The Purpose of Good Horror
by Randall Allen Dunn
Like many Christians, I grew up avoiding horror stories. They often involve gore, as well as demonic imagery and ideas.
However, I later discovered this does not define all literary horror. Although horror stories can be frightening, they reveal character more clearly than any other genre, with or without the gore.
Consider a scene from the popular film, “Jurassic Park”, considered science fiction but clearly also a horror story about dinosaurs attacking innocent people. When the first T-Rex appears and threatens the park guests, Dr. Alan Grant, who freely admits his loathing of children, sits in one jeep, while a lawyer occupies another jeep with the park owner’s grandchildren. When the T-Rex attacks, the lawyer flees, leaving the children unprotected. But Dr. Grant risks his life to distract the T-Rex and rescue both kids. The monstrous threat forces both men to act, revealing their true natures. In the face of a monster, the lawyer is exposed as selfish and unreliable, while we learn that Dr. Grant is noble and heroic, even toward bothersome children.
In horror stories, characters must either destroy the beast that threatens them or permanently escape from it. They are forced to behave according to their secret natures. The deadly crisis forces their inner virtues and vices to the surface.
Even in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, a children’s horror story about a frightening, bad-tempered monster, the Beast discovers he can become gentle and loving, while the well-respected Gaston is exposed in the end as a callous, vicious murderer.
Unfortunately, most of today’s horror movies use a third option to resolve the conflict, allowing the monster to destroy the characters so it can return to plague new victims in a sequel.
But good horror stories challenge us to be heroes who stand up against monsters and moral shortcomings within ourselves. The townspeople in “Jaws” initially turn a blind eye to the threatening shark so they can protect their own tourism income. But finally, three men bravely hunt down the shark, much like the small band of desperate heroes who hunt the vampire in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
In my own horror story, The Red Rider, Helena Basque is a teenage Red Riding Hood, traumatized by a childhood attack from a giant talking wolf. Discovering that a demonic cult is transforming themselves into wolves to attack the innocent, Helena gathers her faith and courage to stand up against them, even when others refuse to accept or support her. Her own inner character is revealed over and over, along with the character of those around her, as she fights a controversial war against a bizarre enemy.
Plenty of bad horror stories focus on gore and demonic fantasies. But an equal number of horror stories challenge us to become the kind of people who can stand up against monsters. When life becomes hard or even threatening, what character will be revealed in you?
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Little Red Riding Hood is heading back into the woods to meet the big bad wolves …
But she’s not little anymore.
When she was seven years old, Helena Basque was attacked by a savage wolf that killed her Grand’Mere. Helena survived with triple scars that disfigured her face, and strange tales of a wolf that stood upright and spoke to her.
Now at age sixteen, she knows it was no wolf. And it was not alone. A pack of similar animals banded together to kill Francois, the woodcutter who saved her from the first wolf. These creatures now threaten Helena’s family and everyone in the French province of La Rue Sauvage. To stop them, Helena must do things she never planned to do, and become something she never planned to become. Donning a red hood and cloak like the one she was forbidden to wear after the first attack, she arms herself with a repeating crossbow and other assorted weapons. She then wages a private war against the wolves, refusing to stop or slow down until she wipes them out. She only hopes she can somehow defeat the monsters when she confronts them … whatever they actually are.
The New Paranormal Action Thriller
by Randall Allen Dunn
Come along for the ride.