I like horror books and movies, which is a taste that often surprises people. "But you're so bright," is the general objection. For a good 10 years or so, in fact, in my teens and 20s I didn't indulge that taste, figuring that the folks who looked down their noses must be right.
They weren't, and I've been happily enjoying tales of werewolves, zombies, and ghosts ever since.
This article by Stephanie Zacharek in Salon is a good look at how horror functions as a metaphor. No, I don't believe in ghosts. But I'm interested in what happens when a person can't let go. I'm interested in what it means to feel haunted. I don't believe in werewolves, but I'm interested in what it means to lose your humanity. I don't believe in vampires, but I'm interested in what we do with people who prey on others. I'm interested in what scares us, and how we deal with that fear. This is what I enjoy about horror.
Ms. Zacharek looks at the trend of "killer plague" movies:
These movies do more than just lay out chilly what-if scenarios. Some of them are steeped in biblical morality: How do we react when we see fellow human beings in pain? When we see someone in danger -- a feverish individual, say, who may or may not be a zombie -- do we stop to help if doing so threatens our own safety, or do we opt for self-preservation? In most plague movies, there's deep mistrust of "the other," the outsider who may be infected (and it's often an outsider who started it all). Those kinds of stark divisions raise even bigger questions, sometimes amounting to a kind of civics lesson: What is it that keeps a society together, even if it's just a society of a dozen or so healthy (that is to say, uninfected) people?
Check it out.
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