The lure and psyche of great beauty and horrors

Ghost by Jeremy Saffer
© Jeremy Saffer Photography / CC-BY-SA-3.0

It is attractive to respond to fear with a discernment that crawls down the spinal cords and seize the heart in a breathtaking grasp. Many will claim that it is an unpleasant sensation, carefully avoid the thrill that rushes through the blood at a quick pace, and the adrenaline abhorrent that follows. Nevertheless, across the world and throughout centuries, people have been constantly drawn to an irresistible aura of phenomenal events portrayed by theatrical performances discreetly written and visually designed to frighten the toughest of the audiences. Extraordinary writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker still taunt the reasoning with mesmerising stories of great horror, violence and gruesome beauty.

It has been investigated and proven feasible that the timeless, cross-cultural glamour for horror fiction insights from evolutionary psychology which leads horror to create the magnitude it takes in such devious forms. Indeed, one can master horror fiction and its lack of historical and cultural variance as an indication that there is such a thing as human nature.

Human nature has been sharpened through over millennia to be frightened by the unexplained, however, distinctively selective and not sensorial to every kind of fearful thrill, it is possible that our ancestors greatest fears were that they would become a prey, therefore a meat feast to carnivorous predators. As the renowned scientist and writer David Quammen has said, “among the earliest forms of human self-awareness, was the awareness of being meat.” There is unquestionable fossil evidence to back up this statement, suggesting that early hominids were preyed on by carnivores and that they scavenged from the kill sites of large felines and vice versa. Modern-day hunter-gatherers, such as the Aché foragers in Paraguay, still suffer high mortality rates from snakes and feline attacks.

Setting the human factor aside, while observing the appeased of horror fiction through the prism of evolutionary practice and theory, it comes as no wonderment that the over revisited themes and storylines that nowadays are reproduced as sequels, failing to more often galvanise the most devoted horror aficionado. Nevertheless, one may ask if we have too many snakes or snake-like creatures or giant serpents in horror fiction? As a fine example, the answer would be; yes we do. Tremors, as a fair example, had tremendously large snakes with fangs. Predators have been constantly oversized and vicious through many horror novels and movie classics, including James Herbert’s The Rats, Shaun Hutson’s Slugs, Cat People, King Kong, and the infamous, meat grinding Jaws franchise, to name but a few.

Freddie Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street is definitely one of the greatest predators armed with over-sized claws, while Hannibal Lecter in the 1981 novel Red Dragon, displayed an insatiable taste for human flesh. Oddly, and most arguably, the iconic horror monstrosities may not be the ghastly beasts of the natural world, but the surreal, fictitious foes that are called vampires, werewolves, witches, zombies and ghosts. With the exception of ghosts – even thus recently discredited by scientists – these mythical abnormalities are deeply exaggerated, soap opera versions of more realistic threats that our ancestors had to fight against.

However, and while digging deeper into the core of fear itself, those abnormalities have endured culturally because of our cognitive senses, and as a trending fashion, appealing to other horrors somehow entwined with the modern Gothic culture, which has made vampires fit into the human category in most respects, except that they are undead, bloodthirsty predators. The popularity of the horror creature that feeds upon human fear and the contagion seems to be unstoppable, a flesh-eating virus that turns everyone into a zombie.

The horror genre which currently, is more popular than ever, offers intriguing insights into our psyches, and surely ripe for further publishing. In conclusion, horror literature, cinema, music, gaming, collectables and other forms of aversion expressionism still delight even if the classical, old-fashioned thrills have transmuted until present era, how people interpret horror as an art, and how they perceive the evolution between the 80s and late 90s, it is admissible that there is a space for slasher moments.

Looking ahead, and the direction in which our publication slowly advances – especially the ability to access niche material online in limitless supply – it also poses new enigmas about the enjoyment of horror through our avid readers, which leads one to think that we all need to understand how this media-rich environment affects consumption of extremely violent and disturbing content.


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