Horror Reading Enlightens As Well As Unsettles 28 June, 2023 – Posted in: Books, Horror – Tags: Opinion, Reading
Dark and unsettling stories are curious phenomena. To readers who love them, they offer a glimpse into the darkest parts of what makes us human. The best horror stories are more than shock and violence. Horror reading lifts our thinking and changes our point of view, but from unexpected directions.
The best horror stories I have read are always ones that surprise me. Not with jump frights or depraved acts of violence, but by revealing something I didn’t know about the world or myself. When the author can somehow make me feel sympathetic towards the antagonist, I wonder at my own motivations. No one wants to think they are capable of evil, but understanding it better helps to reveal its sources.
Great horror writing takes the reader on a journey into the unknown parts of ourselves where we are too afraid to stare too deeply into. We don’t fear the story, we fear the feelings the story arouses. Yet, when we feel those feelings we learn a bit about why those feelings are there. Then, when the monsters in life appear, we can deal with them on their own terms.
Horror reading is not just a way to scare ourselves. It is a way to find meaning when we only see darkness in ourselves. That darkness often takes hold in ways we don’t want to reveal to the world. But holding it in just inflames the darkness. Horror offers a safe release, allowing readers to sympathise and empathise with the characters. Allowing a catharsis of feeling not available in any other type of story.
However, horror is never just about evil things and scary situations. It’s a reflection of the world we live in. In the past, when religion dominated our daily thoughts, the idea of demons and hell could conjure fright at their merest mention. Now, though, it is terrible way we treat each other that provides the greatest source of terror.
Where horror has a chance to change the world today is not in creating newer and more horrible acts to sicken readers with. Instead, when horror focuses on the kindness and love humans are capable of, then the terrible acts become truly terrifying. In this way, horror shows that humanity wants to love and accept every person on their own terms. At least it should.