Horror will take on anyone

Horror writers, directors and fans I would say won’t back down from any sacred cows. It’s one of the most admirable aspects of the genre.

If you have a scary story, with compelling characters and a genuine threat, people will read or watch it. You can tackle whatever issue you want as long as it doesn’t turn into a soap box moment and detract from the horror. In several interviews, Wes Craven said exactly that, as long as it’s scary, you can talk about whatever issue you want really. That always stuck with me.

I don’t mean the false, safe we will take on anyone. Wow, that film is so edgy, it said corporations/politicians can be bad. That’s a shocking image, I bet people will be up in arms about that.

I mean really going for the jugular in a way that if it was a mainstream drama, they might not be able to get away with.

  • The Green Inferno takes on shallow leaders

In this, the main villain isn’t really the cannibals, they are more of an environmental threat. It is the shallow, arrogant leader of the environmentalist protesters who really sees the movement as a way to stroke his own ego. That’s quite a shocking character to include, to call out some of the leaders of these movements as narcissists who don’t really care about people. He was even prepared to let one of his followers die if it got more attention for the movement, and most importantly him. Imagine a drama where the main villain is an environmentalist leader, it would be so controversial, it would be trending everywhere. But it sits there in the background of a gory story in The Green Inferno.

  • The Blob 1988 takes on children

One of my favourite films, the Blob 1988 shocked audiences when a child is killed, brutally. While trying to escape through a sewer, the blob seizes him, and painfully dissolves him. You even see him try to escape with most the flesh on his head gone. My jaw hit the floor. I thought the adult might be fair game, but the kid? Well played Blob, you knocked the wind out of me there.

Normally in games, films, novels, kids are safe (the movie Feast inverted this as well). Even the kids aren’t safe in horror.

“Wont someone please think of the children!?” – Helen Lovejoy

  • Scream takes on the horror genre

Horror doesn’t even consider itself beyond reproach. Scream was intended to be a mocking but still affectionate goodbye to the slasher genre (it ironically rejuvenated it). None of the horror icons on a pedestal were safe, not Jason or Michael Myers, the movie is ruthless in how it exposes how formulaic these films are. Wes Craven loves the genre but he didn’t hold back here.

  • Babadook takes on realistic single mothers

I think the flip book scene will stick with us all for a long time. But beyond the horror terrorising this woman, the film takes a close, realistic, all too human look at the resentment a single mother may have towards her child. I hadn’t seen that before. In most fiction, single mothers were portrayed as total saints or disinterested monsters, I hadn’t seen a mother who did have darker feelings but wanted to resist them. Babadook took it on.

  • Nightmare on elm street takes on mob justice

I admit when I hear a story about some scumbag serial killer or child molester, my gut reaction is “execute them, do the human race a favour.”

However, Nightmare on Elm Street shows that acting out of hatred can incite more hatred. It doesn’t shy away from it, especially in later films, the parents who embraced mob violence didn’t create any justice, it was vengeance and hatred, which in turn leads to even more suffering as Freddy returns time and time again. Could they have represented the case to the court? Or pulled together enough in the town to hire an ace law firm? Instead they decided mob rule was the way to go which only leads to more death and pain.

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I need to nip this post in the bud before it becomes a sprawling essay but horror will take on anyone.

Fantasy and Horror: The Elf Eater

Ityak-Ortheel.

The elf eater.

A monstrous entity from hell, that resembles a shambling mushroom with three elephant like legs propping it up. Tendrils coil around it, snatching up everything it can and feeding it into a mouth full of shredding teeth. The howl the creature emits sounds like metal screeching, the only sound it ever makes, propelled forward by endless hunger.

Created by the dark god Malar, Ityak-Ortheel exists to devour elves, a race he despises for an ancient transgression. Men, women, children, warriors, civilians, they are all fair game.

This creature sounds like it belongs in the horror genre but it is from the Druidhome trilogy of books, a fantasy series. I recently read those very books and it got me thinking, there are some really terrible monsters in fantasy settings. Usually the darker side of it is glossed over, only mentioned once, then it reverts to being a typical fantasy enemy to overcome.

The dungeons and dragons monster manual has some truly terrifying creatures in it when you really consider the implications.

  • A gibbering mouther is an insane blob of eyes and teeth that seeks out the fluids of intelligent beings. While it attacks, it babbles away horribly.
  • Beneath the ground, in the Underdark, slaves toil for the dark elves, a miserable, cruel and short existence.
  • There is a great war between the abyss and hell, waging at all times, that threatens to destroy the universe.
  • The chaos hound is a demonic entity that devours the souls of the faithful before they get to their heaven. After a lifetime of service and belief, it is stolen from them through sheer bad luck if they happen across the chaos hound at the wrong time.

Whoa! Now that is all prime horror material right there.

I think it remains fantasy when the horrific parts are only hinted at, when you really start to go into it, you cross into horror or at least fantasy horror.

