With Halloween just days away I've been bingeing horror movies like they're going out of style. Old horror movies, 80s horror movies, newer horror movies - I've watched at least a few of them all. One thing remains the same no matter how many of them I've watched: no matter how gory, a horror movie is never as scary as a well-written horror novel.
I know what you're thinking, how can I say that? Well, it's true when you think about it. Old, old horror movies like the original House of Wax (Vincent Price, 1953), The Mummy (Boris Karloff, 1932), House on Haunted Hill (Vincent Price, 1959) aren't really scary by modern standards. They're awesome movies, no doubt, but do they really send a chill down your spine?
Then came the 1970s-1980s and their slew of cheap horror movies with terrible acting. I mean sure, a lot of them are cult classics like Halloween and Friday the 13th, but they're gory, bloody, and even at times laughable... not scary. It's like that one Geico commercial - "If you're in a horror movie you make bad decisions, that's just what you do." Yes, because running upstairs instead of out the front door and to the nearest road/neighbor's house is so smart! Let's see how long you last...
I'll admit, the horror movies that leave me scratching my head the most are the ones made in the last 5+ years like Paranormal Activity or The Gallows that look more like a bad episode of Ghost Adventures. When watching a horror movie I still want a plot... not an idiot with a green screen, no name actors, and no apparent plot.
So it's no real wonder that horror novels are way scarier than horror movies. Even a well-made horror movie, one that can make you jump and have you sleeping with a nightlight at night is still just a movie. You know it's all fake and the actors didn't just get slaughtered on camera. But horror novels are different. Readers can get swept away into a good novel. I don't know about you but sometimes when I'm reading I forget that I'm reading. The world around me disappears and I'm in the book. The characters become real and the story becomes something you're living through right along with them. And when I read a well-written horror novel my mind paints a dark picture of a horrific situation I'm clawing to get out of right along with the characters.
"At the same time a light unexpectedly sprang up, and I saw Carmilla, standing, near the foot of my bed, in her white nightdress, bathed, from her chin to her feet, in one great stain of blood.”
—Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla
You can picture it can't you? Waking up in the middle of the night to someone standing at the foot of your bed drenched in blood? Perhaps you read this late at night and have nightmares of someone standing beside your bed, staring at you, studying you with a crazed look in their eye as blood dribbles down their chin staining their white clothing. I'm shivering right now.
While reading a horror novel I can picture it clearly as if it is occurring before my very eyes and though a movie is a moving picture playing on the screen in front of me it's not the same. It's not... realistic?
“Kaitie, are you alone?"
"But why? What is it?"
"I can hear someone breathing on the line."
― Dawn Kurtagich, The Dead House
You can picture someone sneaking up behind you, you can feel someone breathing on your neck, you hastily turn around and nobody is there. But there could have been...
Sure, the same could be said about watching a horror movie in the dark but still... I think you get where I'm going with this.
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