We’re all explorers of fear.
We might not realise it, but we push ourselves through varying degrees of fear on a daily basis. Let’s first define fear: ‘an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm’.* We encounter these sorts of experiences frequently and they serve not only as a foreshadowing of a potential negative outcome but they also serve to motivate us to behave a particular way. Notably, to get as far away as possible from experiencing that feeling. However, it would be fair to say that there are those that find a certain sense of exhilaration from fear – it’s the sweet shot of adrenaline a few moments before you take a leap of the cliff. For me, this is the appeal of horror – a blatant excuse for a hedonistic thrill ride that is not only thoroughly entertaining but it also allows us to explore those things that get under our skin in a safe and manageable way (for the most part).
As I discussed in my previous post, as a child, I suffered the most terrifying nightmares or to be more accurate, I should use the term ‘delusions.’ I was rendered terrified of visions of unexplained entities conjured up either by an overactive imagination, sleep deprivation or both. I believed profusely that there was a shadowy figure that took up residence in the corner of my room and he would only make an appearance when the light was turned off and I was all alone. There were monsters and ghouls hiding in the wardrobes and under the bed and though as silly as it may seem now, these ideas were as real and as tangible as the very ground beneath your feet.
For a long time I tried tirelessly to conquer these festering fears that everyone around me deemed as either absurd or childish but nothing seemed to work. There was no silver bullet that was able to penetrate these horrifying manifestations that haunted me each and every evening. So, I must not have been any older than six years old when I witnessed a film that would change all of that. The film, which at the time was presented in full grainy VHS format absolutely terrified me. But It also did something else – it gave face to the horror, albeit a horribly deformed face but it provided a physicality to the fear. There was also a plot and a reason behind what was happening. That film, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ introduced me to the compelling character of Freddy Krueger. A child killer that was burnt alive by the parents of Elm Street in a savage act of revenge. It was this story of a monster that killed teens in their dreams that resonated with me and it demonstrated to me that despite all looks, monsters are certainly not infallible.
I was eventually able to understand the power of my fear and recognise it for what it was.
Over time I was able to change my attitude towards the shadow-man and the various other monsters lurking in my room, and in a strange twist of fate, I found that the monsters became my friends. I developed a need to experience fear this way, I began to devour books and films with strong horror themes, particularly anything supernatural. I was insatiable and to this day, I’m always on the hunt for the next thrill whether it be in my own work or in the work of others. I owe a lot to the world of horror and I will forever be an explorer of fear.