For the Love of Horror! (And other Halloween Oxymorons) by Tricia Urlaub

 

Love, love, love. All you need is love – or so “they” say (“they” being the Beatles, of course). But is it true? Is love really all you need?

If it were true, would websites like Moonlit Path be in existence? Would movies like High Tension and Texas Chainsaw Massacre get funding for production and distributed to the masses (most of whom already own gas-powered tools)?

No. Love is not all you need.

What is eggnog without a little rum? Tortilla chips without some salsa?

You get where I’m going with this. If life were happy-happy-happy all the time, how boring might that be?

That’s where we step in – with our twisted spin on life and the poets and authors who all have their own twisted spins – The love of horror simply translates into an expanded love of life.

Growing up, people used to ask me what my favorite holiday was – I would always answer with two – “Halloween” and “Valentine’s Day.” I didn’t realize then (as I do now) how at odds those holidays really are. Or are they?


SILENT SCREAM

How can a scream be silent?

Nightmares – During nightmares, our body sometimes allows our mouth to open, but no sound escapes. There’s almost no worse feeling then not being heard, especially when you are desperate to be.

Silent films – Lots of screaming going on, though the audience can’t hear it. As humans, we are certainly aware of what screams look like, how they contort the face with fear and desperation. Perhaps the absence of sound makes these films even more real because the pain on the character’s face is magnified.

Books – Unless you’re listening to a book on tape, you don’t “hear” screams from the character unless you have created a voice for them inside your head. The scream will then develop to the fullest horrific extent your imagination has to offer.

Which leads me to this question, if it’s just you and a hearing-impaired monster in the deep dark woods, when you scream, do you make a sound?


SWEET SORROW

Perhaps it was Shakespeare who first penned this phrase, it’s hard to be sure. How can sorrow be sweet?

Romeo and Juliet – According to Shakespeare, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Which is fitting for Valentine’s Day as it involves a couple romantically involved who must leave each other. The sweetness, of course, is in the anticipation of their next meeting.

The Inevitable End – Sweet sorrow might also encompass the idea that although you’ve wanted something (a relationship, an event) to end, once the time draws near, you find yourself sad with its demise.

Frame of Mind – And, believe it or not, there are some people in the world who actually enjoy being miserable. They are in a mindset such that happiness does not involve contentment, but rather disappointment and longing. It is a comfort zone they have come accustomed to.

And so I pose a second question – If you are being dismembered, oh, so slowly, by that grotesque auditory-challenged beast in the woods, would you, eventually, come to accept your demise? And when the darkness overtakes you due to the intense suffering, would the sorrow you felt for the loss of your life be sweetened, just a little, when the seeds of death started numbing your pain?


LIVING DEAD

Probably one of the most widely recognized oxymorons in the horror field. What horror fan hasn’t seen some form of the Living Dead played out in movies or books?

Zombies – The dead rise from the grave. They claw their way out, hungry for brains, or flesh, or anything that’s human and breathing. They are considered the “living” dead because dead things, after all, don’t walk.

Clones – Scientists have produced headless frog clones. What if somewhere, they did this with humans? To harvest organs from a being with no brain might be too easy a way to sidestep genetic ethics. But you can rest-assured, if the technology is there, someone somewhere, someday will attempt it. Would that first attempt be the world’s first real “living dead”? Or maybe it’s already been done?

Each of us, every day – Anything that is alive will eventually die. In one hundred and thirty years, nothing alive on earth right now will be alive then. Except of course for certain species of trees, and maybe a tortoise or two. As we move through our lives, intent to just “get through the day” – isn’t each missed opportunity a tiny death in itself? As we sit on our couches, or wait in lines, worry about outcomes beyond our control, aren’t all of us already true examples of the living dead?

You’ve been dismembered by the monster who can’t hear your screams. Your pain is softened by oncoming death, and you wonder: Has this been my fate all along? Every moment in front of the television, every second I loaned my brain to shallow, unnecessary, meaningless entertainment, have I not turned myself into one of the living dead?

Then the lights brighten, or you look up from your book and out the window. You take a deep breath and let it fill your –intact– lungs. You smile, faintly, and close your eyes but for the brief moment to relive your time in the woods with the beast, and your heart beats hard and your palms sweat, and you think, “Yes, this is why I love horror.”

 

Published 8/15/19