Friday, Jul 01, 2022

Fatal Attraction: In Horror, Our Lives Are Redeemed

The landscape and setting of a story often set the tone in literature and cinema dealing with horror

Photographs: Getty Images, Shutterstock

Excess of beauty can also cause horror. The first time I found myself in a geo­graphy that was outrageously gorgeous and yet resembled the locale of hor­­ror movies was in the North American state of Montana. I had been spending a winter with an elderly and charming American couple up in their solitary wooden cottage up the snowy mounta­ins. Once a home to famous dinosaurs, the spa­r­sely populated province now had museums with the largest collection of din­o­saur remains in the US. The gigantic rem­ains were already scary enough for me, but as I trudged through the white witch that had carpeted desolate streets and cemeteries, I came across ghost towns that seemed abando­ned by the residents after an epidemic or exh­austion of resources. Even the occasional sun seemed scary. The area also had a large pop­ulation of Native Americ­ans, who rode horses, loved hunting and ice fishing, and nar­rated tales about their blo­ody confrontati­ons with the Whites. Vac­a­tio­ning in Mon­tana, I suddenly recalled all those horror movies and was soon on to what would be the first of the three novels I discarded midway, 7 Hanging Lane.

Horror often arrives with a distinct landsc­ape. Such is the intrinsic link that Gothic hor­ror fiction derived both its nomenclature as well as aesthetics from Gothic architecture. Located in medieval buildings or their ruins, Gothic lit­er­a­t­ure invoked an indecipherable dread and an intimidating religiosity. Since the genre of horror is marked by apparitions of the past and the dead emerging from their slumber, one needs old houses, graveyards, jungles and eerie lanes to intensify the emotion. Even when the protagonists live in a city, they visit an old mansion, a deserted fort, or just a basement. In Psycho (1960), the surface transaction takes place in a modern motel, but the nucleus is in the basement, an underground that dictates the script.