Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Emotion Critique: Fear

What is fear?

It is the unknown, the unknowable. It is death, pain, suffering. It is that paranoid feeling you get when you stay up a little too late with no one else around. It is the darkness, the deep of the ocean, the depths of space. It is an abandoned mental institution... closed for years, full of the souls of those who died there. It's a nightmare you cannot awaken from. It's the nighttime, a little bridge in the starless sky. It's a hurricane hitting your home. It's what you feel when the one you love decides they want to leave you or when you start suspecting they're cheating on you. It's what everybody feels sometimes. Fear is one of the main themes that I've explored while I've written this blog. I love fear as much as I love the horror genre. I like the ability to become afraid of certain types of movies or video games, books or real life stories. I have my favorites and my least favorites and, of course, some are much better than others. But mostly I love finding myself afraid. I love the tension, the rising and falling of the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck. I love wondering if there's something there just out of sight watching me. Waiting for the right moment... strike.

I think the unknown is one of the most intensely scary things I can think of or... uh... rather not think of, right? Books like House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski bring out the idea of what true fear really is, mostly through blending reality and fiction into some terrible amalgamation of the two. There is something about taking this kind of paranoid fiction and blending it with an all too real reality that makes everything that much more terrifying. There is a paranoia there, a feeling that makes one feel ever so lost within the crazy ideas presented. I find this blend of reality and fiction much more terrifying than anything that is purely fictional. Being able to wonder if scary things that are unexplained can happen in the real world is something that is all too terrifying. It is the only scary thought that will keep me up. And that is a great deal of what House of Leaves is.

"To get a better idea try this: focus on these words, and whatever you do don't let your eyes wander past the perimeter of this page. Now imagine just beyond your peripheral vision, maybe behind you, maybe to the side of you, maybe even in front of you, but right where you can't see it, something is quietly closing in on you, so quiet in fact you can only hear it as silence. Find those pockets without sound. That's where it is. Right at this moment. But don't look. Keep your eyes here. Now take a deep breath. Go ahead, take an even deeper one. Only this time as you exhale try to imagine how fast it will happen, how hard it's gonna hit you, how many times it will stab your jugular with its teeth or are they nails?, don't worry, that particular detail doesn't matter, because before you have time to process that you should be moving, you should be running, you should at the very least be flinging up your arms-you sure as hell should be getting rid of this book-you won't have time to even scream.
Don't look.
I didn't.
Of course I looked.
I looked so fucking fast I should of ended up wearing one of those neck braces for whiplash."

 Of course that's only a single quotation from House of Leaves. Think about an entire book based off of the paranoia induced by fiction bleeding into reality. I find that passage that I copied above as scary as something can be. Go ahead, read that at night when you're alone and think about what you'd think, what kind of creepiness you'd be feeling. It's intense. It's terrifying. The first time I read it, I was younger than I am now, a teenager who thought he was the master of horror. I read that and then went to take out the trash. It was late. It was dark. I thought I could hear something breathing heavily in the bushes.

I freaked out. Ran inside, and fell in love with the horror all over again. To think that a cynic like me could be scared- And scared by a book at that! A book that seemed so ridiculous in premise but perfect in execution.

I've done some crazier things besides, things that I can't spell out here lest people believe what I say. I've seen some terrifying images, breaths of air that shouldn't be following me where I have tread. I don't really believe in ghosts or true terror... or many other things, but at the same time I believe in nothing but horror, but fear, as if they are the only things that matter, the only things that drive me. I've been in places I probably shouldn't have been and heard creaking and rattling and noises that I couldn't explain even in my most cognizant moments. And there's something terrifying in knowing that right next to you RIGHT NEXT TO YOU just centimeters away in the darkest night is something staring back at you that you cannot see. Yes, there are many places that are scary on purpose- abandoned buildings, graveyards that remind us that we will die... Memento te esse mortalum... but even more than that are the places that shouldn't be scary. A water pump shaped like a well, forever spilling out water for no other reason than because it can. Or maybe a bush, a gnarled tree, a twisting and turning sky... or even something as simple as an unexplained ravine, or even a house you once lived in.

Or maybe just a simple room, like an attic...

Or a doorway long since dilapidated...

Or a simple thing. Maybe it's something we could even see anywhere... a hole in a wall.

