With Halloween was just a couple of nights away and the real horror show taking place in the US on November 8 (har har), I thought it would be fun to talk a little more on my favorite genre.
As I’ve probably repeated over and over, I love horror more than most things. I love turning out the lights, freaking out over cheap jump-scares, and forgetting the stress of the real world for a little. Nothing beats a movie that can scare the ever-living crap out of me. It usually only takes a couple of creepy ghost shots and I’m sold. Check out Insidious to see what I mean.
But when reading, getting scared isn’t as easy. People always say how “scary” authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz are, but I’m willing to bet most of those are people who have never read their books. I just view their type of fiction as more of a fantasy tale set in modern times. Nothing “horror” about it; just good fiction.
Maybe I’m just too visual or perhaps I lack enough imagination to get frightened by books. Who knows? But there are two books I read that did manage to leave me wanting to sleep with the lights on.
I read Communion: A True Story by Whitley Strieber when I was in high school, long before the whole alien abduction thing hit the mainstream. The cover of the book alone is enough to give a guy nightmares. I mean, look at that:
Whitley’s story was so crazy and out there, yet so well written that I didn’t have to reach too far to think, “Man, if it happened to him, it could happen to anyone. Anyone…” Ah, the horrors. What a fun book, though. With it, Whitley Strieber caused the whole UFO abduction phenomenon/philosophy/conspiracy to secure its place in modern American culture.
And speaking of modern American culture, the The Exorcist has certainly cemented its place there as well. While I do consider it one of the greatest movies ever made, it’s not really scary to me. The story it’s based on, however, is an entirely different beast.
There are a few different versions of the story, but Possessed: The True Story of an Exorcism by Thomas B. Allen, is purported to be the most accurate. I picked it up at a used book sale a few years ago and read it over a stormy October weekend when my wife was out of town.
Real smart. I slept on the couch with a rosary in one hand and a bottle of holy water in the other.
I wonder if the cats had any idea how close they were to getting a “just in case” exorcism from me before I shut off the lights that night.
Who are we kidding? I didn’t shut off any lights that night…
Anyhow, it makes me ask what both of these books had in common that was so frightening to me. That’s easy, right? What they had in common was that they both claimed to be based on true stories.
While I’m not going to claim to completely believe what the authors say, they both did an excellent job of telling a convincing story. What made the two books so frightening isn’t so much whether or not the stories did happen, but the fact that while I read them I was convinced that they could have.
And in the end, that’s what good horror is all about.