choosing to basically pen romance novels with supernatural elements in them. I do not mind romance material, whatever the case, but i do mind when someone slaps a horror tag onto it just so i can stumble in on one hot afternoon, looking for something to read to pass the hours of darkness as power repairs take place in my area, only to pick up the first novel that catches my eye and conveniently titled ‘blood moon’; after which i carry it out and waste precious coin paying for it all because i didn't notice the words ‘can you resist her fire’ written somewhere in the corner, usually in tiny letters so people like me, even bespectacled, do not see them.
It infuriates me to no end. When will this end? When will i get my old horror stories back? I want my horror back NOW?.
It is funny, my interest in horror novels was inflamed because i couldn’t anything to feed my hunger in movies either. It is like horror has dried up everywhere. No one knows how to make good horror, not in novels, and certainly not in movies. I do not know how many movies i have purchased all in the name of getting some good horror, only to dispose of them immediately after realizing that what i was watching wasn’t horror, it was a murder fest. Really, who tells these directors that all you need to make a good horror movie is lots of blood and flying body parts? Someone out their tell these people that more blood doesn't equal to more horror. I can’t be the only one that gets this.
Just last month, i purchased a Lake Placid DVD. There are four movies in the series if you didn’t know, following the story of a town neighboring a small lake, Placid, and the giant alligators within that will from time to time rise to feast on the towns people, and after four movies, they are still living there (why?). I had already watched the second and third movies ages ago, so i started by watching the fourth and final installment, released late last year. And wow, was i pissed? The movie sucked and everyone but the primary male and female protagonist, died. Now you might wonder why that matters?
Well, i watched Lake Placid 1, the first movie released in 1998 or something and i loved it. But here is the thing, only two people and a bear died in this one. Even the alligator survived being blown up in some neat fashion, and was instead captured. Yet the movie was funny and scary. How does a movie that old manage to do something a movie so recent, in which some characters were chewed up and spat out so they could survive 30 more minutes in agony before they were swallowed again?
Clearly someone out there doesn't know what it means to make a good horror movie. IN fact i believe there is such a thing as a sophisticated horror movie, one that isn’t about ridiculous amounts of blood and gruesome deaths. To think that this movie and cabin in the woods are the best horror movies i have seen in more than 7 years. That is more than seven years of crap.
Okay so maybe those are the best horror movies i have seen in 7 years. There was that one movie i saw just last year and thought was called ‘the last house of the left’, but then i realized that i was wrong. It is a shame that i do not remember the name of movie; i know it revolves around a couple who drag their daughter and her best friend to a cabin on an island, then the girls wonder off, ran foul of a family of murderous lunatics who go on to rape and murder the girls, only for a freak storm to force them to seek shelter at the home of the parent’s of the very girl they just killed. Unfortunately for them though, the daughter survives, barely, and returns home to tell a story. Things do not take the turn you think however with lunatic serial killers tormenting weak prey. No, in this movie, there are no usual horror movie factors at play; there is a means of transport available, both a car and a boat and even the phone works so they could have called for the authorities. But they do not, not when the very monsters that nearly killed their daughter are in the guest house next door, not when the couple’s vengeance is burning so hot. Man, i loved how this movie changed things up and turned the hunters, the serial killers, into the prey, and the punishment was almost too cruel.
Now that was a movie, not excessively violent, but just right. What happened to those movies; what happened to the likes of jeepers creepers, an actually scary Freddy Kruger in nightmare on elm street, night of the living dead, and so on. These were true horror movies, the kind that, when watching at night, had every cell in your body screaming at you to turn the damn lights on, yet (logic) was warning you against putting your feet on the floor, lest whatever was lying in wait beneath the bed or table made its move. Those were crazy but fun times, watching the clown in IT terrorize those kids and then wondering yourself if taking that shower, hygiene in this case, was worth the risk at that time of evening. Even the first mummy movie is a better horror movie than everything i have seen in recent years, where the characters have to be intentionally stupid for the monsters to murder them senselessly.
I do not think i have seen a horror movie as good as ‘The mist’ for a decade now; maybe the exorcism of Emily Rose comes close, but that came out a while back. Now we have movies like the final destination where you know that EVERYONE will die in the end. I mean, what the hell is the point? Point out Saw and i still see not difference with final destination except for the first one that was pretty good.
Books are just the same. I can’t find any non fickle material. I met someone last year that was kind enough to donate what he termed as a phenomenal horror novel to me; he termed it as a horror mystery; some PI is hired to locate a missing girl who, it turns out, was involved in the occult, with the intent of raising the dead; so basically a detective zombie story. I wasn’t convinced, but with zombies and gods in the mix, i thought that it was something i would eventually enjoy. Three chapters in i returned the book which, i realized, was more erotica than anything.
I showed this post to a friend of mine to read through and give me his opinion before i posted it. He was sure i was wailing against twilight. I assured him that i wasn’t. All i know of twilight is the story that i gleaned from the movies and while i agree that it is bad, i have never read the books and cannot say that they are bad, so this isn’t about twilight as he assumed. I have come across these titles that i have described; they do exist and they sound just as silly.
Someone out there might say that if i am searching for a good horror novel, i should have already discovered Stephen King by now. Well, i am pretty apprehensive about Stephen King novels. When i was around 14, i came across a Stephen King book which i think was titled Goo. Now i do not remember what it was about, besides the fact that i keep picturing an obese man sitting on a couch watching TV and i do not remember what he had to do with anything. What i do remember is the fact that i hated that book. Sure i read a good part of it, but that was because i hadn’t had a new book to read for months and i eventually forced myself to tackle it. But other than that, i wouldn’t have touched it. But like i said, i hated that book to death and i am still unsure about Stephen King Horror novels to this day.
So i am still searching for a good horror novel and i will take any good recommendations. I miss the days of finding a comfortable spot in my bed, opening my book under torch light (not for any dramatic effect but because i didn't want to have to get up to switch the light off once it was time to sleep, too lazy) and getting so immersed in the book that i couldn't help but wonder if that light scratching sound reaching my ears was snoring from the next room, or the tooth fairy, whispering my name as she attempts to cut through the security bars, intent on claiming my soul as vengeance for something or the other.
Sure they freaked me out but i also loved it. Now, the last time i remember looking behind me, wondering whether or not i was alone, was the last time i was playing Silent hill, which was last year (and i actually had to stop, because that game is chilling to the core. I need to find time to return to it.) If anyone out there has read any actually good horror titles, i would like the names, because i am loosing faith here. maybe we have reached the end. Maybe this is a horror itself, the end of horror itself.