In the background I'm watching Ghost Hunters. It's a good show if you take it for what it is. If you don't believe in ghosts, that's fine. I understand. I have no opinions on them myself, but there are certainly images and videos from that show that have at least planted the seed of... hmmm, maybe this could be true. There was one episode in a lighthouse that caused me to go, "WHAT THE HECK!?" where an eerie shadowy apparition appeared on the stairs going to the top of the lighthouse then moved quickly out the frame. Creepy as hell. Again, it was something unknown happening there, something that had a confusing substance to it. It was both weird and awesome... maybe a little scary too...

And then there are the video games. Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 4 stick out to me as terrifying games, each in their own way. Silent Hill 2 has such a melancholic feel to it. It hits the mind in all the right ways. Yes, it's a fantastic story, but what's really great about it is taking the ordinary and making it terrifying. The apartments section is easily one of the scariest. Hell, even the town itself is creepy. It's abandoned, but isn't supposed to be. The apartments look like they were just abandoned themselves, days or even hours before... or maybe months... letting the place people once called home fall into disrepair, the memories in those apartments stuck there as if they could never leave, changing the very fabric of the walls, changing the reality of the place they once were. The nightmare feelings of the game that twist the reality of the unreality make the games, all of the Silent Hill games, even more horrifying as you play them. Silent Hill 4 might not have the nightmarish sections of the second game, but the feeling of no control is certainly one that makes you feel odd. Unbeatable ghost enemies, running from a psycho, and twisted lengthened areas of such mundane places like an apartment building, a subway station, and much more add to the level of terror. And of course how could I forget Silent Hill: Downpour, which builds the tension up so slowly that you barely notice it? Walking into a movie theatre on a whim and finding yourself in a forgotten house... or walking through a theatre and finding yourself in a forest and a small house, all the while it's pouring outside, and you have no way to go but forward. It's all well done, all scary, all terrifying, and all needed.

But I don't think any of that properly explains the state, the emotion, the feeling... of fear. Look, go outside, alone, in the dark, and think of something else out there, watching your every move, not a person because people are only scary when they're trying to kill you or when they're yelling, I suppose. Ideas can be scary. Thoughts and dreams an be full of terror. Music can scare you, as can books, movies, video games, or people. Fear is an emotion of the lack of control, the lack of knowing.

Think about something totally inhuman watching you in the dead of night, in the darkness of early morning.. well, anytime at all. One thing that used to scare the hell out of me was Bigfoot staring at me through my second story window in the dead of night when nobody but myself would be awake to see him staring. I know... I know it can't happen (because Bigfoot is probably not real... and also he is not as tall as my second story window if he is real), but it scared the hell out of me at the tie, enough for me to want to have the curtains drawn across my windows for years... just so I wouldn't see that face staring back at me. Heh, it stills gives me a bit of a chill even now. Dead animals buried in the back yard were creepy too, especially if you're wondering if they'll come back to life and haunt you... or something. I don't know. I was stupid when I was afraid of these things, but that doesn't mean it didn't make sense to my mind back then.

Also freaking cellars, especially an old one with a dirt floor like I have... and I have to go down and do laundry late at night sometimes... I expect Slender Man or a homeless drunken man to come out of the darkness while I'm washing my pants and murder me. Wonderful thought to be having in my own house, huh? Nobody likes cellars though... or attics for that matter. Creepy old places nobody ever goes. Never feels lived in or anything. Just feels all empty, all forgotten...

Oh, and I'm also... uh... slightly... only very slightly... afraid of gnomes too.

Creepy bastards.

I guess there are other things to fear, but I think I'm talking about the genre of fear in regards to the unknown. Ah, this might be a bit silly in the end, but it's my last review for October Nights, and I felt like writing something appropriate to end it on what you might think of as a high note.

(So, just as a note, the artsy looking pictures you see of abandoned places and such in this review? Well, my girlfriend took those pictures (which comprise of most of the pictures in this review). She likes taking photographs of old or abandoned things almost as much as I love looking at them and creeping myself out. Her photo blog can be found here. Seriously check it out if you find her photos interesting. I'm sure she'd appreciate it. And since I'm incredibly proud of her photo work, I'd appreciate you looking at her photos too. You could also just leave a comment here about them if you'd like as well though. I'll be sure to pass along any messages to her if you decide on that. Thanks for reading and looking at my blog and this review! If you haven't checked out my other reviews and such you really should! You might find something really obscure or really cool on this blog! Anyway, another Halloween has come and gone! See you for October Nights next year (with a ton of reviews in between too... but that's besides the point)!)

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