The Reclaim Horror series will begin in November after The Midnight Society’s Halloween festivities next month. Horror has always received stigma, but never has that been more contradictory than it is today. Romance has domesticated horror creatures like vampires and zombies. Genre labels like dark fantasy and supernatural thriller avoid the visceral, negative reaction associated with horror. People equate horror with gore when in reality horror is much more than that. All this gentling makes no sense in a nation that loves horror.
The most-watched TV shows last year included:
Neither has received much critical acclaim, particularly not when compared with American Horror Story, which has won eight Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe. The only one of these three that is consistently labeled as horror is the one with horror in the title. Despite horror’s consistent snubbing, it is extremely popular with audiences. Horror movies topped the box office for eight weeks in 2013. Entering its tenth season this October, Supernatural will become one of the top ten longest running prime-time shows currently airing. Let’s wave that horror flag!
As for books, this week’s New York Times Bestseller List included all the following that skirt the line: The Hot Zone by Jayne Castle, Mean Streak by Sandra Brown, Close to Home by Lisa Jackson, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. These shouldn’t all be shelved horror, but an acknowledgement that they’re sitting at the terror table (especially Jackson’s ghost novel) would be nice.
To salt a circle around the shrinking landscape of horror through re-branding, I will reclaim books, movies, and TV shows that have eschewed the label. To make this scientific, we’ll use the King’s criteria from Danse Macabre:
“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”
I have some pieces in mind to reclaim, but this is your chance to chime in: have you seen or read anything that sneaked past the horror label? With claws outstretched, we’ll pull them back into the darkness with us, where they belong.
P.S. On October 5th, I will announce The Midnight Society’s first Top Scare Flash Fiction Contest winner. Keep those entries coming!