Happy Halloween all.
I’ve been indulging in the eve where the grumpier English people I know like to mutter about “Americanisation” and children turn up at the door dressed in bin bags and ask for sweets. Cheerier friends have been carving pumpkins and dressing up, it’s been a lot of fun.
In the weeks headed up to this festive eve, I have been researching scarifying sites online. Looking for the traditional, the innovative and the unreal. Usually the web shows me that there is very little under the sun that has not appeared online in a digital form. However, a real spooky scare online somehow escaped me. It could be that I have been looking in the wrong places, but allow me a moment to illustrate what I mean.
The horror genre floats my boat. I love the creativity, the use of the human reaction to silence and surprise, our imaginations in the darkness. I think it’s a great art form for cutting through our complacency when consuming media. We react to it rather than passively accepting it, sometimes we’ll think about it, other times it is an almost involuntary reaction to fear.
For many years cinema has been my wind up weapon of choice. I had nightmares as a teen watching movies I was too young to see. For years I didn’t dare hang a limb over the edge of my bed in case Freddy came and took that limb away. It poked my imagination from a young age creating fantasy paranoia (what’s that noise!?) and enjoyably sleepless nights.
Audio also does a great job of raising the hairs on the back of my neck. Podcasts and radio shows commanding sound effects that are not of this world, telling stories directly to my brain, forcing my mind to summon up terrifying images. The work of the foley artist amazes me through film and audiobooks, they take the story that was already frightening and send it up through the stratosphere of fear.
Traditional examples right? Radio, television, film. The rules of horror applied to media that we already understand.
So as many of us move to a digital life, how does horror translate in a mainstream way?
There are about a bajillion (that’s the scientific count) ways to get your Halloween fun online, read blogs on carving pumpkins, play games on social networks, collect pictures of cats in costumes. Fair enough.
The idea of the horror monsters though appear to have become displaced from their stories. There are many zombies roaming the web – they’re kinda fashionable. Vampires apparently write blogs – to sell films and books. There are tips on what to do should you choose to become a werewolf. I wonder if Frankenstein’s monster might return and blog about his divorce and fall from grace in the public eye?
There are also games – oh so many games. In fact, I’d put my money down at this moment and state that I think this is the last bastion of horror online. Getting into an immersive and fearful state with a couple of hundred strangers online in a MMORPG being hunted by the undead. That’s pretty scary. In fact, I own a copy of one of the games related to the Alien film franchise and frankly I didn”t get past level one because I was immobilised by a fantastic fear. I also killed everyone in sight trying to play resident evil whilst in a blind panic, waving wireless controllers wildly and basically screaming at the screen (there is no decorum in the gaming part of my life).
But that’s an annex to the genre I think. Movies and radio are still more commonly accepted, not everyone is a gamer – even I am a part-timer. But I do browse the web probably more than is healthy and I could not seem to find an innovation that described horror for me in a satisfactory manner.
There are sites with stories and sites with audio and sites that play video. I see this as porting older creative formats into a new arena. They’re still aces – Dawn of the Ted is clearly especially wicked and frightening. But web based, creative shocks – this I could not find. If you know one, please do let me know.
I guess I wonder if there is a way to align the format with the genre. To put the horror in the code (there are some that would say there is already plenty of horror in code of course). I think the last time I saw something that really matched these ideas in a new way, it was something like Transylvania. Yeah, I’m *that old* – my lawn, get off it.
The text based gaming of course was based on something like choose your own adventure books. But entering the PC screen age at the time, it felt like new territory and rather than already knowing I could cheat and skip chapters in a familiar object like a book, I had to learn, search for the right terms to move on and still the monsters were right behind me, so I had to learn fast. It felt pretty tense, even if it is old fashioned today.
I’m still looking for the horror online that is not a video nasty or a cruel comment. Those attempts are ten-a-penny. If you find the real deal – let me know, I’m all set for a web based scare this Halloween, or any other time of the year.