sexta-feira, junho 26, 2009

Choose your poison: Horror or Gothic?

Choose your poison: Horror or Gothic?
June 25, 2:12 PM

If you want to write "horror" stories or fiction of any kind, one of the most helpful questions you can ask yourself is "Am I really writing a horror story?" This may sound strange, but especially in America, there is much confusion between horror and Gothic stories. They are related, but totally different animals. If you want to do horror, is your story really Gothic with a horror disguise? Is it Gothic horror, and if so, how much is it one or the other?

Most people can fairly easily distinguish horror, but don't have a clue about what constitutes the Gothic tale. Horror is scary, right? Gothic may or may not be scary. If it's Gothic and scary, you have Gothic horror. The first Gothic story was written by Horace Walpole in England in 1764, a ghost story of sorts titled The Castle of Otranto. Its success began a thriving literary trend. The horror genre came much later. Not only horror, but crime drama, and even science fiction all flowed from the Gothic literary stream.

So what is Gothic fiction? Chris Baldick's Introduction to the Oxford Book of Gothic Tales defines a Gothic text as being made up of "a fearful sense of inheritance in time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of a sickening descent into disintegration." I would add that the agent producing this disintegration is of a supernatural, mysterious/unknown, or psychotic-related origin. For example, an evil from the past confronts a group of people in an isolated area. How do they react? If the fear element is strong, you have Gothic horror. On the other hand, such a story can be merely suspenseful, without being scary at all. Keep in mind that the claustrophobic "area" can also be within a person’s own mind, someone in a deranged or nearly psychotic state.

An essential element of the Gothic is almost always romance. Just as Baldick leaves out the supernatural, which surely "haunts" much within the Gothic territory, he omits romance as well. Nowadays, if you want to write a good Gothic story, especially one that sells, you must have a strong romantic interest to animate your plot. Doomed love is the Gothic romantic theme par excellence, but you can also have it both ways, as does Emily Brontë in Wuthering Heights. Her main story is about a tragic romance, but she manages to insert a subplot romance with a happy ending. Volumes have been written about he relation between the Gothic and Romantic. All you need to know is, to write a successful Gothic story, in the words of the song, "You can't have one without the other."

If Emily and Charlotte Brontë typify the Gothic romantic end of the Gothic spectrum, authors like Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft champion the horror side. With these authors, the evil from the past confronts and overwhelms its isolated victims, and they're damned forever. Whether the main characters in Gothic horror are trapped in a dark place or within their own tormented souls, they writhe in abject fear until they meet their untimely demise, or worse, a "lifetime" of some type of living death.

In film, an excellent example of a "purely" Gothic tale is The Sixth Sense. Referred to by Hollywood as a "supernatural thriller," this story is actually Gothic in the best sense of the word. Without retelling the whole story (the film is available on DVD if you haven't seen it), I want to emphasize the Gothic elements. The main character feels trapped by what happened to him in the past and senses a disintegration and isolation in his life, all of which he cannot understand. The theme of the supernatural is established early on by the boy with strange visions. The romantic element predominates, and in fact this entire story turns on the main character's love for his wife. In the end, the tragic reason his life has "fallen apart" stunningly reveals itself. Death has triumphed over love, but there's a final hope that love can be stronger than death. This is authentic Gothic stuff and could have easily been penned by an Emily or Charlotte Brontë of the 1990s. The real writer-director, M. Night Shyamalan went on to establish himself as one of the Gothic masters of Hollywood film.

On the other hand stories like the Friday the 13th film series (for better or worse) represent total horror. There's not much that's Gothic or romantic here. These plots are like gory "funhouse" rides and depend entirely on shock, panic, and the fear factor. In good horror, fear compounds fear until a final suspense sequence pays off with near-unbearable fright. Evil conquers good, or vice versa. Bad horror has a near-pornographic feel to it as plot and characters are just "filler" between the scare scenes. Horror can be gory and graphic or driven by a more psychological, unseen menace. The offstage tends to be more powerful because it leaves much to the imagination. Still, shock and awe predominate, and good authors in the genre milk human hormones, sexual and adrenalin related, for every drop of thrill they can provide.

Gothic horror provides a broader canvas because it can blend and play off both genres. Poe and Lovecraft demonstrated this ability in its most classic sense. Modern authors like Stephen King and Anne Rice continue in this tradition. Vampire stories are excellent examples of marrying Gothic with horror. By its very nature, the vampire tale can combine themes of entrapment, evil history, disintegration, and the supernatural equally with stark, awful terror. In nice addition, the male vampire, as object of desire, can pump the hormones totally while inspiring romance at the same time. What an amazing guy! Bram Stoker created the model of the modern vampire with his classic 1897 novel Dracula. These ubiquitous blood-suckers have become a main staple of Gothic horror ever since.

The main rule is don't confuse your genres. You run the risk of turning off your readers, who may not be able to define "Gothic" but know it when they see it. More importanly, they know when it's been botched. You’re certainly free to write Gothic, horror, or both. However, be aware of the specific properties of each genre and use them wisely. Especially when you combine them, do so with the care and skill of a French chef mixing onion and garlic (vampires beware!). These seasonings are similar but distinctly different flavors in your genre spice cabinet. Treat them that way, stir them carefully, and serve with élan, and of course a dark, wet red wine. Unless, of course, you never drink ... wine.
For more info: For an excellent examination of modern trends in the Gothic, check out Contemporary Gothic by Catherine Spooner.
Author: Russ Williams
Russ Williams is an Examiner from Los Angeles. You can see Russ's articles on Russ's Home Page.

FONTE (imagem incluída): - USA

2 comentários:

  1. Where is our history horror, ex. Nosferatu

  2. Anyway, I'm here...
    I couldn't find your face, words, feelings... Where are you?
    I need my poison, too.