Example,

Your hero stumbled across some Illithids, who enslave the minds of others, while adventuring. He kills the foul creature and the people are free. It’s mentioned the villagers were compelled by the monsters psychic powers but we keep it brief, more for framing the conflict than really explain it. That’s fantasy.

If you really go into depth about the horror the villager thralls are in, how they are compelled into acts that they find horrifying but have simply lost control of themselves, you are in horror territory. Fathers forced to feed their children to the elder brain that rules the town, mothers willingly impregnating themselves with alien spawn to carry on the next generation of tyrants.

The same scenario but it swings from one genre to the other depending on how you approach it.

Fantasy horror is few and far between, I really would like more. See a need, fill a need, I think that will be the next novel I tackle. A fantasy horror!

When you SHOULDN’T continue

In the past, I have been critical of some self-help books. There are plenty that offer a refreshing insight on the modern world. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F**K for one was a good read. So was No More Mr Nice Guy.

Others though are full of snappy soundbites and littles else, the book equivalent of junk food. A McPatronising Advice with a side Unrealistic.

Keep your chin up, smile, and never give up. That is what these entire books boil down to.

It’s too simplistic to be of any real use.

These books can also build business, political and cultural leaders into superhuman heroes. How many times have you read something like this-

“PERSON X never gave up! They had all these problems but they never gave up, never doubted what they were doing. You need to be like that with your own dreams!”

Doubt is normal.

A person with no doubt would be arrogant at best, genuinely unhinged at worst.

It is normal to wonder if you should continue down the path you are on or change it. It’s not weakness, it’s not wasting time, it is genuinely reflecting if this is what you want to do.

Case in point, I studied law at university, the LLB in Scots law is what you need to practice the law here. It is a four-year course and after it, you do a 9 month diploma of law, followed by a two year legal apprenticeship. Then boom, solicitor. Advocate (or a barrister as they call it down south) is a slightly different journey. Most people in the LLB course will become solicitors.

I knew so many people who after only a few months realised they hated the law. They had never really been interested in it in the first place, they just liked saying they were studying law and had good grades.

They should have asked themselves, do I want to continue with this or not?

Without exaggeration, there are people who have been through the whole 4 year LLB, diploma, completed their legal apprentice and hate it. Despise the whole profession. Year on year, solicitors top the charts in surveys for people who would not recommend being in their profession.

These poor souls felt they had to continue no matter what. They had to march onwards, it was too late, they had to go down this career path.

Don’t get me wrong, some had dreamed of being solicitors since they were kids and love their careers but others sleepwalked into the degree, then into a job, then into their life.

I completed my LLB but in my final year focused on banking law, realised this was the career I wanted, a banker not a solicitor- and that’s where I work now, banking. I really enjoy the role, I find it fulfilling and I am glad that is what I went for because I knew being a solicitor wasn’t for me. I had to find the courage to admit it to myself but I eventually did.

Without all the glib “you can do anything” “never give up” nonsense that is dime a dozen, I wanted to walk you through my decision not to be a solicitor after my LLB was done.

Casting my mind back, I am in my final year and deciding if I want to register for the diploma or not when I was starting to have my doubts.

  • Research

I researched and even spoke to a few solicitors and found many of them bored, indifferent towards the profession. That is a big red flag right away that so many people kept saying the same thing, it wasn’t how they thought it would be. Refusing to fall into that, I done even more research. What was the legal apprenticeship like, what about actually practicing as a solicitor. Although criminal solicitors have some crazy stories and love the drama, the vast majority of solicitors were really just bureaucrats, shuffling paper from A to B.

  • What was I interested in?

I done well in my course, I even won the W.Green prize for coming in first in Delicit (or Tort in England). However, banking law, I found that fascinating, and the entire banking system in general. How does it work, how does money work, that had me endlessly interested. Not only did I read all the study materials back to front, I sought out other books on the topic. By comparison, I found my attention waning in other subjects, going to lectures was almost painful.

  • What were my options?

I studied law, I had to be a solicitor. Right? Well no. As I found out, there was plenty of use in having a law degree that didn’t involve becoming a practicing solicitor. In the age of regulation post 2008, banks were especially keen to get people with a legal background.

My reasons for pressing on with being a solicitor seemed increasingly flimsy, little more than I should continue because I have come this far.

Knowing when not to continue is as important as having the strength to go on.

I realised that path wasn’t for me, I stopped and went into a career that I really enjoy. Young Banker of the Year Finalist in 2015, one of the four in the UK, passing my chartered banker exams, helping customers and clients with their day to day needs, the challenges posed by Brexit and the Scottish referendum to the financial system. Exciting, vibrant times in the banking world, far more than if I was a solicitor. To stress that is in my opinion, others would find banking tedious but I love it and I am so glad of the choice I made.

I’m glad I had the strength to say I didn’t want to continue.

via Daily Prompt: Continue